Fyrne Schlenker can’t say enough about adult day care services offered by Western Resources for Independent Living.
But those services, unfortunately for Schlenker, are set to end at the end of September. “I sing their praises, but they’re closing,” she said.
Schlenker and her husband, Robert “Bob” Schlenker, a disabled veteran, moved to Rapid City from Freeman in May 2015. They learned of the adult day care program through a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs support group and had been using the program for little more than a month.
“The adult day care program has been wonderful. My husband has been able to meet new people, and he has been able to visit with other vets,” Fyrne said.
“He eats lunch there and enjoys the activities. It’s been a great experience for him, and me too.”
But in an Aug. 21 letter to clients, Western Resources for Independent Living's board of directors announced plans to close adult day center programs in Spearfish and Rapid City, effective Sept. 30.
“This decision was reached due to continual funding issues and overall program numbers being low,” the letter stated. The board made the decision at an Aug. 14 meeting.
Western Resources will maintain its home care and independent living centers at 4110 Winfield Court in Rapid City, along with independent living offices at 420 Oriole Drive, No. 16, in Spearfish and at 633 E. Sioux Ave., Suite 6, in Pierre.
But Schlenker, in her early 70s, and her husband, who is in his 80s, will need to find another option for adult day care.
“We will be working with you, your funders, and other providers to ensure that you have options for services,” the letter from the board stated.
However, Schlenker hasn't found any other options for adult day care in the western half of the state. She said most small community hospitals in the eastern part of the state offer adult day care services.
“I’m surprised that the hospital here does not have an adult day care,” she said.
Earlier this year, Western Resources officials said the center could relieve local demand for mental health care by providing independence training for the disabled along with the adult day care services.
Those eligible for the nonprofit center’s services must have a significant physical, mental, cognitive or sensory impairment and an inability to function in a family or community, or a limited ability to obtain, maintain or advance in a job. Services are covered by Medicaid and VA contracts and some insurance plans.
Independent living and home care specialists advocate for those needing help with Social Security programs and other bureaucratic issues, and offer assistance with disability products and services and learning independent living skills, such as housekeeping chores.
The center also helps clients find suitable housing, making modifications to existing homes along with mobility training, finding recreation opportunities and employment assistance.
Western Resource officials couldn't be reached for comment, but in April, acting executive director Chad Ratigan said the center had about 30 clients and was capable of serving up to 80, based on state per-square-footage regulations for nursing home residents.
Schlenker is concerned for her husband and other veterans who have become friends in their few weeks at the center. Those friendships might wither if another day care service isn’t found.
“If one goes here and one goes there and another goes someplace else, these veterans may never see each other again,” she said.
NEMO | As South Dakota neared its centennial celebration more than a quarter-century ago, visionaries established a 111-mile trail weaving through the prairie grasslands and pine forests of the Black Hills, attempting to provide tangible evidence of the diversity of the state.
Since 1989, the Centennial Trail has been wildly popular, hosting tens of thousands of hikers and mountain bikers, as well as horseback riders and ATVs on select portions of its monumental route.
Now, 28 years after its establishment, a three-mile portion of the trail that allows motorized off-road vehicles between Pilot Knob and Dalton Lake south of Nemo is getting a facelift.
Work began last Wednesday to address the normal “wear and tear” and erosion that had befallen the section of trail most popular among motorized users of the Centennial Trail, with a $99,000 project intended to re-grade and apply gravel to the 16,361-foot portion, explained Paul Bosworth, an engineer with the Black Hills National Forest.
“This is probably the most popular section of the Centennial Trail for motorized use,” said Bosworth, who helped design the original trail nearly three decades ago. “We’ve been losing that trail surface over the years due to heavy use and erosion.”
Plans for the six-week reconstruction were developed last year, while funding for the project came through a grant from the state Game, Fish & Parks Department’s Recreation Trails Program, which relies on revenues from state gasoline taxes, Bosworth said. Matching requirements were provided by the U.S. Forest Service in conjunction with volunteer commitments, he noted.
Volunteers have been critical to ongoing trail maintenance, as well as securing the state grant, Bosworth said. Among the organizations providing volunteers have been Off-Road Riders, the South Dakota Trails Development Corp., Black Hills Trails, Black Hills Four-Wheelers, and Black Hills Backcountry Horsemen, he noted.
“These volunteers have devoted hundreds of hours annually on the Centennial Trail,” Bosworth said. “That’s so important to us, because we can use their work to gain grants, and we can use them in the future to continue this work.”
The section of the trail on which the contractor, Diamond M Inc. of Wyoming, is working will be closed during the construction phase, said Bosworth. But when it’s completed, trail users will discover a revamped trail ready for use for the foreseeable future, he said.
“Many ATV trails in the Black Hills follow roads, but this section was constructed for ATV use, and it’s narrower and windier than most of the Centennial Trail, which is what makes it so popular,” he added. “The proximity to Nemo makes it attractive, and ATVers use it as a backbone to explore other places in the Hills.”
“We’re just trying to make our trails better,” Bosworth said.
Editor's note: This is the final installment in a three-part series on the candidates for South Dakota's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.
Shantel Krebs is South Dakota’s secretary of state and is a candidate for the Republican nomination for South Dakota’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.
Why she’s running: “When President Trump was elected, I was all in,” Krebs said.
