The Meade County Director of Equalization recently proposed a reduction in agricultural land values due to drought conditions, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. A recent report from the United States Drought Monitor indicated that over half of Meade County is in a severe drought category while the other half is listed under moderate drought. Last summer, much of Meade County experienced extreme drought—the monitor’s second highest rating.
The proposal breaks down the reduction in several ways. A 3.5% reduction will be made due to the land’s size and location, while another 10% will be included based on the drought declaration in 2016. The final 16% reduction is made according to the 2017 drought declaration.
The proposal would would have to be carried out by the Meade County Commission and would involve a dispute with the state’s equalization director. If the Meade County Commission approved the reduction in ag land values, state officials could reject it. Such a change would have an impact on the county’s finances, especially its schools.
To read more news from Meade County, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The Lawrence County Commission is seeking to update its comprehensive plan with the help of the Black Hills Council of Local Governments, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. Lawrence County’s last comprehensive plan was completed in 2005 based on information from 1997, according to Lawrence County Commissioner Brandon Flanagan.
Commissioners hope to place emphasis on resident engagement in this iteration of comprehensive planning. Ali DeMersseman, with the Black Hills Council of Local Governments, stated that involving residents is a key aspect of the process used by her organization. Community engagement for such a document includes surveys and stakeholder meetings.
Other areas of concern commissioners hoped to include in the upcoming document were retail trade information, the Highway 85 corridor, and taking comprehensive plans from cities within the county into consideration. The county hopes to begin the planning process in late 2019 with a completion time 12-18 months thereafter.
To read more news from Lawrence County, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The City of Rapid City settled its years-long lawsuit with Epic Outdoor Advertising concerning digital billboards, as reported by KOTA News. The two entities were at odds after the city passed an ordinance banning full animation and motion billboards after Epic already had been utilizing the new technology.
Under the settlement agreement, the current billboard ordinance will remain, but an amendment will be included to exempt existing billboards from requiring a conditional use permit. The agreement will also allow Epic to implement larger billboards along locations near I-90, but additional full motion billboards will no longer be permitted. Council members voting in favor of the settlement did so in part to save additional tax-dollars from being spent on further litigation.
To read more about the history of billboards in Rapid City, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s issue hub page.
Two new rule changes were approved by the South Dakota Commission, according to the Black Hills Pioneer. One rule pertains to the notification of the legal age to gamble while the other concerns policies involving individuals under the age of 21 in casinos.
Gambling establishments must now prominently display the legal age required to gamble. The signs must be permanently displayed at the front of the gaming establishment. Commissioner Tim Holland urged gaming establishments to err on the side of caution in regard to placement of additional signage.
To read more news about gambling in the Black Hills, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
Two B-1 bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base recently departed to Qatar, reports KOTA News. The B-1 bombers will support missions that are currently battling against terrorist organizations. B-1 bombers have not assisted in combat since 2016, when the fleet was pulled for substantial upgrades. Prior to 2016, the bombers had been in continuous combat since 2001.
While over half of the B-1 bomber fleet has been upgraded, the final upgrades are not expected to be completed until 2019. The upgrades come at a cost of $127 million and include the installation of an integrated battle station.
To read more about Ellsworth Air Force Base, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The U.S. Forest Service recently issued its 2017 Forest Health Survey for the Black Hills National Forest, reports KOTA News. Aerial surveys indicated that approximately 2,900 acres were impacted by mountain pine beetles last year—a slight uptick from 2,500 in 2016. However, as the species is native to the region some trees will continue to perish each year which is a natural process for the region.
Forest Service officials found it difficult to locate pine beedle brood at their five survey locations. The officials credited management practices such as thinning and sanitation with the reduction in mountain pine beetles.
To learn more about pine beetles, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
After a strong showing in January 2018, gambling numbers in Deadwood declined in February 2018, according to the Black Hills Pioneer. South Dakota Commission on Gaming data indicates that slot machine gambling dropped by 6% while table games fell by 12%, resulting in an overall 7% decline for the month of February.
