HURON – New criminal justice laws designed to reduce prison overcrowding and delay the need to build more cells means offenders are now more likely to be enrolled in local diversion programs than face time behind bars, Beadle County State’s Attorney Mike Moore said.
“The system in and of itself is working, it’s getting better,” he said at the annual State of the County luncheon on Thursday.
“We still have a lot of kinks to work out of it,” he said.
“What happens to individuals that are convicted is a lot different today than it was just five years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago,” Moore said.
Instead of sentencing people to prison, judges are ordering them to enter drug treatment programs. A dozen are on intense probation while participating in the new Beadle County drug court. Diverting individuals away from the penitentiary is saving the state a lot of money, Moore said.
“We’re trying to do the best we can with the tools they give us,” Moore said.
“It’s just a little bit different than what we did 20 years ago as it’s progressed. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just saying that’s where we’re at right now,” he said.
“Whether it’s good or bad, it probably has to have happened because we just don’t have the space in our prisons to lock all these individuals up,” he said.
A few weeks ago, new zoning ordinances went on the books after months of work involving the County Commission, County Planning Commission, the Northeast Council of Governments and the general public.
While the ordinances deal with a number of zoning issues, the most controversial section covers concentrated animal feeding operations.
“The producers and the people who live out in the county had different views on how this should be handled,” Moore said.
Issues that were worked out through a healthy back and forth between the parties dealt with the distance the operations should be from residences, what the restrictions should be and what the county’s role should be, he said.
“We had a lot of good discussions about that and eventually we came to a conclusion and the county ordinances just went into effect on March 31,” he said.
“When we talk about these county ordinances, what the county is doing is passing laws on what you can and can’t do with your land,” Moore said.
“That in and of itself is controversial,” he said. “You buy a piece of property, you feel like you should be able to do whatever you want to do on that property.”
Beadle County is certainly not unique. Across the country, cities, counties and states have laws that tell people what they can do and cannot do on their property, he said.
“We don’t want to prevent somebody from enjoying their property, in the manner they want to enjoy it, but we also don’t want that person to be able to do something that would affect their neighbor,” Moore said.
County Commission Chairman Tom Hansen said the hope is that the board developed a set of user-friendly ordinances, while also making sure there are controls in place.
Hansen also had a power point presentation on property taxes.
The county will benefit from new tax revenue generated with the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
The Keystone XL pipeline will cover 16 miles in three townships in northeastern Beadle County,
The Dakota Access pipeline, now transporting oil, covers 29 miles in the county. Each pipeline will generate about $3,800 per mile in new tax revenue annually for the county.
From the Dakota Access pipeline, the county will receive about $112,000 in new revenue each year, or the equivalent of the property taxes generated with the construction of 40 new homes in the county annually.