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Repurposing Barnett to cost $750K if new arena is built

If Rapid Citians decide they want a new arena on June 5, preliminary studies have estimated repurposing the existing Barnett Arena into a 1,400- to 2,000-seat room would cost about $750,000.

That revelation and others came Thursday night during Mayor Steve Allender’s first public presentation on the issue since the Rapid City Council approved building a new arena and local citizens referred that decision to a public vote.

For more than two hours about 70 people in the Black Hills Ballroom of the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn listened as Allender’s pointedly addressed a number of concerns he has heard about the proposal in the past few weeks.

“We are not demolishing anything,” he said of rumors that Barnett Arena would be torn down if a new arena was built. Instead, he said a structural engineer had visited the arena this week and, though preliminary, estimated that by closing off the arena’s permanent seats and simply keeping the fold out, temporary seating, the city would need to spend about $750,000 to bring the arena’s bathrooms, showers and concession areas into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Later, Allender answered questions posed by the public with additional slides clearly showing he anticipated certain topics to arise.

“We can’t afford that,” he said when asked whether the city would be better off building the arena on a standalone site closer to Interstate 90. The cost of building completely new infrastructure — roads, sewer, water mains, electrical components — to connect to a new arena was explored by the civic center task force and found to be cost prohibitive, Allender said.

“In strict dollars and cents, that’s a deal-breaker,” he said. Allender added that the ever-expanding Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo and Lakota Nation Invitational tournament necessitated the new arena stay on Rushmore Plaza Civic Center campus.

When asked about parking, Allender flipped to a slide from previous presentations that compared the civic center’s parking spot to seat ratio as more favorable than arenas in Sioux Falls; Casper, Wyo.; and Bismarck and Fargo, N.D.

Building a $30 million parking garage to add about 1,500 additional parking spaces would not only be a waste of taxpayer money but likely be the nail in the coffin for a proposal that, though significantly different, failed in a public vote in March 2015.

“That makes this whole thing a bust,” he said. “I can’t afford to try to spend your money that way to make this better than it is.”

Finally, Allender addressed the oft-repeated complaint that instead of spending money on a new arena, the city should direct those funds toward fixing the city’s streets.

“If you want better roads, change the way the earth rotates so that we have Arizona’s weather,” he deadpanned. “Everywhere that gets freezing weather has our roads and we spend between $25 and $30 million dollars per year on streets and infrastructure.”

He added that building a new arena was a quality-of-life upgrade that would attract tourists, millennials and generate increased sales tax revenue, in turn generating more funds for street projects in the future.

“We’re a sales tax economy, like it or not,” he said. Rapid City’s general fund currently relies on sales tax revenues for about 43 percent of its monies.

Though only about two or three of the people in attendance would be considered “millennials”— people with birth dates beginning in the early 1980s and ending in the late 1990s to early 2000s — Allender said building a new arena was about them and the future. According to the Pew Research Center, as of July 1, 2016, there were 71 million millennials — defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 — in America.

“They’re huge,” he said. “They’re the future. That why the businesses and marketplace are reacting to them. Why shouldn’t we be making the same smart decisions that the business places are making?”

On June 5, Rapid Citians will be asked to decide between building a new, approximately 12,000- to 13,000-seat arena for about $130 million — plus interest, estimated at $52 million, and an initial $25 to $30 million down payment, which the city has already saved— or renovate the existing Barnett Arena, with an estimated price tag at about $25 million.

A "yes" vote will give the city the green light to begin plans for building a new arena while a "no" vote will reject the new arena and cause the city to begin planning for the rehabilitation and renovation of the existing 10,000-seat Barnett Arena.

Near the end of Allender’s presentation, he estimated renovating Barnett Arena would take one to two years while building a new arena would take between two and a half and three years. Early voting for the June 5 elections begin April 20, with the voter registration deadline set for May 21.


News
top story
Arizona tribe: Ruling could help Native students across US

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. | Stephen C. has been taught only math and English at a U.S.-run elementary school for Native American children deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon. Teachers have left midyear, and he repeatedly faces suspension and arrest for behavior his attorneys say is linked to a disability stemming from traumatic experiences.

The 12-year-old is among children from Arizona's remote and impoverished Havasupai reservation who are a step closer to their push for systematic reform of the U.S. agency that oversees tribal education, alleging in a lawsuit it ignored complaints about an understaffed school, a lack of special education and a deficient curriculum.

