Debate heats up over Union County comm center's budget
By Sarah Te Slaa, Multimedia Producer/ Anchor - email
Union County Sheriff Dan Limoges opened the public comment period with some heated words for the commissioners.
Keep the communication center open.
That's the message from several Union County, South Dakota residents who spoke up during a budget hearing this morning.
Union County Sheriff Dan Limoges opened the public comment period with some heated words for the commissioners about the proposed cuts to the county's communication center.
"When you set the budget at $265,000, that's a joke. You can't run the facility on $265,000. I don't know what you are doing," says Limoges.
Commissioners have set a preliminary budget for next year that would reduce the comm center's budget by more than $100,000 to $265,000.
Limoges runs the center and says he couldn't operate it with that amount and needs at least $43,000 more. He says he would have to drastically cut operations and staff or close it and outsource the services to another county. Those options don't sit well with many residents who say it would jeopardize public safety.
Judy Oberg, a Union County resident and the director of the comm center presented commissioners with a petition to keep the center open signed by 1,100 residents
"These petitions were signed by people from north to south, overwhelmingly people want to sign them. we had them in several different place and everybody thought 'we want to keep you here. We don't want to farm you out,'" says Oberg.
Union County's dispatch center answers 911 and non-emergency calls from county residents as well as police, fire and ambulance services county wide. Dispatchers relay information to officers and municipalities in the county and check records. Commissioners says those non-emergency phone calls costs tax payers and the cities should pay for them.
"Our mind as commissioners is that the sheriff needs to find a way to fund those services or stop providing a free service so why would we want our citizens to provide free services is beyond me," says Ross Jordan, a Union County Commissioner. "We would, for example, fund at $265,000. If the sheriff needed additional funding, then it would be up to him to contract with the cities or other entities to get additional funding to make that stay viable."
The commissioners will decide on the county's budget, including the comm center's budget, at its next meeting September 19 at 8 a.m. in Elk Point.
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