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Non-meandered waters issue far from being settled

PIERRE | On Thursday afternoon, before the snow coming down got worse, South Dakota lawmakers hurried from the Capitol for another three-day break. The 2018 session was half done and there still wasn’t agreement on non-meandered waters.

If anything, the issue many thought was fixed in the one-day special session eight months ago now appears to be more divided.

That’s because the laws passed last June 12 are set to expire this June 30.

The Legislature has 18 working days left in the regular session to make those laws last longer.

But there’s another route many are pursuing.

Different factions of lawmakers are trying to find sufficient support for their preferred changes, either with the governor’s blessing or strong enough to override his veto.

The ending that would frustrate many is the laws automatically repeal on June 30 because no side could break the deadlock.

That seems more likely each day that goes by.

The session’s main run ends Friday, March 9. The lawmakers gather a last time Monday, March 26.

That final day has been used solely for handling vetoes in recent years. This time the day might come back into play for more than debating whether to override.

There remains a wide split over non-meandered waters. On one side are the House of Representatives and Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

But Daugaard has less than 11 months left in his second, and final, term.

On the other side is the Senate.

In the middle are rural landowners, who sometimes welcome and sometimes curse the thousands of anglers, waterfowl hunters, boaters and other recreational users who have crowded onto the flooded waters that lay over their private property.

The South Dakota Supreme Court on March 15 said the water belonged to the public but neither the landowners nor the recreational users had a superior right to it. The Legislature needed to figure out who did, the justices said.

The Legislature had avoided the issue for some 20 years. No side could arrive at a solution that was agreeable to any other side.

The Supreme Court forced legislators into action. The Executive Board that makes many of the Legislature’s administrative decisions appointed a 15-member task force. It met four times from April 27 to June 2 and set the special session for 10 days later.

When the day came, senators stood together for the amendment by Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City. It changed the automatic repeal date to June 30, 2018. The special-session legislation originally called for the repeal June 30, 2021.

The idea was to give the Game, Fish and Parks Commission and the state Wildlife Division four years to put a system in place for regulating who uses the waters and when they can be closed.

But the Partridge amendment triggered hours of private negotiations between the House and Senate sides.

The expression on the face of Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, was stone-like with anger, as House negotiators came back and begrudgingly accepted the Senate date.

The gap from that day now is a gulf. Consider where the Legislature now is:

The Senate hasn’t scheduled a vote yet on the governor’s bill that would reinstate the original 2021 repeal;

House members passed Rhoden’s bill that originally would have reinstated the 2021 repeal date and now removes the repeal date altogether, but the Senate hasn’t scheduled a hearing yet; and

Meanwhile Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, introduced legislation Feb. 1 that would rewrite many provisions of the special-session laws.

It gets worse. White’s bill came out of a Senate committee hearing Wednesday night without recommendation.

Rhoden, Partridge and White come from different places and backgrounds. Rhoden believes in property rights. Partridge represents recreational users. White is somewhere in the middle.

Rhoden, a rancher and a welder, has served 16 years as a legislator. His record at the statehouse often had him pushing straight ahead for solutions on behalf of the Rounds and Daugard administrations. At times he seemed hardheaded. He turned 59 Feb. 5.

Partridge, 47, is in his fourth year as a legislator. He can be abrupt and pointed at times in the Capitol. He has a financial advisory firm, after first marketing computers for a national firm and later working for a large investment firm in Rapid City.

White, 73, is in his eighth year as a legislator. His professional life as a banker involved analysis of records and reputations of people and businesses wanting to borrow money and privately rendering judgments of how credit-worthy they were.

It’s impossible to predict who comes out as the winner this time. And here’s the final noteworthy fact.

None of the three is a co-sponsor on either of the other two’s bills.


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YMCA pays $5 million for downtown building

The price of Black Hills Corporation’s sale of its former headquarters building to the YMCA of Rapid City was $6 million, according to newly available information.

But the price paid at closing was $5 million, said Roger Gallimore, executive director of the YMCA. The remaining $1 million was credited as a gift-in-kind from Black Hills Corp., Gallimore said.

The YMCA has since sold a half interest in the property to Rapid City Area Schools for $3 million.

