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University of South Dakota holds forum on sex assault

VERMILLION | University of South Dakota officials said they're taking steps to better train staff and students on proper ways to respond to sexual assault.

The comments came at a campus forum held Monday on sexual assault awareness that drew a near-capacity crowd. It followed the arrests late last month of two university football players on rape-related charges.

A $300,000 grant was gifted to the university in October 2016 to educate students on sexual assault and offer more campus resources, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported.

The grant came from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Violence Against Women, according to Kim Grieve, vice president of student services and dean of students. The grant's goal is to turn the university into a safe place for every student, Grieve said.

Many students at the Monday forum noted they're not required to receive training on avoiding or reporting sexual assault incidents.

"There is online training available," said Grieve. "Students must complete the training, but currently we don't have a 'hold on account' capability (to ensure students complete the course), but we highly encourage students to take the training."

Students at the forum also mentioned a waitlist for services at a campus counseling center. Debra Robertson, a coordinator at the counseling center, said the waitlist may be misunderstood and noted that individuals experiencing trauma aren't ever initially placed on the waitlist.

"Counselors are trying to contact everyone who contacts the office," Robertson said. "We are interviewing for an additional counselor, and anyone who requires medical services is seen immediately."

University officials said they're formulating a strategic plan to work with the grant money, which will be revealed in a kick-off event planned for January.

Power company gets $8.1M back as reinvestment return under GOED program

PIERRE | A Minnesota utility won approval Tuesday for one of the largest economic incentives ever made by a South Dakota government agency.

The South Dakota Board of Economic Development awarded a reinvestment payment up to $8,187,266 to Northern States Power Company, also known as Xcel Energy.

The money comes from Building South Dakota. The Legislature created it in 2013.

The payment is for wind-farm development in Grant and Codington counties in the northeastern region.

Building South Dakota has a variety of separate programs intended to accelerate growth of businesses and communities. One of the programs is the reinvestment payment. The payment is available for projects that cost more than $20 million or more than $2 million for equipment.

The purpose is to offset some of the state sales tax, use tax and contractors excise tax paid for construction of a project.

State board members decided Tuesday that Northern States Power could receive up to 65 percent of sales and use taxes the company paid to South Dakota state government on the wind project.

The board met by teleconference, as it does most times each year. The members discussed various agenda items in an executive session closed to the public. They voted in open session but nobody made any substantial comments about the actions.

Building South Dakota came out of frustration by legislators in both political parties. They argued that Gov. Dennis Daugaard — and governors Mike Rounds and Bill Janklow before him — had kept too much information secret about several state programs intended to help economic development.

Then-Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, led the charge for Building South Dakota. Lawmakers initially took millions of dollars in cash from the state treasurer’s fund for unclaimed property.

Daugaard, who didn’t support it, countered in the second year with a lump sum of $30 million that legislators accepted. That money has been dwindling and some lawmakers, such as House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings, tried without success in the 2016 session to get a new supply of cash.

Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, said during a meeting of the Legislature’s Executive Board on Monday that the governor wants to make a straight payment in the 2017 session.

Mickelson, the House speaker, asked Hawley how much it would take. Hawley said $10 million.

Mickelson indicated that would be the upper limit. He turned to other legislators — all Republicans — around the table and asked for their numbers. No one spoke.

Hawley and Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton of Burke participated as nonvoting members in the board meeting Tuesday. They are among four legislators who received nonvoting seats on the board as part of the 2013 legislation.

The Legislature created the board in 1987, at the suggestion of then-Gov. George S. Mickelson, along with a state low-interest program for business loans and a Future Fund program for research and development.

The late governor and seven other men died in the 1993 state-airplane crash. He was the father of Mark Mickelson.

Northern States Power applied for the reinvestment payment. The company provides electricity to various communities in eastern South Dakota including Sioux Falls.

In other action Tuesday, the state board approved: $1,300,000 in loans to Harvard Integrations, a Tea manufacturer of metal enclosures for power generation equipment; $426,500 in loans to Roto Mold, a Tea maker of one-piece doghouses; and potentially $78,500 of reinvestment payment to POET Biorefining in Mitchell for up to 50 percent of sales and use taxes paid.

Pine Ridge group wins Bush Prize

A corporation on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota has been awarded a 2017 Bush Prize for Community Innovation.

Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation of Porcupine has been awarded $500,000. The corporation is among seven groups in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota whose awards were announced Tuesday by the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation.

The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation has created a home-ownership program and is constructing a 34-acre community with energy efficient and affordable homes, business incubator spaces, sustainable food production, and a healthy and supportive environment for youth, families and the elderly on the Pine Ridge Reservation.