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St. Thomas More defender Gabby Robbins knocks Stevens forward Breanna Reagan off the ball in the second half of the Raiders' 5-0 win over the Cavaliers Tuesday.

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South Dakota lawmakers reject a handful of medical pot rules
  • Updated

South Dakota lawmakers on Monday rejected a handful of rules proposals governing medical marijuana from Gov. Kristi Noem's administration but approved the bulk of the program.

The Legislature's Rules Review Committee, which is responsible for approving administration rules, effectively told the Department of Health to try again on a number of controversial rule proposals. Most of the Department of Health's 124-page proposal got the sign-off from the Legislature, spelling out rules ranging from fees for cardholders to the heights of fences around cannabis growing facilities.

The rules they rejected included proposals that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana that patients could possess, required medical practitioners to write a recommendation for patients who wanted to grow more than three cannabis plants, and defined a list of conditions that would qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation.

The law allowing medical marijuana, passed by 70% of voters last year, has seen a halting acceptance from officials trying to balance a clear mandate from voters while placing restrictions on medical marijuana.

The rules set a $75 application fee for medical marijuana cards and discount the fee to $20 for low-income applicants. It also sets a state licensing fee of $5,000 for any medical marijuana facility.

Noem celebrated the Legislature's approval of most of the rules, saying that it put her administration on track to implementing the medical cannabis program.

"I commend the Department of Health for its hard work to streamline the process," she said in a statement. "South Dakota will continue to implement the best, most patient-focused medical cannabis program in the country."

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said she was "disappointed" the committee rejected the list of specific medical conditions, saying that it was based on public input.

A host of lobbyists, representing both medical groups and the cannabis industry, objected to some rules, though nearly all praised the Department of Health's rule-making process. For the most part, lobbyists from both the cannabis industry and medical groups convinced lawmakers to reject rules they raised issues with.

During a meeting that stretched over five hours, lawmakers questioned Malsam-Rysdon on the rule-making process. A rule proposal that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana that patients could possess drew considerable questioning.

"Concentrated cannabis in a smokeable form is shown to be more addictive," Malsam-Rysdon told lawmakers.

But they were not convinced by that argument and rejected the limitation on high-potency marijuana.

The Department of Health has held public town halls and meetings with industry groups throughout the summer. Malsam-Rysdon said her department had adjusted rules based on 42% of comments submitted by industry groups or individuals. She said the rest of the suggested changes were rejected either because they conflicted with existing state law, were deemed to have an impact on health and safety, or were found to be unnecessary.

"We expect to see changes as this process evolves," Malsam-Rysdon said, referring to the Legislature considering potential changes to the law next year.

The Department of Health will have just weeks if it decides to rework the rejected rules and resubmit them to the Legislature. The medical marijuana law requires the state government to enact the rules by Oct. 29 and be ready to issue ID cards by Nov. 18.

Family Food Truck Night keeps growing at Canyon Lake

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Public Works Committee sees sparks over road repairs
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Fifth Street may receive a panel repair from Minnesota Street to Catron Boulevard despite a call for reprioritization of residential roads during the Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday.

The project was recommended for approval by a 4-1 vote. Council member Bill Evans voted no on the item.

The Fifth Street repair would include panel repairs, spall repairs, and routing and sealing of cracks in the existing concrete street. Additional spot repair of curb and gutter, spall repairs and panel replacements would be made on West Chicago Street near 44th Street, and the ADA ramp on the northwest intersection of Fifth and Minnesota would be repaired. The advertisement for bid authorization would be $440,000.

Council members Pat Jones and Evans called for prioritizing residential roads over the Fifth Street repair, specifically around Grandview Elementary School.

“I can't picture this chunk of road needing repair more than some of the residential streets in Ward One,” Jones said.

Evans said the streets around Grandview Elementary are the worst in the city and finds them hazardous. He said he would rather delay the reconstruction on Fifth Street.

He said he understands the need for maintenance and prevention of further damage, but thinks it would become a high priority.

Public Works Director Dale Tech said Fifth Street is an arterial road that sees an excess of 10,000 vehicles a day and it’s important to keep the road maintained. He said it’s been more than 15 years since anything has been done on that portion of road.

“We have to spend money to keep our good roads good, that is the biggest bang for our buck in the city, especially on arterial roadways,” Tech said.

He said there’s a number of broken panels in the area.

Tech said the city is fiscally constrained when it comes to roadways. He said at the current rate of funding, it would be 193 years before they got to every road in Rapid City, “so we have choices to make.”

After the meeting, Tech said this is standard practice for any community to do. He said the $440,000 is a good investment on the road. He said if they needed to reconstruct the road, it could be in the $6-$10 million range.

