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The subject is Star Academy again. As I think everyone was aware of, Star Academy was repossessed by the state of South Dakota. Once it became state property, it fell under the Department of Corrections, (you know, the department that oversees our prisons and penitentiaries). I’ll go out on a limb here and say prison wardens and the like aren’t the most compassionate folks, and understandably so. These residents currently living at Star Academy, though, have not broken the law and need to be treated with a tad more dignity and respect.

So, what happened next is that the 11 residents/renters that live in the 11 state-owned homes on the Star campus received eviction notices/letters on Oct. 1 stating that they have until Oct. 31 to be out of their state-owned housing. Aaron Brownson is one of the 11 renters who received the eviction letter. He has lived there for 14 years. There are also seven of the families that resided there that have children in the Custer school system.

For those not sure where the Star campus is located, it is 5 miles south of Custer on Hwy 385, on the way to Pringle. Now that pinpoints the location.

In my opinion, I didn’t understand the rush to evict. If the place is put back on the auction block, wouldn’t it be more attractive to a potential buyer having 11 paying customers than no one paying rent? I did hear there is a concern about liability. Really? Sounds like too many lawyers to me.

Seriously, for 12 of the 14 years Mr. Brownson has lived there, the state owned the property. They actually owned it after it was sold, as the buyers were under a sweetheart contract for deed with the state holding the title. If the LLC that purchased the property couldn’t even make their contract for deed obligation, I seriously doubt they had sufficient insurance in place. Just my speculation, no proof, and no need to talk about the defunct LLC any longer. The state of South Dakota is liable for the state-owned property, just like they are liable for all state properties, right?

Cutting to the chase, after receiving a lot of phone calls and emails from constituents, I contacted Gov. Noem with the support of Sen. Russell and Rep. Frye-Mueller. I just explained to her the human side of the eviction and asked if the state couldn’t please reconsider the 30-day eviction notice and recommended that it be extended until the end of the school year, that being May of 2020. The governor told me she would look into it, and presto! Within 24 hours after contacting her, the state extended the eviction to March of 2020. It’s not the May timeline but a much more realistic time frame than the original 30-day notice.

Now what happens to the Star campus?

A. Repurpose and have state run drug treatment facility.

B. Lease it out to an agency to perhaps do the same.

C. Put it back on the auction block.

My guess is C, but I’m not by any means the decision maker. There’s more to come, I’m sure….

There you have it. An over-zealous Department of Corrections and a compassionate governor, who really cares about the citizens of our state. On behalf of all the citizens of Dist. 30, thank you Gov. Noem.

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Rep. Timothy R. Goodwin of Dist. 30 is the South Dakota majority whip.

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