County extends building permits for FLDS
Published: Thursday, February 28th, 2013
Building permits for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) compound in southwestern Custer County will be extended, after the FLDS met stipulations set forth by the county before it would grant the extentions.
At a previous meeting of the Custer County Commission, county planning director David Green suggested the county hold off on extending the permits until FLDS officials allowed the county to inspect the buildings being constructed. The county also required that the FLDS catch up on its back taxes.
At the commission’s Feb. 20 meeting, Green said he went out and inspected the buildings the previous permits were issued for, and none are done, although the chicken coop is substantially complete. Green said he felt it was appropriate to extend the life of the permit for up to a year, provided the FLDS continues to allow access to the project and pays its taxes to current.
However, Green said the permit issued for the storage building should be redone, since the building portion hasn’t been started and the project looks different on the ground than what the FLDS had specified when it came to the county for the permit. Green said the FLDS members did not indicate there would be a basement in the facility, but said there is a hole pushing 20 feet deep in the ground where the storage barn is to be constructed. Green also said for any permits for new construction projects on the land, the commission could continue to require the FLDS does more road improvements in the area.
Commissioner Phil Lampert agreed with extending the permits, saying the county can’t treat the FLDS any differently than it does any other county resident.
“If their taxes are current and they ask for an extension, we have to give them one,” he said.
The commission also heard from Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler at the meeting, who said he recently attended a meeting regarding the Juvenile Services Center (JSC) in Rapid City. Wheeler said the bonds that helped pay for the facility—which the county has been helping pay to the tune of $15,000 for 20 years—will be paid off in November. At that time, the county will no longer have an obligation to be in the compact it entered into at the time the facility was built. The facility was born out of several counties’ lack of space for juvenile offenders.
Wheeler said the facility now averages around 48 kids per day, while it has a capacity for 100. As counties and municipalities look for ways to save money on the cost of incarceration, many have looked at the cost of putting a juvenile in JSC—$225 a day—and decided to sentence a majority of the juveniles who enter the court system to an alternative form of punishment, such as monitoring or home confinement. That alternative sentencing has put JSC in the lurch.
Wheeler suggested the county ride out the remainder of the contract and then see what type of proposal JSC comes up with to entice counties to continue to use the facility. If it turns out there is no benefit to the county, he said, the county should not enter a new compact with the facility.
“At this point, I don’t see why we would want to get back into a compact,” he said.
However, Wheeler said there is concern that if too many entities back out, the facility will close and there will be no place to house juveniles who need to be placed in a detention facility. JSC is the largest juvenile detention facility in the state. Wheeler said JSC officials plan to have a proposal out to the counties before June.
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