Even on short notice, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender didn’t mind taking over as keynote speaker at Friday’s Rapid City Economic Development Partnership annual meeting.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard was originally slated to deliver the main address at Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn, but the governor was unable to fly to Rapid City because of thick fog enveloping the area Friday morning.
Allender said he received a text from Partnership president Ben Snow at 5:45 a.m. asking him to take the governor's spot.
“I said, 'Hey, don’t worry about it,'” Allender said he told Snow before adding two pages of handwritten notes to original 10-minute speech originally planned to proceed the governor’s remarks.
Allender had plenty of material on the city’s economic outlook to fill the allotted time, from the implementation of the city’s downtown master plan, the expansion of the downtown core east of Fifth Street and plans to build an innovation center downtown core as part of the expansion of the Black Hills Business Development Center.
One of the first key steps, he said, will be proposals coming to city planners and the city council to rezone 700 parcels of property between the current downtown as far east as the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology campus.
What he called a “hybrid” combination of downtown commercial and general commercial zoning will help development of new retail and professional businesses along with new housing for the corridor.
“The rezoning is the official expansion of downtown Rapid City east of Fifth Street,” Allender said.
He also cited the city issuing more than 300 million in building permits for the second straight year, a number that equates to two building permits issued for each hour of a work day.
“If anybody doubts this number, go drive around Rapid City, see how many homes there are, see how many construction companies there are working,” he said.
The area’s traditional low unemployment numbers sound like a positive, Allender said, but in turn limits the types of companies the city might attract because of the shortage of an available workforce.
He said Thursday’s announcement of the impending closure of Rapid City’s Sears store is another sign of the continuing evolution of the area’s economy, and adaption of private business to the needs of the public.
“Sears is closing and that gives us memories. It sounds like trouble, but let’s just consider, if it’s something else. It might just be an opportunity,” Allender said. “We are evolving. That is always something to be proud of and excited about."
In other partnership news, Terri Haverly resigned as partnership vice president to work full time with the partnership’s foundation as the Black Hills Business Development Center begins to expand from the current center on the Mines campus to a new downtown innovation center planned for 108 Main St.
Allender said the city council’s unanimous decision on Nov. 20 to donate the property, originally purchased for a new downtown fire station, “is a purposeful acknowledgement by the Rapid City Council that economic development matters, that innovation matters and the School of Mines matters,” Allender said. “The downtown master plan is a plan that matters.”
“This is a time in history when we should be proud of what is happening in Rapid City. That’s a good deal.”
Pat Burchill, of the RCED Foundation and chairman of the Ellsworth Development Authority, said the Air Force base continues to solidify its chances of remaining a viable military facility 13 years after being included on a Base realignment and closure commission list for closure.
“It scared everyone, but we rallied,” Burchill said. “Against all odds we took the commission’s information and proved them wrong."
He said the development authority is working to bring the next generation of strategic bomber, the B-21, to Ellsworth. “Hopefully there will be a whole squadron of (B-21s) stationed at Ellsworth in the near future,” Burchill said.
Outgoing chairman David Lust cited the large number of major construction projects begun, continuing or completed in 2017, including Black Hills Energy’s new corporate headquarters, Horizon Point, which was dedicated Friday. There was also more than $150 million in new construction and renovation work at Regional Health’s Rapid City Regional Hospital and a $90 million kiln expansion by GCC Dacotah Cement.
“It’s not going to be recruiting Google or IBM to come to Rapid City, it’s going to be what we have here in maximizing it and getting those companies that exist here to grow,” Lust said.
The breakfast meeting also included Ron Blum taking over as partnership chairman for 2018, succeeding Lust.
Unlike other ghost towns in South Dakota, Galena is still home to a few families and an active historical society that works to preserve the community's rich past.
Visitors are greeted by a sign that reads: CAUTION GHOSTS ON ROAD. Each year the town hosts a fundraiser and walk, and proceeds are used for the upkeep of the Galena Schoolhouse and the local cemetery.
The schoolhouse was built in 1882, around six years after the town sprang up during the Black Hills Gold Rush as a gold and silver mining camp. The Sitting Bull Mine was the main mine in Galena and — according to a mining journal — it shipped out a tidy sum of $14,000 in silver and lead from the nearby smelter in 1879.
Galena, which is located around 11 miles southeast of Deadwood, grew rapidly in the 1870s and had a hotel, restaurant, saw mills, saloons and retail stores. In 1877, the Richmond claim was established near Sitting Bull. A feud between the mines would later cause chaos in Galena and ignite a legal battle that would go all the way to the Supreme Court.
The town began to decline around the turn of the 20th century, as the price of silver fell and the Union Hill Mining Company scrapped a project that would have included an enormous stamp mill.
“The mines closed, and there wasn’t any work," said Jeri Fahrni, a Galena resident and member of the Galena Historical Society. "They tore down the Catholic church, too. The school closed after the 1942-1943 school year. Everybody dispersed after Gilt Edge Mine closed down. A lot of the buildings were torn down in the 1940s because people used the wood for other things.”
Today, the town has a population of around 25. Fahrni helps uncover the history of the Galena cemetery and identify people who are buried there. The graveyard has become a tourist attraction, and last year more than 1,900 people visited the cemetery.
“The first baby who died here was supposedly a girl named Galena born in 1880, but it turns out that she actually didn’t die until 1945 and she became a school teacher in Rapid City," Fahrni said. "So we have a marker up there that says ‘baby’ but it turns out that it was actually another infant who had died.”
Through summer tours and preservation efforts, Fahrni and other Galena Historical Society volunteers hope to keep visitors coming back to this ghost town for years to come.
PIERRE | The Associated School Boards of South Dakota can file a brief supporting the state Water Management Board against a complaint brought by Pennington County Commissioner George Ferebee, the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission unanimously decided Friday.
