Late fees, septic systems are topics at town meeting

By Jeff Smith


The Town of Keystone has been working on improving the sewer system for public use but questions remain about private septic systems in the city limits. This was discussed at the town board meeting on Feb. 7. Vanessa Row, finance officer, and town board members have been involved in the newly formed special septic systems committee that is focused on some of the septic systems issues.

Row was not at the meeting but city clerk Cassandra Ott read the report she left. There are concerns that there are private septic tanks in Keystone and one established holding tank that might not have ever been inspected. The committee has decided that they need to isolate cases of private septic system failing as well as find out the ages and locations of septic systems.

David Cofoid is also on the committee and is a licensed installer for septic systems. He has given the group valuable information regarding drain fields, issues with the floodway and life expectancy on septic systems.

Something that trustee Rick Brandfas learned from Cofoid is that septic systems are supposed to be 50 ft. from a waterway.

Brandfas said that there is an emphasis on finding out more about the unknowns, which is the reason there is a committee. He said there are approximately 21 septic systems in Keystone.

“We really don’t know how many we have,” Brandfas said. “They could be leaking, we really don’t know.”

A draft ordinance has been created to have a plan in the future when somebody wants to build a private wastewater disposal system. It includes submitting proposed plans for the private wastewater disposal system to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, obtaining an on-site wastewater disposal application permit from the Town of Keystone and a permit and inspection fee of $50.

It still needs to be decided if the city would like to enter into a partnership with Pennington County.

“We have to meet with the county commissioners on this and try to get some feedback,” Brandfas said.

A problem of who is responsible for the late fees of utility bills at a rental was brought up at the meeting.

Derek Alexander, property owner in Keystone, has applied for abandonment on a rental of a trailer in Keystone. The property has late fees on water bills. A Keystone ordinance states that the owner has to pay the late fees if the renter refuses to do so.

Alexander has paid the balance of what is owed to the Town of Keystone but not the late fees. In the past the town has waived late fees for owners who had tenants that vacated the area. The trustees decided that Alexander should pay for half of the current late fees.

Ott said it might be a good idea to send the bills to the owner and renters in the future.

The Town of Keystone was not previously aware of the ordinance and thought that everything fell under the renter’s responsibility.

There could be a $25 increase for business licenses in Keystone. It would make business licenses in Keystone become $100.

Ott said that the $25 would go to the Keystone Chamber of Commerce.

“That way all businesses would become a part of the chamber and they would get some services from the chamber because of that,” McLain said.

Sandi McLain, president of the Keystone Town Board, said that the $25 fee would be the minimum requirement for the basic Keystone Chamber of Commerce membership.

McLain also talked about the HB1206 which would amend SDCL 10-45D-2 in order to cut the tourism promotion tax from 1.5 percent to 1 percent, or by a half-penny. The money goes to promotion for different areas in the state and cooperative marketing campaigns.

She went to Pierre to testify about the bill and amendment. According to McLain, around 39 people came to voice their opinion about the bill last week.

State legislators received around 700 emails to vote against the bill. McLain said the sponsor of the bill did not understand the reasoning or the history behind the tourism tax.

The amendment would raise the tourism promotion tax from 1.5 percent to 2 percent but the catch was that South Dakota residents wouldn’t be taxed.

“That would be a living nightmare to try to separate all of that for the merchants,” McLain said.

The South Dakota Retailers Association gave their input and said that would be illegal to put that kind of hardship on the merchants.

“Essentially what happened is that the bill died,” McLain said.

The state legislators decided to defer the bill to the 41st day of the Legislative Session, which also kills the bill. However McLain said the bill could be brought up again.

“To be honest with you, with all of the testifying we had to change and create a whole new formula for what we were telling him after he amended the bill,” McLain said.

It might become an issue again and McLain said it was concerning because the Department of Tourism would have to find other funding from the state for promotion to make up the difference.

Candace Lorimor has also been hired as the city clerk II. She will be taking Cassandra Ott’s place in the near future as Ott is trained for the finance officer position. Lorimor will start with the Town of Keystone on Feb. 26.