Lincoln County approves $1.25M, 20-acre purchase for future courthouse expansion
The deal for a plot of land between the city proper and the industrial park is set to close on April 28.
CANTON, S.D. — The Lincoln County Commission has approved the purchase of a sizeable plot of land as an option for a future courthouse expansion.
The decision came via a 4-1 vote during last week’s commission meeting, authorizing the expenditure of $1.25 million in county funds to purchase a 20-acre plot of land from Canton residents Dawn and Jeffrey Kroger.
The property, at 28183 West Ave., lies in unincorporated Lincoln County, between two disjointed sections of Canton city limits — with the city proper to the east and the industrial park to the west, according to Lincoln County GIS. The county had previously acquired the 20-acre lot immediately to the north from Minnesota agribusiness company CHS.
Though the deal is set to close on April 28, the Krogers, who obtained the land in 2015, will have until the end of the calendar year to remove the home and other structures from the property.
The move came more than a year after the last public meeting of the Lincoln County Courthouse Improvement Committee, who examined options for the future of the county’s administrative center.
Chad Skiles, a citizen-member of the improvement committee, however, questioned how the commission came to the decision to purchase the land for a courthouse expansion, as he said the committee never heard back on their recommendation on a different plot of land.
“Even as a member of the Courthouse Improvement Expansion Committee, we have no knowledge of what's been going on,” Skiles said. “We left off [with] recommendations of pursuing this project with land west of Canton, along Highway 18, and then suddenly in the last month or so … the location has changed, and I can only assume … that most, if not all, of this was done in executive session behind closed doors.”
Skiles furthered that he’s been fielding concern from area residents regarding the purchase, and wished the commission’s land selection process would’ve been more open to the public.
“I've been receiving questions, texts and concerns on this particular land and this location for choosing for the courthouse expansion,” Skiles said. “I feel very strongly that the commission needs to open this up and talk and explain everything of what's been going on up to this point, because openness and transparency is what it's all about. I feel that that hasn’t happened, satisfactorily, to the citizens of Lincoln County and to the citizens of Canton.”
Commissioner Michael Poppens, of Tea, said the commission had used executive session to negotiate the property according to statute, and that the agenda item regarding the Krogers’ property came from a lack of options.
“The process of negotiating, that's always under the necessity of having executive session for discussion. I can tell you at that point, negotiations fell apart on the property west of Canton along Highway 18 Then we continued to move forward to try alternative locations,” he explained. “Unfortunately there's not a lot of choices of property that's available that's willing to be sold that would work, and [the Krogers] approached us as being willing to be sold for us to purchase with the adjacent 20 acres that the elevator had offered to us as well.”
Poppens added that not many property owners in Canton were willing to sell their land at a “fire-able” price, and that he would be “more than willing” to walk members of the public through that process.
Commissioner Jim Schmidt, of Sioux Falls, said that there’s a sizable portion of the population who question why the courthouse remains in Canton, but clarified that the courthouse won’t be leaving the city anytime soon.
“The citizens of Canton have to understand this as well: I've had any number of people that have called me and said ‘Why are you building this thing down in Canton? Why aren’t you moving it where the population center is,” he said. “Please understand, Canton, that we’re here, we’re gonna be here and we’re gonna do it right.”
Poppens furthered Schmidt by noting the purchase of the Krogers’ land — in addition to the land acquired from CHS — is setting up the county for any sort of future courthouse expansion.
“We want the residents of this area to understand that this commission, in moving forward with what will be a 40-acre campus, is really laying the groundwork for everything to be able to stay down here.”
The Lincoln County Commission’s next meeting is set for Tuesday, April 25, or six days before the deal with the Krogers is set to close. An agenda for the meeting has not yet been released.