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Voters to decide South Dakota county’s $4.5M courthouse

February 14, 2018

OLIVET, S.D. (AP) — A special election will be held this spring for voters in southeast South Dakota to decide whether the county should build a new $4.5 million courthouse.

Earlier this month, the Hutchinson County Commission agreed to move forward with replacing the current courthouse, which was built in 1881 and is the oldest in use in the state.

But County Auditor Diane Murtha told the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan that petitions seeking a public vote contained enough valid signatures to force a special election. It likely will be scheduled April 10.

Commissioners sought a new $4.5 million courthouse instead of remodeling the current facility, which was estimated to cost $3.5 million.

Opponents have raised concerns about the location and necessity of a new courthouse. They also have questioned both of the projected costs for a new building or remodeling.

County officials have said the current courthouse has mold, water damage, cracks and other structural deficiencies. It also lacks handicapped accessibility and adequate courtroom space.

Commissioner Steve Friesen said the current building’s problems won’t go away even if voters reject a new courthouse. He said there’s no way of repairing the current courthouse “without a lot of headaches.”

Murtha said holding the special election will be costly.

“People have got to realize this is a county-wide election, so this is going to cost as much as (each of) the primary and general elections,” she said. “In 2016, those elections cost (the county) a combined $73,000. And I have no budget for this special election in April.”

Commissioners will hold a special meeting at the courthouse on Feb. 20, where the public can take tours of the current facility. They’ll present the details of the project and tape the presentation for later showing on local television access channels.

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Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, http://www.yankton.net/

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