She said South Dakota voters tell her they are frustrated and want “the mess cleaned up” in Washington, D.C. “It’s not working,” Krebs said. “I want to help him deliver results. That’s what my logo is: Get it done.”
How she’s organized her campaign: Krebs said it’s a lot of evenings and weekends. Her daytime focus is the office in Pierre. “I was elected to be secretary of state,” she said.
If someone on the office staff is out sick, Krebs said she or another staffer answers the office phone. She said the staff buys into her message: “We work for the taxpayer.”
Her office oversees South Dakota’s elections on a constant two-year cycle and handles an increasing workload of business filings. That led her to adopt zero-based budgets that start from scratch each year.
“There is no reason we can’t challenge the federal government to do that,” she said.
Krebs grew up in a farm family in Arlington about 50 miles east of Huron. The State Fair was an annual event, and she remembers the family stopping to buy a halter or a horse blanket before returning home.
The 1997 Miss South Dakota still wears her blue Future Farmers of America jacket when the organization’s young leaders visit the Capitol each year.
Krebs was a Sioux Falls businesswoman and a part-time state legislator in her fifth two-year term when she filed paperwork in 2013 to run for secretary of state. After that, Republican Jason Gant, the incumbent, decided he wouldn’t seek re-election.
Krebs said she was the only person in the U.S. House race who has had to make payroll and rent. She said only 36 of the current U.S. House members come from rural districts.
After she won secretary of state in November 2014, Krebs inherited an office that she said was in disarray, with business applications many weeks behind waiting in boxes. She brought in a different team, including some people who left the office after Gant won the nomination in 2010. She said her crew dug in and caught up.
She said they set accountability measures, delivered on letters of intent to the Legislature and increased revenue to state government’s general fund. The office website reports daily on her office’s progress in keeping pace on filings.
Krebs looked like she might run in 2010 for the U.S. House seat held at that time by Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, but ultimately chose not to.
Another legislator, Kristi Noem, won a three-way primary for the Republican nomination and defeated Herseth Sandlin. Noem won re-election three times and is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.
Krebs said running for Congress wasn’t the next step when she decided to go for secretary of state. “That was a big choice,” she said..
She wants to serve on the House Agriculture Committee. Krebs said it’s possible that Congress won’t approve the farm bill in 2018 and she wants to be ready. “We don’t want to rely on other countries for our food supply,” she said. “We feed the world, literally.”
How she’s raising money: Krebs formally announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House seat March 14. “I’ve outraised my (Republican) opponent the last two quarters,” Krebs said. “It shows people want someone real, someone rugged and independent. I don’t just sit back — I challenge, I push.”
Krebs said people are mad and “passionately frustrated” with Congress. She said it’s “amazing” people have been willing to invest in her candidacy. The average contribution was less than $200, she said.
How she greets people: Krebs looked enthusiastic and interested. “It’s me, and that’s about it,” she said. “It’s family and a few friends. That’s about it.”
The head of the state Wildlife Division said Friday he won’t need to request fee increases from outdoors people who hunt, fish or trap in South Dakota during 2018.
Director Tony Leif said his wing should get through the coming year, even it means tapping some of the $15 million-plus that’s accumulated on his side of the books.
As for the Parks and Recreation Division, officials are looking for $580,000 in revenue increases for 2018, according to deputy director Bob Schneider.
He said “the bulk” wouldn’t involve higher fees, however.
Instead the additional revenue would come from moving 22 campgrounds to top class from middle class, Schneider said.
The campgrounds would pick up $2 more per site per night by charging $21 rather than $19.
Schneider detailed a variety of price increases that will be requested for other camping and boating services, such as charging more per night for camping cabins and lodges.
“We’ll bring ‘em to you at the October meeting,” Schneider told members of the South Dakota Game, Fish &Parks Commission.
Governors appoint the eight commissioners, who generally oversee the department on budgets, fees, seasons, bag limits and other rules.
The state Senate has confirmation authority over the commissioners, but none comes to mind having suffered a rejection.
Game, Fish & Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler also told commissioners Friday the department would be taking “a pause” in its land acquisitions after the two or three currently in the pipeline are done.
Leif said the pheasant brood-route surveys that were completed in August indicated hunting would be more difficult this fall. The count was 1.7 pheasants per mile, down 45 percent from last year and down 65 percent from the 10-year average of 4.8.
The last time there was such a drop, in 2013, sales of nonresident small-game licenses also fell, from about 95,000 to about 76,000.
Leif told commissioners that fee increases aren’t necessary “at this point.” He doesn’t know about 2019.
He said his division’s budget runs in the $49 million to $50 million range and he tries to keep about $12.5 million as reserve. He said he has about $3 million of additional money this year.
Commissioner Barry Jensen of White River said he appreciated the effort to keep costs down. “For this year we’ll be status quo,” Jensen said.
Commissioner Doug Sharp of Watertown said he doesn’t want maintenance deferred and positions left open. “I’m not so sure I would oppose a dollar increase,” Sharp said. “We can use the money. We need the money.”
Leif acknowledged, “There is an argument to be made for that.” But, Leif continued, the division has a need-based budget. “What we have for operating capital is above our target and will carry us for now,” he said.
Next came a question from commissioner Paul Dennert of Columbia, who previously was a longtime Democratic legislator. “Will the Legislature start frowning at you if you get that too high?”
Leif answered, “Absolutely — and I think you speak from experience.”