Chairman Kevin Krull directed the commission’s lawyer to distribute the brief to the five commissioners. Krull is Meade County state’s attorney.
Gerry Kaufman Jr. said he had previously provided copies to Matt Naasz, the lawyer for the water board, and Ferebee. Kaufman is director of policy and legal services for the school boards organization.
The commissioners set Feb. 2 for the re-hearing of Ferebee’s complaint. The commission tied 2-2 last summer and decided all five members should re-hear it.
Kaufman’s motion said the brief would present information the water board didn't commit a violation. He said it would show “the governing board of a political subdivision such as a school board or city commission, or a state board such as the Water Management Board or South Dakota Board of Education” could legally conduct deliberations in executive session.
State law 1-25-2 sets five situations when public meetings can be taken into executive session. The third exemption says: “Consulting with legal counsel or reviewing communications from legal counsel about proposed or pending litigation or contractual matters.”
The roots of the case reach back several years. Pennington County officials charged Ferebee with a zoning violation for his wastewater system. Ferebee, who lives in Hill City, filed the complaint against the water board as a private individual.
He alleges the water board members violated South Dakota’s open-meeting law in 2016. His complaint is they closed the meeting to the public and privately deliberated who should regulate wastewater treatment systems.
The state board publicly ruled they or other local governments could regulate wastewater systems.
Ferebee complained to the state commission that the water board members should have talked about the issue in public. That produced a split vote by the commission.
Voting for a violation at the Aug. 31 hearing were Aurora County state’s attorney John Steele and Bon Homme County state’s attorney Lisa Rothschadl. Voting to dismiss the complaint that day were Krull and Grant County state’s attorney Mark Reedstrom. The fifth member, Sully County state’s attorney Emily Sovell, didn’t attend the meeting.
Ferebee described the school boards filing Friday as 19 pages of “balderdash.”
Commission chairman Krull initially gave Ferebee and Naasz a deadline of Jan. 19 to file responses to the school boards filing. That matched a federal-courts rule regarding such briefs.
But Steele said he sensed Ferebee wanted more time. Steele suggested the commission accommodate Ferbee because he isn’t a lawyer. Ferebee said Steele was right.
Sovell in turn suggested the Jan. 29 deadline. She indicated the commission should decide the matter Feb. 2. “We all had a lot of time to think about it,” Sovell said.
Ferebee opposed allowing the school boards brief. He argued Friday the deadline should have been before the Aug. 31 hearing by the meeting commission.
He also said state law doesn’t give authority for the commission to accept outside briefs. “We need to draw the line on what’s allowed and not allowed,” Ferebee said.
School boards lawyer Kaufman said the case was still pending. “It was very timely,” he said.
As to authority, Kaufman said it was “implied.” Kaufman said the situation was “analogous” to the commission accepting oral arguments even though state law doesn’t specifically authorize it.
None of the commissioners disagreed with Krull’s initial observation that more information was better for deciding cases. None of them disagreed either with Steele’s later comment that authority was “implicitly left up to us.”
Ferebee said the case had already been heard on its merits. The South Dakota Supreme Court had ruled many times that local governments have only the powers given to them by the Legislature, Ferebee said.
“You’ve got to have something to imply from,” Ferebee said.
A Newell town commissioner is facing charges of stalking and sexual contact without consent involving a home aid.
Allen Youngberg, 67, appeared in magistrate court in Belle Fourche on Dec. 15 and pleaded not guilty to both charges. Each is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in county jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
The accusations against Youngberg relate to a June 19 incident at a Newell apartment, according to court documents. The complainant, 37-year-old Nora Mae Simmons, told the Butte County Sheriff’s Office that Youngberg harassed her and touched her inappropriately while she was cleaning the home of a 94-year-old man. Youngberg apparently lived in the same building and knew Simmons’ client.
To prevent a conflict of interest in the investigation, the sheriff’s office asked for assistance from the state Division of Criminal Investigation, states a police report filed in court.
Simmons had written up an account of Youngberg’s actions and dropped off a copy at the Newell mayor’s office, but authorities said the documents went missing. “Newell City Employee Jennifer Parrow believes Allen stole paperwork Simmons had dropped off for the Mayor on June 22,” reads the police report.
Youngberg was charged by a grand jury on Nov. 14 and arrested three days later. His bond was set at $350, and he was ordered not to have any contact with Simmons, according to court records.
Newell Mayor Mike Keolker is concerned about the criminal charges.
“While Mr. Youngberg has not been tried and he is still presumed innocent, I am concerned by the seriousness of the charges,” Keolker said. “This type of behavior is unacceptable under any circumstances and even worse for someone elected by the people.”
Newell’s official website identifies Youngberg as the town’s public safety commissioner, whose term runs till 2020.
Youngberg declined to comment for this story. He is scheduled to return to the Butte County Courthouse for a status hearing on Jan. 19. Magistrate Judge Chad Callahan, of the 4th Circuit Court, is presiding over the case.
The Newell Council has no recourse planned until it learns of the status hearing’s results.
In September, a judge in Pennington County granted Simmons’ request for a protection order against Youngberg. The court found that a stalking offense had occurred, and issued a five-year protection order — the longest that can be given.
It forbids Youngberg from committing “acts of abuse and physical harm, making threats of abuse, stalking or harassment,” including coming within 100 yards of Simmons, according to the protection order.
Youngberg earlier asked Magistrate Judge Todd Hyronimus to have the case moved to Butte County, where he lives, but the request was denied.
Since 2010, three other people have filed for permanent protection orders against Youngberg in Butte County. All the cases were dismissed, according to court records, because of the petitioners’ failure to provide sufficient evidence.