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Council member claims 'cultural' barrier in nuisance

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Rapid City Hall sign

Rapid City Hall

Taxpayers will have to pay the remaining $325 of a nuisance on Indiana Street after council members lowered the property owner's assessment to $200 Monday night.

The Rapid City Council voted 5-4 to lower the assessment for Theodore Standing Soldier with Council members Lance Lehmann, Jason Salamun, Pat Jones and Ritchie Nordstrom voting against it.

Council member Darla Drew said she made the substitute motion to lower the fee because there seemed to be a confusion and misunderstanding, and the issue was "cultural, in a way," when dealing with Native American neighbors and city ordinances.

"I think if we're going to really actually work with Lakota people in our community, then we have to work with them and make clear what's going on because it doesn't happen on the reservation," she said. "It's too much, I think he can do the $200 and move on with his life. ... Sometimes it's hard when you move up from the reservation to understand the rules and regulations of living in Rapid City."

Drew said this is a bridge to build and that exceptions need to sometimes be made based on cultural differences.

"When we're talking about making it very clear to people that move up here from Pine Ridge or Rosebud or Cheyenne Eagle Butte, we have to have a different conversation," she said.

Standing Soldier spoke during public comment and said he's lived in Rapid City since 2017 after moving from the Pine Ridge Reservation. He said he does a lot of youth mentorship and coaching, and is a single dad to a 13- and an 8-year-old.

He said he had some wood and plywood in his backyard to build a tree house for his sons. Standing Soldier said he remembered getting a notice in the mail and asked why he was getting charged $575 and if there was a way to contest it. He said he received an email telling him to attend the public hearing during the Monday night meeting. He said he did pick up branches from his yard.

Community Development Director Vicki Fisher said the property owner was sent a notice to remove the debris after the city received a complaint. She said an inspection was completed and a citation was issued. Fisher said if there was a reason someone couldn't clear debris, the city typically tries to work with the property owner. Fisher said her office was not contacted.

About 1,200 pounds of construction and yard debris, concrete and metal fence posting was removed from the yard. Through the contractor, the assessment was made at $50 an hour and Standing Soldier was billed for four man-hours for two men, which includes what was taken from the property, the equipment, hauling it to the landfill, and the items being separated at the landfill.

Fisher said it is a standard fee and is what the city was charged for the work. Fisher and Finance Director Pauline Sumption recommended the council waive the late fee of $100 which would have increased the assessment to $675 and waive the administration fee. Waiving of both would bring the cost down to $525.

Sumption said she could empathize with the situation, but said it's a bad precedent to be set and not a good burden to put on the rest of the taxpayers.

Council member Bill Evans said the original charge is a ridiculous amount and it seems like people have forgotten what it's like to not have money.

"It feels like a way of bullying," he said. "I feel like this is unacceptable for a city to do this to its citizens.

He also called the high charge "almost abusive treatment" of the city's citizens.

Allender said the remaining $325 will come from the city's general fund.

— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at siandhara.bonnet@rapidcityjournal.com

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I find it interesting and a little ironic that liberals decry “one-party rule” in South Dakota, but celebrate and gloat about a similar situat…

Darla Drew's comments about people from a reservation being incapable of understanding city ordinances is tone deaf and insulting. Shame on you!

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