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Butte County reaches agreement with Faulk County to detain Keystone protesters

Butte County is taking steps to prepare for a possible overflow of inmates in event of protests — and subsequent mass arrests — during the expected construction of the Keystone XL pipeline later this year.

Butte County Commissioners recently voted unanimously to approve an agreement between Sheriff Fred Lamphere and officials in Faulk County, which is approximately 250 miles away in eastern South Dakota, to hold inmates in the event custody options are limited locally.

"The only reason we did it was kind of an insurance thing," Butte County Commissioner Stan Harms said Monday. "We don't have a jail in Butte County. We normally use Sturgis, and if we can't get in there, the overflow goes to Deadwood or Rapid City. Now, we have Faulk County in case everything is full up."

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a 1,179-mile pipeline extension that will carry crude oil from Alberta to Steele City, Neb., through nine counties in western South Dakota, including private property in the northeastern corner of Butte County. Sheriff Lamphere said Wednesday that the county seat in Faulkton is the closest jail facility east from what he called the "pinchpoint" in northeastern Butte County.

"If you get on 212 and travel east, they're (Faulk County) the first suitable facility that would have room," Lamphere said. "I don't know many other places that work West River."

Butte County typically has from 12 to 15 individuals incarcerated at the Meade County jail, Lamphere said, though there's been a spike in the last half of 2018 thanks to drug-fueled crimes. In the event of arrests of protesters trespassing on private property or disorderly conduct, Lamphere said the county could move some longer-term inmates from Meade County to Faulkton to ease up space in Sturgis.

"It's a preventive maintenance," Lamphere said.

In 2016, law enforcement agents with Morton County in North Dakota made mass arrests during protests that drew thousands to the Cannonball River to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. On Monday, Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said his department made 863 arrests between August 2016 and February 2017 during the height of the protests.

"I only had a 42-bed facility at the time the protest was going on," Kirchmeier said. "Once they got to the LAC (law enforcement center), they would be processed and then bused to other locations throughout the state."

Kirchmeier said they had arrangements with approximately half a dozen counties to use their jails in overflow situations. Most individuals arrested were in custody for two to three days and cost approximately $75 a day.

An official with the Meade County jail said the facility has a maximum capacity of 80 inmates. Lawrence County jail in Deadwood holds 51 and the Pennington County jail holds 624, according to their websites. An official with the Faulk County jail said their facility holds 34 individuals.

Keystone XL is currently held up in federal court. In November, Judge Brian Morris in Montana issued an injunction against the pipeline until the federal government takes another look at the environmental impact of TransCanada's pipeline. Last month, Judge Morris also halted pre-construction activities such as establishing pipeline yards and road work along anticipated "man camps" until further notice.

While Lamphere doesn't expect large police action in Butte County, he said his force is prepared to assist neighboring counties.

"We'll be on the same page," he said.


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2018 was wet and wild in Rapid City
2018 was wet and wild in Rapid City

Downtown Rapid City missed the record for the second wettest recorded year by .03 inches. 

The downtown area saw 27.4 inches of rain in 2018, said Alex Calderon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Rapid City. Only more fell in 1946 with 27.42 inches and in 1962 with 28.89 inches, said meteorologist Keith Sherburn.

"We got close to second and first is just way above the others, so it would be tough to reach that," Sherburn said. 

The previous third wettest year was in 1915 when 27.14 inches fell, he said. The wettest day this year was May 18 when 1.79 inches of rain were recorded.

The snowiest day was March 16 with 10.5 inches measured in downtown Rapid City, Sherburn said. A total of 83.6 inches of snow fell this year, making it the fourth snowiest recorded year, said Calderon. The record was 101.6 inches in 2013, the year of the Atlas winter storm. 

Temperatures in 2018 ranged from a low of minus 18 degrees on Jan. 1 to a high of 102 on June 14, Sherburn said. Feb. 9 saw the lowest high temperature of the year at 2 degrees, while Aug. 11 had the highest low of 72 degrees. 

