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Council supports alternative senate bil

Brookings City Council unanimously threw its support behind Senate Bill 173 – a possible alternative to House Bill 3453 that would allow the state to restructure the services a fiscally insolvent county needs to provide and bill the county for its services.

Curry County would be the first to experience the effects of HB 3453, which allows the state to take over a fiscally insolvent county’s services and bill them for that job. Cities throughout Curry County are opposed to the bill, saying they would lose local control.

Brookings has spoken out against the bill, notably a section that would allow the state to merge various city and county departments to save money.

 Councilors have noted that the city’s police department is paid for by Brookings citizens and should not be utilized for work outside city limits.

HB 3453 would likely prove moot if voters approve the tax levy increase May 21, which would restore $4.5 million to county coffers to ensure adequate public safety services.

Senate Bill 173, however, would provide a “service delivery technical assistance program” — what City Manager Gary Milliman calls “advice,” — that would award “public bodies” — in this case, Curry County — grants for service delivery innovation, encourage municipalities to enter into public-private ventures to provide technical assistance to the county and convene task forces to advance those goals.

“It would pull in resources from state agencies with putting budgets together or developing agreements, or maybe a cost analysis,” Milliman said of potential services. “It would enable local agencies to work together to come up with solutions.”

It would also offer financial assistance to retain the technical expertise to do so, he said.

“The other bill (HB 3453) authorizes the governor’s office to make major changes without necessarily agreeing with local officials,” he said. “It’s a very different approach.”

The bill, a one-page document, has few details.

“It’s way too early to know anything,” Milliman. “It would authorize the governor to develop a program.”

The bill was introduced Jan. 14, referred to committees Jan. 18 and a work session was held April 4. 

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