State commission approves loan for highway work in Hutchinson County

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Transportation Commission this week went a little deeper into financing a public project for a local government.

The panel agreed Thursday to loan $800,000 to Hutchinson County as an advance on its share of federal surface transportation program (STP) aid. The state Department of Transportation can withhold the county’s $245,000 yearly share of STP funds until the $800,000 is repaid.

The county has been working to repair or replace bridges, box culverts and several stretches of federal-aid road affected by flooding in September 2019.

According to a department official, Hutchinson County faces difficulty because the Federal Emergency Management Administration has reassigned people to work on 2020 disasters while some 2019 disasters, such as Hutchinson County, haven’t received federal reimbursement yet.

“It’s a cash-flow problem,” said Williams, a program manager for the department. She added, “And it’s just not coming fast enough.”

Mike Vehle of Mitchell wondered about the precedent. “Are we going down a road where we’ll have everyone coming in for loans?” the commission chairman asked.

“It is the only one we’ve been approached with,” Williams replied. She added, “Not that others aren’t struggling. But this is the only we’ve been approached with.”

“Alright,” Vehle responded.

Williams said Hutchinson County likely will be reimbursed for more than $1 million from the federal government for damages from flooding. She said the state Office of Emergency Management has loaned $1 million to Hutchinson County, under its authority to make intermediate loans to help local governments while they wait for federal reimbursements.

Hutchinson County still needs $800,000, according to Williams. “They have that money coming in, it’s just timing,” she said. The commission approved the advance.

The commission changed the purpose of a bridge grant for Perkins County to reconstruction from preservation. The amount remained $152,900. The county wanted the change because federal emergency aid would double and become $200,000 if the bridge is replaced.

The commission also added $12,870 for a scour analysis on a Brown County bridge project. The results could mean a longer bridge is needed. Williams said the original plan for a 124-foot structure could become 204 feet. “And it’s about a $400,000 increase in cost estimate, from what we can tell,” she said.

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