The full financial details became available recently in public documents, after some details were withheld in November when the multifaceted deal was announced.

Black Hills Corp., an energy company, has moved out of its old headquarters at 625 Ninth St. — which is across an intersection from the YMCA — and into its newly constructed headquarters at 7001 Mount Rushmore Road.

The YMCA and school district will split the space in the eight-floor former Black Hills Corp. building, with the YMCA planning to use its space for an expansion of its child care and preschool program and the school district planning to use its space to house its administrative offices.

Gallimore said the YMCA has raised $4.8 million, including the $1 million in-kind donation from Black Hills Corp., toward the purchase and remodeling of its share of the building. He said the organization hopes to raise $2 million more. The targeted move-in date is January 2019.

The school district’s purchase of a half interest in the building is being funded mostly by Rapid City government’s agreement to buy out the school district’s share of the City-School Administration Center for $2.9 million. After the school district moves out of that shared facility at 300 Sixth St., the city plans to use the freed-up space.

Katy Urban, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the district plans to use $2.5 million of capital outlay funds to remodel its portion of the former Black Hills Corp. headquarters, with a targeted completion date of January 2019.


Chance meeting sparks family connection

Omi Schulte and TJ have a lot in common.

They both love horses, "Sons of Anarchy" and the Dallas Cowboys. Both have endless appetites and the same middle name.

Their resemblances are subtle but certain. Their smiles form a similar curve. Both are soft-spoken but will hold your eyes during conversation. They often pause for thought before responding with comparably calm voices.

Standing next to each other, it's easy to see they are related.

But up until a few months ago, the brothers didn't know the other existed.

Omi, 20, and TJ, 16, met for the first time in August 2017 at a McCrossan Boys Ranch horse barn. Omi, a former resident of McCrossan, was back for a visit. TJ, a current occupant, was at the barns tending the horses, a regular duty for him. The two were talking in a group of boys when something Omi said stuck out to TJ.

"I heard his last name and got curious because it was the same as my – well, our –dad's," TJ said.

He went back to his dorm that night and told a McCrossan staffer he had a feeling the boys could be related.

TJ never knew his birth family. He was given away at about 2 weeks old to family friends who had lost a child. No legal paperwork was done, leaving little trail for a family tree. He learned he wasn't raised by his biological family when the parents who raised him died within a year of each other.

He was left with few options.

"I was kind of a wild child,"; said TJ, whose last name could not be released because he is still a juvenile resident at McCrossan. "No one really wanted me. I didn't know where to go. I was going down the wrong road."

Employees at the Juvenile Detention Center knew his love of rodeo and horses and got him a phone interview with McCrossan, which offers on-site school, therapy and counseling programs for boys ages 9 to 20.

TJ has been at the ranch since September 2016, going to school, helping with the horses in the barns and roping cows.

He missed his big brother by two years, five months and 19 days.

Source of support

Omi was a ranch resident twice.

He had been sneaking out of the house, not paying attention in school and getting into fights. He was sent to the ranch first when he was about 11, for nine months, and again about a year later from January 2012 to April 2014.

Omi went into foster care around age 4 and was later adopted by his foster family in Mitchell. He didn't know much about his biological family. He didn't speak to his biological father.

The brothers' biological father died when Omi was at the ranch. Though Omi hadn't been in contact with his father, he attended the funeral in Mission, where his father was a medicine man.

Omi doesn't have contact with other biological family members.

"It's kind of him (TJ) and me," he said. "He didn't know anything about the family that I grew up knowing of. I don’t have anything to do with them, either. It kind of leaves us off by ourselves, which isn't a bad thing."

Boys who have trouble with the law or school go to McCrossan for structure and support. Up to 53 boys can stay at the ranch and attend school. Some graduate with a certified McCrossan high school diploma. The 62-year-old institution serves as a haven for boys and young men who often have little to no family to care for them.

"Many will stay until their 21st birthday," said Christy Menning, McCrossan's director of development. "A lot of these kids come from backgrounds with no family."

After TJ indicated that he thought he and Omi could be related, staff members started looking through the boys' files for their birth certificates. Omi's birth certificate was legally changed when he was adopted and TJ's only listed his birth mother.