The students' attorneys say they won a major legal victory recently when a federal court agreed that childhood adversity and trauma are learning disabilities, a tactic the same law firm used in crime-ridden Compton, Calif. They say the case could have widespread effects for Native children in more than 180 schools nationwide overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education and in schools with large Native populations.

"Education is our lifeline and our future for our kids — and all students, not just down here, but nationally," Havasupai Chairwoman Muriel Coochwytewa said. The Bureau of Indian Education has "an obligation to teach our children. And if that's not going on, then our children will become failures, and we don't want that."

Havasupai students face adversity and generational trauma from repeated broken promises from the U.S. government, efforts to eradicate Native culture and tradition, discrimination and the school's tendency to call police to deal with behavioral problems, attorneys say.

U.S. District Judge Steven Logan wrote in a late March ruling that the students' lawyers adequately alleged "complex trauma" and adversity can result in physiological effects leading to a physical impairment. He moved the case forward, denying Justice Department requests to dismiss some of the allegations but agreeing to drop plaintiffs from the lawsuit who no longer attend Havasupai Elementary School.

Noshene Ranjbar, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, said medical literature has expanded in the past 20 years to include trauma that isn't linked only to singular events.

In Native communities she's worked with in the Dakotas and Arizona, "they agree the root of everything they suffer with is this unresolved grief, loss, trauma, anger, decades of disappointment on a huge scale," she said.

When students act out, schools too often turn to suspension, expulsion or arrest instead of finding what's driving the bad behavior, she said. Usually, it's "a hurt human being that is using the wrong means to cope," Ranjbar said.

The Public Counsel law firm pressing the Havasupai case also sued the Compton Unified School District — which is majority black and Latino — in 2015 over disability services for students with complex trauma. A judge said students with violent and traumatic pasts could be eligible for such services but didn't apply the ruling to all who experience trauma.

The U.S. Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on the Havasupai ruling.

Government attorney Cesar Lopez-Morales said at a hearing last year that while trauma could result in a disability, federal agencies cannot assume every Native student with shared experiences is disabled. They would need specifics of individuals' impairments and how those affect their lives.

He said attorneys also failed to show the students were denied benefits solely because of disabilities.

Havasupai Elementary School has three teachers for kindergarten through eighth grade on a remote reservation home to about 650 people and world-renowned for its blue-green waterfalls.

The village of Supai can be reached only by mule, foot or helicopter, making it the most isolated of the Bureau of Indian Education's schools in the Lower 48 states. The reservation doesn't have a high school.

The students' attorneys say the area is beset with high levels of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, family violence and low literacy levels. All 70 elementary school students qualify for free or reduced lunch and most are limited in English and math proficiency, and have special education needs.

"What we know from the science is that, particularly unaddressed, the impact of trauma can impact the ability to learn, read, think, concentrate and communicate," Public Counsel attorney Kathryn Eidmann said.

The lawsuit seeks to force the government to provide services for special needs, a thorough curriculum, culturally relevant education and staff training to respond to trauma.

Stephen C., whose full name is not listed in court documents, enrolled as a kindergartner but can hardly read or write now that he's in seventh grade. His attorneys say he has an attention deficit disorder and experiences trauma from witnessing alcohol abuse at school and from his relatives being forced into boarding schools.

At one point, he pulled a plug out of a computer monitor and faced a federal indictment, the lawsuit says.

Some Havasupai parents have sent their children to boarding schools off the reservation rather than deal with inadequate educational services.

Stephen's guardian has considered it, too. But he said in a statement that tribal members want children with them in the canyon, to watch them grow and be a part of the community.


News
Legislative primaries
South Dakota voters to decide 24 legislative primaries

PIERRE | Some former South Dakota lawmakers are trying to mount comebacks. One Republican is running for both state Senate and attorney general, and four Democrats are competing in a crowded primary likely to guarantee the two winners seats at the Statehouse.

Voters are set to decide two-dozen legislative primary races in the June 5 election. Officials this week drew numbers out of a South Dakota mug with a bison on it to set the candidates' order on the ballot.

Here's a look at some of this year's most interesting primary races:

Big picture

Voters across South Dakota are set to decide 24 legislative primary races. Democrats will have two Senate and five House primaries, and Republicans will have nine Senate and eight House primaries. The South Dakota Democratic Party said Thursday that 110 Democratic candidates are running for 101 out of the 105 seats in the Legislature. Democratic Party Chair Ann Tornberg says it's another sign of the momentum her party has in South Dakota and around the nation.

State GOP Chairman Dan Lederman says Republicans plan to run a vigorous campaign this season with 115 candidates running for 97 legislative seats. He said the party applauds South Dakota Democrats for their "biennial pantomime of pretending they're a viable political party," but that "quantity should not be equated with quality."

