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Crews will begin laying the groundwork for construction of Keystone XL pipeline this fall in Pennington County. 

A TransCanada employee joined Mark Schock with the Pennington County Highway Department to give a brief presentation during the Pennington County Board of Commissioners' regular meeting on Tuesday. 

Robert Latimer, senior adviser of community relations for TransCanada, told the board that there are plans to construct the pipeline in 2019, with “pre-activities” starting this fall. Those activities require haul road agreements with the county boards along the pipeline's route. 

Maps provided to commissioners during the meeting show the pipeline's route, which stretches from Steele City, Neb., to Hardisty, Alberta, Canada. The pipeline cuts southeast from Canada, running through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. 

The pipeline crosses into South Dakota from Nebraska in Tripp County, extending northwest. It goes through several other West River counties, including Jones, Haakon, Meade, Butte, Perkins, Harding and the northeast tip of Pennington. 

This fall, according to Latimer and Schock, crews will move train carloads of pipe into the Box Elder spur, then offload that pipe over county and state roads to the yards close to the pipeline. Schock said TransCanada needs the haul road agreement to maintain road integrity in the county and ensure traffic safety. 

Latimer said the state Public Utilities Commission mandates TransCanada have a bond in place to protect the county roads and state highways; it is a $15.6 million bond.

Schock said the roads in Pennington County include a short section in the Box Elder spur area; another in the Wasta area, north into Meade County; and Elm Springs road, which is mostly gravel, and will be used as a more long-term road for transporting workers and materials to work sites, not the heavy pipes. 

The presentation was informational only; no action was taken. 

Point of order continued

Commissioner George Ferebee abruptly left the meeting Tuesday after his request to move an agenda item forward failed. 

One of the last items on the regular meeting's agenda was a request from commissioners Ferebee and Mark DiSanto to revisit the board's policy regarding reconsideration of action taken by the board. 

Ferebee made a motion to move the item to the beginning of the meeting, saying he believed the board had violated its policy during its last regular meeting on Aug. 21, "and I think we ought to talk about it up front." 

Ferebee, who voted against the motion both times, argued the point with Jay Alderman, with the county state's attorney's office; Alderman contended revisiting the motion did not violate any point of order. 

Ferebee's request, however, was denied in a 3-2 vote, with Ferebee and DiSanto voting in favor of moving the item forward and commissioners Buskerud, Lloyd LaCroix and Deb Hadcock voting against. 

After the motion was denied, Ferebee left the meeting and did not return. Once commissioners arrived at the item, the remaining commissioners voted unanimously to continue the matter to the next meeting (Sept. 18) so Ferebee could be present for the discussion. 

In other business, the remaining board members: 

  • Unanimously approved a resolution to leave the Mitchell Rapid City Rail Authority, at the recommendation of Lyndell Petersen. Petersen, a former Pennington County commissioner and a Pennington County MRC liaison, said the rail authority is focused on rail projects outside of Pennington County. One of those projects, according to Petersen, could put the county at risk financially. As a safeguard, Petersen and Hadcock advocated leaving the rail authority. The rail authority was established in 1987; Pennington County joined it in March 1993. 
  • Approved, 3-1, a motion for Bruce Ellison to start developing a plan to form a hard rock mining ordinance. Ellison asked the board to get the process started, noting how long the process will take. In February, commissioners indicated it would create a committee to draft regulations for sand, gravel and construction aggregate mining operations. That decision was later stayed when a separate mining ordinance was challenged legally. The county plans to appeal the most recent development, a July 23 decision by Circuit Court Judge Jane Wipf Pfeifle to invalidate the board's amendments to the ordinance. Ellison contended that the ruling on the other court case, which revolves around whether the county gave enough public notice of hearings while the ordinance was under consideration, would have no bearing on the hard rock mining regulations. Hadcock disagreed, but was the lone vote against starting the process in motion. 
  • Upon coming out of executive session, rejected all three bids for the Pennington County Jail expansion and remodel project, at the recommendation of Mike Kuhl, Pennington County construction project manager. Kuhl said all three bids exceeded the final estimate on the project. Commissioners unanimously approved a motion to reject the bids. Kuhl said he will re-scope the project for a re-bid. 
  • Voted 2-2 on a request to approve the annexation of Prairie Acres Mobile Home Park, with DiSanto and Hadcock voting against and Buskerud and LaCroix voting in favor of it. With a tie vote, the matter is continued to the next regular meeting. 
  • After a lengthy discussion during the planning and zoning portion of the meeting, approved, with conditions, a planned unit development request from Dan and Nancy Evangelisto for a specialty resort development. Stipulations included requiring the Evangelistos to make what was a tent permanent by putting up wooden walls within a year, and a wooden roof within three years. 

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Contact Candy DenOuden at candy.denouden@rapidcityjournal.com

— Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct Jay Alderman's last name. 

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Copy desk/Compass editor for the Rapid City Journal.