"We had to keep digging," said Patty Mihelich, a programs and admissions manager at McCrossan. "But we finally found some paperwork who listed who their biological parents were."

Connecting the dots

McCrossan worked with TJ's social worker at Sicangu Child and Family Service to get a DNA test for the boys. Each organization agreed to pay for half.

"We've had brothers out here before, but to have two kids who didn't know each other years apart..." she trailed off. "It's a really cool thing to connect kids who didn't think they had a lot of family."

TJ was sitting in school at McCrossan in October 2017 when he was asked to step out. That's when he learned he and Omi were full-blooded brothers: a 99.99 percent DNA match.

"It's a dream come true, I guess," TJ said. "You hear about it, but you don't think of it happening to you, and then it does. It's really cool."

Omi got an email while he was at work at Dakota Traffic in Tea.

"The first feeling I had was just surprised," Omi said. "I'm excited."

The brothers have spent nearly every weekend together since. They like to watch Netflix, eat whatever food they can find, watch football and hang out in Sioux Falls.

"He's cool to talk to, easy to get along with," TJ said of his older brother.

Both have their father's name as a middle name: Job. They both lived in the same cottage, participated in 4-H and worked with horses during their time at McCrossan.

TJ is looking forward to graduating from the McCrossan high school in December, and Omi is hoping to start college, likely Southeast Technical Institute, in the next year.

"I enjoy having him around," Omi said. "Family wise, it's been very nice. Having him around is something else. He's my little brother. I can help him out, give him advice. If he's ever in trouble, I know I can pretty much take care of him."

 


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More One Heart transformation center presentations set for later this month

Rapid City Collective Impact will give two additional presentations on its proposed transformation center on Feb. 20 and 22 at 6 p.m. at the Journey Museum.

The presentations will be identical to two earlier meetings hosted by RCCI and the center’s project manager, Charity Doyle, at the museum in January. During the first of those presentations on Jan. 22, Doyle unveiled a new name for the center, "One Heart: A Place for Hope and Healing."

At that meeting, Doyle explained that she and RCCI were still seeking commitments from area nonprofits and providers including the Cornerstone Rescue Mission, Hope Center, Career Learning Center of the Black Hills, YMCA of Rapid City and Behavior Management Systems. The project is still very early in the process, she said.

The main point of the presentation, though, was to explain why the current social service system in the city and county isn’t working and to assuage the concerns some have raised about the center’s location, size and impact of the surrounding community.

Using data and statistics from various studies and reports, Doyle painted a picture of an overburdened system failing to help people, oftentimes children, teenagers and single parents who are merely casualties of bad luck.

“The reality is that many of us in this room are one tragedy or one major medical event away from becoming homeless ourselves,” Doyle said during the Jan. 22 presentation, pointing to a study that found 66 percent of Rapid City’s homeless are currently employed. “These stories we hear every single day.”

As for concerns like the possibility of increased crime to the area, a decrease in enrollment at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology or in adjacent property’s value, the center attracting homeless people from out-of-state, or the possibility of it raising taxes, Doyle addressed each item with research, independent studies, and personal experience.

“What if the voice of concern is right?” Doyle said. “We ask ourselves that every single day.”

Proposals for the One Heart center would situate the 4 acre campus on the 100 and 200 blocks of Kansas City Street. That location is just east of the county’s $14 million Restoration Center, at 321 Kansas City St., which is expected to open in late spring.

At RCCI’s Jan. 22 presentation, Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said the Restoration Center would include 155 beds spread across the city and county’s detoxification and sobering programs, the county's Health and Human Services Department, Crisis Care Center for people with mental health problems and other various outpatient and inpatient treatment programs.

At the end of the presentation, attendees will be able to ask questions of Doyle and a panel of area stakeholders that has yet to be determined. On Jan. 22, Doyle couldn’t answer how the center’s annual operations would be funded, saying it was too early in the process. Moving forward, she said the potential acquisition of the property and designs of the center would come in 2019, and construction, staffing and training were pegged for 2020. Operational plan development and public engagement were the goal this year.