District 30

It's a Republican rematch. Former Sen. Bruce Rampelberg is taking on hard-right incumbent Sen. Lance Russell, who bucked his House term limit in 2016 by casting Rampelberg as a moderate and easily ousting him from the southwest South Dakota Senate seat. But this year, Russell will have to explain to voters why he's double dipping: the Hot Springs lawmaker is running for Senate and state attorney general.

Former Rep. Patricia Shiery is also competing in the Republican primary.

District 35

Republican Rep. Lynne DiSanto will try to switch chambers this year after four years in the House. DiSanto is a high-profile conservative known for supporting permitless concealed carry legislation.

DiSanto earlier this year urged Republican legislative leaders to take Capitol misconduct allegations more seriously after a colleague made her fear for her safety on the House floor.

DiSanto is seeking the west river Senate seat being vacated by Republican Terri Haverly, who has endorsed GOP candidate Ryan Smith in the primary race.

District 15

Former Rep. Patrick Kirschman, incumbent Rep. Jamie Smith, nonprofit program coordinator Linda Duba and Josh Reinfeld will compete in a four-way Democratic primary race for two spots in the Sioux Falls district. Kirschman, who previously represented the area, is eyeing a return to the Legislature after getting defeated in a 2016 Democratic Senate primary.

No Republicans have filed to run for House in the district.

District 9

For ex-Republican governor candidate Lora Hubbel, it's try, try again to get back into elected office. Hubbel, who unsuccessfully ran a hard-right challenge against GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard in 2014 and this year fell short of the primary ballot as a governor hopeful, is instead mounting a surprise bid for a Minnehaha County Senate seat that she couldn't clinch in 2016.

Hubbel, a onetime representative, will face Republican Rep. Wayne Steinhauer, who is looking to move to the Senate with the departure of Sen. Deb Peters.

Daugaard appointed Steinhauer to the House in 2015. Steinhauer won election with the highest vote share of the four House candidates in that district in the 2016 general election.

District 1

Democratic Rep. Susan Wismer, who lost to Daugaard in the 2014 governor's race, will run for outgoing-Sen. Jason Frerichs' seat. Wismer will face Allison Renville, a convention delegate for former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and Thomas Bisek of New Effington, in the Democratic primary race.

No Republicans have filed to run for the northeastern South Dakota Senate seat.

District 32

A Rapid City-area Republican House primary includes incumbent Rep. Sean McPherson, who has been fighting cancer. He is up against Ed Randazzo, director of political operations at conservative group Family Heritage Alliance Action, and South Dakota School of Mines & Technology doctoral candidate Scyller Borglum, an engineer and entrepreneur.

The two primary winners are set to face a pair of Democrats in the fall.


News
breaking
Escaped inmates believed to be hiding on SD reservations

Two inmates who escaped from a jail in northwestern Nebraska last week are believed to be hiding out on reservations in South Dakota.

Hijinio Garnette, 26, and Esdon Haukass, 23, overpowered a jailer around 10 p.m. March 26, which allowed them to escape out a window of the Sheridan County Jail’s dispatch office in Rushville, according to local authorities.

Investigators believe the escape was planned, as it appears someone was waiting for the pair in a car in the alley behind the sheriff’s office, County State’s Attorney Jamian Simmons said in a release.

The men were reportedly seen in Rushville overnight March 26 and are suspected of stealing a vehicle that was later found in Rosebud.

Sheridan County Sheriff Terry Robbins believes Garnette, of Gordon, Neb., is now on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Haukass, of Mission, is on the Rosebud reservation.

“That is my assumption,” Robbins told the Journal on Thursday. Robbins said he has been in touch with the U.S. Marshals Service about the missing inmates given that only federal law enforcement agencies have primary jurisdiction over the two reservations.

Garnette had been awaiting sentencing on two convictions for failure to appear in court. Authorities describe him as Native American and Hispanic, 5 feet 2 inches and 140 pounds, with short brown hair and a mustache.

Haukass was arrested in March on suspicion of possessing meth with the intent to distribute. He is Native American, 5 feet 10 inches and 150 pounds, with short black hair and brown eyes.

The last time the Sheridan County Jail saw an inmate escape was three years ago, Robbins said. The person was found and rearrested within about a week, he said.

Authorities are asking anyone with information on the whereabouts of Garnette or Haukass to contact the county sheriff’s office at 308-327-2161 or contact the nearest law enforcement agency.