Committee hears testimony on electric service annexation

PIERRE, S.D. (KXLG) – The Electric Services in an Annexed Area Study Committee  held its first meeting on Thursday at the State Capitol in Pierre, S.D. The interim committee was created through the passage of Senate Bill 66 by the 2019 Legislature. SB 66, otherwise known as the Territorial Integrity Act, sought to freeze electric utility service territories. Among those testifying before the committee yesterday in favor of the rural electrics was Jared Knock who lives between Willow Lake and Carpenter South Dakota. Knock, a local seed dealer in Clark County who also farms with his family, said it’s important everything possible be done to strengthen the rural electric cooperatives.

His concern is that living so far from a municipality he would be the last to be annexed, creating higher costs for his operations. On the flip side are those opposed to Senate Bill 66. They included Watertown Mayor Sarah Caron who urged the committee to consider the public welfare. She says Senate Bill 66 is bad for Watertown and bad for the state of South Dakota. The mayor says businesses come to a community with municipal electric and other services requesting annexation because they have the total package of electric, water, sewer, garbage, rail, police and fire.

Caron said businesses will go to another state if cities don’t provide what they’re looking for. She also said the legislation would be bad for the consumer because municipal utility rates are lower than rural. She said the legislation is bad for the state because businesses will go elsewhere if they can’t get what they want. Yesterday’s hearing was for informational gathering purposes only and no action was taken. The next meeting is Thursday, Aug. 28.