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Lincoln County jail bond remains contentious ballot issue

Example of Lincoln County Jail Concept Design as of September 2020.
Example of Lincoln County Jail Concept Design as of September 2020.(Lincoln County)
Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 12:33 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2020 at 12:53 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -On election day, Lincoln County residents will decide on a bond measure for a new county jail and public safety center to be built in Tea. But before the votes are cast, some Tea residents are trying to get a grasp on the facts as some feel the county has gone about this bond process the wrong way.

Some Lincoln County residents and commissioners are raising questions about the bond issue that will be voted on November 3rd.

Campaign finance reports for proponents of the jail have been released.

One concern of County Commissioner Joel Arends is that the largest campaign contributor to support the jail is a partner of the architecture firm that will be designing it.

The finance disclosure report for the opposition group appears to have more support from residents of Lincoln County.

“The reason that you see the kind of outpouring of support from the community is because the commission got this wrong in the first place. They put the cart before the horse and what they decided to do is to vote to approve the jail first, then to have community input,” said Arends.

Commissioners had voted 3 to 2 on February 18th for the resolution of a public safety center, including a jail in Lincoln County. Some commissioners and citizens felt this wasn’t right and believe the vote should’ve needed a 4 to 1 vote to pass.

“But it’s right there in black and white. It’s in the statute,” said Arends.

Arends is referring to codified law 7-21-16.1.

Farmer David Tuntland challenged the legality of the vote and had his attorney write Lincoln County letters opposing the jail.

“A $50 million dollar public safety building. That bothered me at night as I was laying in bed before this all started,” said Tuntland.

" It’s a big waste of money and a big detriment to the taxpayer to burden."

However, days later the county sued him. He then countersued the county over first amendment rights.

The judge has not made an ultimate ruling on the case yet. But so far it’s cost Tuntland $60,000. Tuntland feels it’s important to share his story before residents make their vote.

We reached out to Lincoln County Chairman Michael Poppins who says it’s now in the hands of the taxpayers to decide what happens with the future of the Lincoln County jail on November 3rd.

Correction: The article previously stated David Tuntland was sued by Lincoln County after the August bond vote and has been corrected to Feb. 18th bond vote.

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