GOOD: Rapid City Regional Airport is seeing its number of passengers soar to possibly new heights. Last week, it reported that this year it has boarded 194,988 passengers, an increase of 7.7 percent when compared to 2016. In fact, only 2010 saw more passengers — 201,647 — depart through August. At this pace, the airport could set an all-time record for departures. The airport is now served by United, Delta, American and Allegiant airlines, making it a key player in keeping the city and area economically vibrant while helping maintain our status as a premier tourist destination.
BAD: The suicide rates for military veterans are especially high in the western United States and rural areas, according to a recently released report by the Department of Veteran Affairs. The suicide rate in four states — Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico — were the highest in 2014 at 60 per 100,000. The overall rate for the West was 45.5. In South Dakota, it was 47.9. The VA report attributed the higher western rates to social isolation and a lack of access to health care. Fortunately, the Black Hills Health Care System has the Fort Meade facility in Sturgis and the Hot Springs facility. It is alarming to see so many men and women who served in the military in such dire straits. If you know veterans who are struggling help them just like they were willing to help all of us by serving. They deserve a better fate that what is happening all too frequently now.
UGLY: The saga of the Wasta well project continues to create collateral damage. The most recent victim of the ill-fated project is a Custer construction company that says it is owed $58,617 plus interest by Quartz Operations, which has seemingly vanished since its drilling project failed weeks after work began in April 2013 near Wasta. Despite the state geologist’s warning that it was unlikely the company would strike oil or gas there, the state Board of Minerals unanimously and enthusiastically approved the project. After the board requested a meager $130,000 surety bond, work began on the project but quickly stalled when a drill bit broke and 150 feet of pipe was stuck in the ground. Now, state officials say it could cost as much as $2 million to remove the pipe. The construction firm, meanwhile, has now paid its price for working in good faith on a state-sanctioned project.