Meade County Commission Chairman Alan Aker wasn’t surprised by the outcome. “It’s about what I thought it would be,” he said. Aker says there is a mood in the country that government debt is out of control and that may have scared voters. “It had the word tax in it and that is hard to explain. Some people thought it was a tax increase,” he said. He said others had the perception that it was being built for the Buffalo Chip Campground.
The proposed road, named Fort Meade Way, would link Interstate 90 to the south to Highway 34/79 to the north near the Buffalo Chip Campground. The road, a combination of Cardinal Place and 131st Street, could cost anywhere from $3.5 to $8.5 million.
Aker said the county would go back to the drawing board and he hopes they will agree to at least build a good gravel road. “It won’t solve all the problems. It will alleviate some and it will be a start,” he said. “We could possibly have a bid in September sometime after the rally and start construction sometime next summer.
Meade County Taxpayers for Responsible Government, a group opposed to the bypass road, gathered enough signatures on a petition to bring the TIF issue to a vote.
A tax increment financing district, or TIF, allows government to construct a project and pay for it with the increase in property-tax proceeds within the district. The increase comes about when a project leads to growth or raises the value of nearby properties.
The $8.5 million option is for paving the entire route. The lowest-priced option is for a gravel road. Neither price includes acquisition of the right-of-way for the road.
Early in the process of this project, Meade Schools superintendent Don Kirkegaard said that the district could lose more than $1.5 million in tax revenue over the next five years if the TIF were established.
So, in an effort to return potential lost funds to the Meade School District, the Meade County Commission entered into a memorandum of understanding
Some of the tax revenue diverted to pay for the TIF would be replaced through the state aid-to-education formula, but taxes paid to the district’s capital outlay, special education and pension funds would not.
Meade County commissioners said throughout the process that they believed future growth would generate the revenue needed to build the road.
“Although we don’t have a lot to share on that, I can tell you that the commission has had conversations with four different groups that are talking about economic improvements in the $45 (million) to $55 million range,” commissioner Linda Rausch said.
Just a week before the election, both the Sturgis City Council and the Sturgis Area Chamber Board issued resolutions opposing the bypass road, saying it would divert traffic away from Sturgis businesses.