Both Sides Open For Lawmakers As Summer Study On Electric Services In Annexed Areas Begins

(WNAX) — An interim legislative committee waded into the standoff over service territories between rural electric co-ops and municipal electrics in South Dakota as the “Electric Services in an Annexed Area” committee met Thursday in Pierre. The dispute is over municipal electrics expanding with annexations into rural electric service areas. Steve Lehner, General Manager of Watertown Municipal Utilities, says they only deal with voluntary annexations…

“But they’re looking for city services…not only electricity, but they’re looking for natural gas, they’re looking for water, they’re looking for sewer, they’re looking for garbage, they’re looking for police protection, they’re looking for street lighting and fire protection both in hydrants and in Fire Department response. This is not an eminent domain or government taking, this is voluntary annexations. All the annexations we’ve done in Watertown have all be voluntary. Somebody coming, asking us, to be part of our city and to utilize city services.”

Tim McCarthy, General Manager of Sioux Valley Energy, based in Colman, says they have lost significant service areas and revenues…

“We estimate that over the last 20 years or so, Sioux Valley alone has lost approximately 21.5 million dollars in revenue from this unilateral government taking and have been compensated with only 2.1 million dollars. Unfortunately all compensation has a hard end date. However the 2.5 (excuse me) 21.5 million in lost revenue will continue to grow over time.”

Committee Chairman, Senator Alan Solano of Rapid City says they need to focus on the main issue…

“I think we also want to scrutinize ourselves and to make sure that we are asking questions or asking for information that is beyond just nice to have information and information that we’ll actually be able to use in any decision making that we would put forward.”

Solano says they will plan to meet again in late August.