“The longer you defer the maintenance the more expensive the maintenance will be,” he said. “Pavements deteriorate from the day they’re built until the day you do something with them. ... Certainly if they don’t approve this, we would come back in the very near future with the same request. That’s how high of a priority it is for us.”

Council member Greg Strommen said the arterial roadways still need repair. He said there are streets in any ward in the city that are rough.

“If we’re going to look at reprioritizing things, I’m going to be in there pitching for Carriage Hills and whatever else is in my ward,” he said.

Council member John Roberts said he understands what Jones and Evans are saying, but has seen the council make changes to the Capital Improvement Projects Plan, causing “major problems down the road.”

He said the city should prioritize city projects and rely on city staff.

"Once we get into the position of us that aren't qualified to do that and start pushing through this stuff, we're going to have chaos," Roberts said.

Evans repeated a recommendation for Roberts, staff and council members to drive down the streets. Roberts responded with the gavel and said they weren't going to argue on the item.

The committee also approved two applications to the state, one for a Solid Waste Cell #16 Cover and Gas Collection and Control System Construction and Flare Replacement, and the other for a proposed East Rapid City Water Treatment Plant.

The Solid Waste project was on the State Water Plan in 2020 with construction anticipated to begin in late 2022 and completion in 2023.

The application is an update to keep the city’s name in line for possible funding. In a memo from Assistant Public Works Director Stacey Titus to the council, the construction costs increased from $4.96 million to $6.75 million. The application shows a preference for a combination of grant and loans from the state, but does not obligate the city to any money.

After the meeting, Titus said the project would combine an existing facility for solid waste with an adjacent facility that would make better use of the airspace.

“Everything in Municipal Solid Waste is airspace, which is where you store the garbage,” he said. “It’s allowing us additional places to put the municipal solid waste, it gives us storage area for design life.”

The water treatment plant is the Mountain View Water Treatment Plant, which exceeded its original design life. A Utility System Master Plan from 2008 recommended the city strengthen its water supply system by constructing the Jackson Springs plant and begin moving to replace the Mountain View plant.

The Mountain View plant was built in the early 1960s. Tech said the plant is on the west side of town and growth is happening to the east, so the city has been working on a master water plan that shows a new plant should replace Mountain View with a new plant to the east.

Tech said the new plant would help get water into the city’s distribution system and help with growth, along with providing sustainable water supply to Ellsworth Air Force Base.

He said the city has supplied water to the base since the 1950s and will continue to do so under contract with the federal government. 

The council will see all items from the committee meeting at its 6:30 p.m. Monday meeting.

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The Monument seeks solutions for staff shortages, director says
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The construction of the new Summit Arena at The Monument is still on pace to finish by Oct. 1, but getting people to work there isn't going as well. Instead of just complaining about a worker shortage, leaders at The Monument are throwing everything they can at the problem.

"As we've said in probably every meeting for the past year, labor continues to be an issue," Executive Director Craig Baltzer said Tuesday.

At Tuesday's board of directors meeting, Baltzer said the venue would work out the details, but using inmate labor would become "a pretty normal thing" going forward. 

One problem with staffing issues is that many of the artists and shows making plans to perform at The Monument require all staff in proximity to the acts to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative COVID-19 test, or sometimes both, Baltzer said.

In order to increase the percentage of employees who have been vaccinated, The Monument is offering a vaccine incentive for staff on top of the one they would receive as a city employee. 

"Because of the intricacy of what our events are requiring, last week for example, require that for any of our teams to have any interaction with their crew whatsoever, you either have to provide proof of vaccination or had to provide a negative COVID test within 48 hours of the event or both," Baltzer said. "And then another temperature check, they had to go through a myriad of questions. They had a purple wristband that they wear around so that they knew that they had passed all the tests to be able to work."

The production crew for "Cats" — the musical coming Oct. 9 and 10 — asked if the venue could guarantee that all stagehands were vaccinated, Baltzer said. Shows are also requesting touchless catering and water stations to protect their performers. 

"So we want to give all of our staff an incentive to become vaccinated, not just for staffing, but for their health and ours as well," Baltzer said. "Because of the requirements for dealing with the public in these positions, it is important that as many as possible be vaccinated."

The vaccine incentive is a part of a bigger employee retention program The Monument will utilize.

Baltzer said employees would receive sign-on bonuses and any employee that refers another employee will receive a bonus, as well. Managers have also been working with employees who left for other jobs to see what they could do to increase retention.

The pay scale and hours required were major reasons given for why employees took other jobs, Baltzer said. Not only did many of the jobs at The Monument pay less than similar positions,  the hours required often kept people on the clock late at night or on weekends.

The board approved a plan that would create tiered employment levels with appropriate pay increases as employees advance to another tier. There will also be a $1 per hour increase anytime an employee has to work after 9 p.m. or on a weekend.