By Tim Huether
In a special Bennett County Commissioners meeting held August 8, the commissioners voted to set the tax Opt Out Election for Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, with polls opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m.
The board is also planning a public meeting Wednesday, August 28, to address questions about the opt out and any other public concerns associated with the opt out. The meeting is tentatively set for 6:30 p.m. at the county courthouse courtroom, but may be moved to a larger location. Tours of the jail are also planned some time during that day.
The commissioners met for their regular meeting August 7.
They approved voting precincts for the special opt out election, combining Vetal and Tuthill with the voting to be held at the Vetal Fire Hall. There will be one voting place in Martin, at the Library Community Room and one in Allen.
The commissioners discussed the budget with County Auditor Susan Williams commenting, “You better have some idea of what you are going to have to cut if the opt out fails.”
After making many cuts already, the 2014 budget is $300,000 short, according to Williams.
The commissioners were notified that a grant applied for by Lacreek Wildlife Refuge, in cooperation with the county, was approved for construction of 12 miles of gravel road.
The project includes engineering, construction and construction engineering of 297th Street, Cedar Creek Road and others within the application for a proposed length of 12 miles. The proposed surface is aggregate and five culverts will be replaced.
The complete cost is covered by grants and a match from the Federal Lands Transportation Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 6.
The commissioners approved Resolution #7-2013, titled, To Secure Federal Funding in Lieu of Property Taxes on Indian Trust Lands.
The resolution lists all the issues related to the financial woes of the county and summarizes by saying, “Therefore, be it resolved: The Bennett County Board of Commissioners demand that the Congress of the United States live up to its obligation under the Supreme Court decision in Cherokee Nation versus Georgia, 1831, and provide funding adequate to fund the county services provided to Indian people living on trust lands in Bennett County, if not in a direct payment of property taxes (approx. $900,000 annually), then in some form of Impact Aid to the County similar to Impact Aid for Schools.