Letter to the Editor

Drainage Ditch 37

Thursday, April 30, 2020

I am outraged at how the proposal for Drainage Ditch 37 Pickerel Run has been handled so far. The Board of Supervisors, engineers (Bolton & Menk Inc.) and contractors should be removed. The County Supervisors were elected to do what's best for the landowners in Clay County. They are not doing what is best for the landowners of Drainage District 37. The proposed project for DD 37 would be a gross misuse of funds.

This is the first drainage project I have not supported. This project will be a burden to landowners to finance with minimal return on their investment. The currently proposed project would spend $3.6 million to remove trees in order to make Pickerel Run look like a standard drainage ditch. This work will not dramatically increase the drainage capacity and will provide little to no return on investment to the landowners. Land owners should not be forced to pay $3.6 million on a landscaping project.

At the Dec. 4, 2018, hearing, 31 landowners were present and objected to the proposal which was equivalent to 59.77% of the landowners which represented 65% of the land. The board required 70% of the land be represented. The Board continued the hearing on Jan. 14, 2019. Three of the five trustees had told one or more landowners that they would allow the landowners additional time. At this meeting the drainage attorney and engineer presented new issues and drainage matters to landowners, but refused additional time to consider these items. Instead, the trustees approved the improvements and moved forward with the bid letting process.

There were 36 written objections filed with the trustees and there were 62 postcard objections that were filed with the Auditor's Office prior to the Jan. 14, 2019, hearing. The trustees breached their fiduciary duty by denying the landowners' request for additional time after three of them assured at least one landowner they would allow more time. The board also failed to count multiple objections filed by landowners. As a result, they illegally found the landowners had not met the 70% requirement and pushed the project through.

As a result of their actions and blatant disregard of the landowners' wishes they should be removed from their positions. The money already spent on this project should be returned to the county and a new study should be done by a new group of engineers and contractors. There are numerous examples of elected officials that have faced charges of abuse of power and misuse of funds. Let's take immediate action so that we don't face similar embarrassment in our community.

Dr. Philip Sonstegard, Sioux Falls, S.D.