The Rapid City National Weather Service, which covers most of western South Dakota and northwest Wyoming, issued 376 severe thunderstorm and 19 tornado warnings in 2018, Calderon said. He said a warning doesn't always mean the storm or tornado actually formed. 

Sherburn called it a "fairly standard year" in terms of weather events. Exceptions, he said, were "how wet it was in the spring and summer . . . with how close we were to the wettest record" and unusually strong EF-3 tornadoes. 

EF-3 tornadoes have winds blowing from between 136 and 165 miles per hour in a scale that ranges from EF-0 to EF-5, which has winds of more than 200 mph. 

Four tornadoes, including an EF-3, touched down June 1 near Gillette, Wyo., and damaged homes, rolled vehicles and snapped electrical poles, according to the National Weather Service's Rapid City's 2018 shareholder report. One of four tornadoes on June 28 in Harding County was also an EF-3 and collapsed walls of homes and destroyed farm machinery and outbuildings. 

Other significant weather events in 2018 included flooding on May 18 in Rapid City caused by a thunderstorm that dumped up to three inches of rain in about an hour, the report says. Rapid Creek overflowed near the Central States Fairgrounds, asphalt was ruined on Fairlane Drive, some vehicles were swept away and several people had to be rescued.

On July 27, the report says, a storm downed trees and dropped golf ball-sized hail on Spearfish and baseball-sized hail fell and damaged between 550 and 600 homes in the Pine Ridge Reservation. Two days later, 120 mph winds and a brief tornado damaged about 30 more homes. 

Chris Huber, Journal staff 

Rapid City residents woke to several inches of snow and winds gusting over 50 mph on the last day of 2018. 

Courtesy National Weather Service 

Tornado damage west of South Camp Crook Road.

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Rapid City man booked on 50 charges after standoff

The Rapid City man who surrendered after repeatedly shooting his gun during a four-hour standoff Tuesday on Racine Street was booked into the Pennington County Jail on 50 charges, according to the Rapid City Police Department. 

Jordan Wounded Face, 30, was initially charged by police with 42 counts of recklessly firing a gun, six counts of firing a gun at an occupied structure, aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, and ingesting a non-alcoholic substance in order to become intoxicated.

"The actions of Mr. Wounded Face put innocent members of our community and local law enforcement into great risk as he fired bullets into the neighborhood and at officers," Assistant Chief Don Hedrick said in a news release. "Law enforcement is often the point of intervention for individuals in crisis and we recognize the need to work with the criminal justice system to encourage Wounded Face to get the mental health services he needs. It was remarkable that responding law enforcement officers were able to safely subdue an active shooter without him being seriously injured or killed."

The standoff began around 9:30 a.m. when Wounded Face's mother requested a welfare check since she was concerned about her son making "scary statements," Hedrick said. When police arrived and contacted Wounded Face through a window, Hedrick said, he fired two shots. 

What started as a welfare call then turned into a standoff with Pennington County's Special Response Team — which consists of officers from the police department, sheriff’s office and state Highway Patrol — which locked down the 1200 block of Racine Street and evacuated neighboring homes. 

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said Tuesday that Wounded Face "fired 20 or more rounds" during the standoff. A negotiator worked to make contact with Wounded Face, but when he did not answer his phone, law enforcement switched to a long-distance communication device that resembles a large megaphone.

Finally after nearly four hours, law enforcement fired gas and a “flash-bang” grenade into the home, which led to the suspect’s surrender.

Wounded Face is being held in jail without bond and is scheduled for an initial court appearance at 10 a.m. Thursday, according to the jail's website.

PHOTOS: Shots fired at Racine Street home

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Potential land rezone along S. Highway 79 draws protest

A bid to rezone approximately 600 acres south of Rapid City moved forward Wednesday morning, but not without opposition. 

The Pennington County Board of Commissioners, which met on Wednesday for its regular meeting due to the New Year's Day holiday on Tuesday, approved the first reading of a request and comprehensive plan amendment from Rapid City real estate agent Pat Hall to rezone 629.62 acres at 7800 South Highway 79. 

Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the first reading of the rezone and comprehensive plan amendment. Commissioner Lloyd LaCroix was the lone vote against. 

Right now, the land is zoned as a mix of general commercial, general agriculture and low-density residential. Hall's request seeks to rezone 69.62 acres to general commercial and the remaining 560 acres to heavy industrial. Brian Hammerbeck, the agent who spoke on Hall's behalf, said the plan is to divide the land into 14 40-acre lots and sell them. Hall, in his application, said heavy industrial lots are a good fit for the market and what the city is projecting for future use for the area. 

Heavy industrial as defined by Pennington County's zoning ordinances is for enterprises that "require isolation from many other kinds of land uses, and to make provision for commercial uses which are necessary to service the immediate needs of people in their areas." In other words, it's for services that are typically unwanted near people's homes, whether due to smell, noise, or other factors.

Examples of heavy industrial use include foundries; power plants; stockyards; tanneries, or places to cure and store raw hides; sawmills; rock, sand, gravel or dirt excavation/distribution; and animal slaughterhouses.

Commissioner Ron Rossknecht, leaning on his 30 years of experience as a real estate appraiser, said he sees Highway 79 as a prime corridor for heavy industrial development. There's already a landfill, for instance, which will eventually need to expand. 

"That land is not conducive to residential development," he said. "There’s a demand for heavy industrial, there just is, and it’s got to go somewhere."

But residents of the nearby Black Gap housing development, which is about a mile south of the land, strongly disagreed. 

Several members of the community spoke against rezoning the area to heavy industrial, citing concerns about air quality, water quality and potential damage to their land and home values. 

David Hintz, vice president of the Black Gap Homeowners Association, listed air quality as one of the subdivision's chief concerns. He said the current plan to use topography as a natural buffer between the heavy industrial and residential areas is faulty, saying "wind goes over topography."

"Whatever blows off of these heavy industrial plots is going to blow right over our subdivision," he said. "Anything that creates dust, smoke — whatever gets put on to these heavy industrial plots is going to come right over us."

Karen McGregor, a resident at the subdivision and member of the Black Gap road district board, said if the land is rezoned to heavy industrial, the residents will have little say in what gets built there. 

"The wind is going to blow ... so we're going to smell whatever is there, whether it's an asphalt plant or a feedlot," she said. "I think we deserve a little bit of consideration, too."

District 4 Commissioner Mark DiSanto, whose constituency includes the Black Gap area, said he agrees with the concerns about the rezoning. He suggested a compromise: rezone the 560 acres to light industrial, which would still allow for some industrial development in the area and alleviate residents' concerns. 

Commission Chairwoman Deb Hadcock reminded those at the meeting that Wednesday's approval was for a first reading of the rezone only, and said she would be looking at it more closely before the next reading. Even if the rezoning is ultimately approved, she said, future development plans would also have to go before a public board. 

New commissioners sworn in

Incoming commissioners Ron Rossknecht (District 1) and Gary Drewes (District 5) and incumbent District 3 Commissioner Deb Hadcock were sworn in to office Wednesday morning by 7th Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Davis. 

Rossknecht replaces outgoing commissioner George Ferebee; Drewes replaces outgoing commissioner Ron Buskerud. Hadcock was elected to her second term.

For the new year, commissioners elected Hadcock as chairwoman and Drewes as vice chairman. 

Pay raise approved

Commissioners voted 4-1 to give themselves a 2.1 percent raise in 2019. In 2018, commissioners' salary was $1,500 a month; a 2.1 percent increase equals an additional $31.50 a month. 

South Dakota statute dictates that commissioners set their salary at the first meeting of the year. Commissioners used the Consumer Price Index to determine the amount. 

DiSanto was the lone vote against the increase. 

The board also asked county Human Resources Director Jon Morrill to do an analysis of where the commission should be on the pay scale, to be discussed during the next round of budget planning.