While gaming revenues in Deadwood were down, hotel occupancy was up by 1% when compared to the same time last year. According to the Deadwood City Finance Office, the city’s hotels had an occupancy rate of 38% in February 2018, or about 564 more occupied rooms than February 2017.
To read more news about Deadwood, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
In 2017, the Western South Dakota Juvenile Services Center handled 51 cases of minors using methamphetamine, reports KOTA News. The center serves Butte, Custer, Fall River, Lawrence and Harding Counties. 2017 marks a substantial increase from 34 cases handled in 2015.
Western South Dakota Juvenile Services Center partners with Regional West for short-term treatment programs. However, Butte County State’s Attorney Cassie Wendt noted a need for long-term programs in western South Dakota, as the only program currently available is in Yankton. The great distance makes it difficult to transport clients and impedes potential support from friends and family members of those seeking treatment.
For more information on children and youth, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
On March 20th, 2003 the 109th Engineer Company of the South Dakota Army National Guard from Sturgis became the first South Dakota unit to enter Iraq during the “Shock and Awe” campaign. The National Guard unit was also the first to enter Kuwait from South Dakota.
Following its five months of service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 39 battalion members underwent a demobilization process in Fort Carson, CO where they received medical screenings and financial reviews. The members then made their way home to Sturgis, where they were honored at a parade. A welcoming ceremony was also held at Grunwald Middle School where Governor M. Michael Rounds addressed the soldiers and their families.
Just four years later, the 109th Battalion was reorganized and relocated to Rapid City-based parent unit, the 109th Regional Support Group. A new unit, the 881st Troop Command, replaced the 109th unit in Sturgis. The 109th Battalion had its beginnings in 1924 and was organized with companies from Rapid City, Madison, Brookings, Huron, Lead, Hot Springs, and Belle Fourche. It had been located in Sturgis since March 4, 1930.
Read more about Sturgis on the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s community profile.
Both the Hill City and Hot Springs School Districts are facing cuts in staff, reports KOTA News. This month, the Hill City School Board voted to eliminate several positions while the Hot Springs School Board voted to reduce two full-time counselor positions to half-time and eliminate a Spanish language teacher.
The Hot Springs School Board is aiming to gain back $400,000 through cutting the positions, but some staff believe the cuts are hurting students. Hill City is facing similar budgetary issues as the district is hundreds of thousands of dollars in deficit. The staff cuts have not yet been finalized in Hot Springs and affected staff are able to file recall rights. Additional meetings were scheduled to discuss staffing issues in Hill City.
To read more about education and training, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
In order to receive community feedback for a comprehensive plan, Deadwood officials have scheduled community visioning sessions for March 27 and 29, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. The meetings are intended to help create a collective vision and goals for the city.
Deadwood has not updated its city plan since 2001. As the State of South Dakota requires communities to update their comprehensive plans at least every ten years, the city is currently out of compliance. According to Deadwood Planning and Zoning Administrator Bob Nelson, updating the comprehensive plan also helps inform future decisions for the city.
In addition to community feedback, the comprehensive plan will include an analysis of the city’s previous, current and future conditions, a vision and goals, policies to achieve the vision and goals, and a consideration of potential development and growth for the city. The plan is slated to be complete by June 1.
To read more about Deadwood, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
Rapid City recently became the first city in South Dakota to pass the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) resolution, as reported by KOTA News. Of the total 194 member states of the United Nations, 187 countries have signed the resolution. The United States is one of the seven countries that has not signed the resolution. Rapid City is one of 18 cities in the United States to pass CEDAW.
Citizen group Democracy in Action led the charge on getting the Rapid City Council’s approval of the resolution, which helps ensure the city examines proposed policy’s impact on women and children. The city council approved the resoltuion unanimously.
To read more about Rapid City, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
Adult fees for bus tours of the Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood will be increasing from $1 to $2 this year, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. A fee increase was previously implemented for Mt. Moriah visitors who chose to visit the cemetery by foot in 2016. While the fee for adults is increasing by $1, children under the age of 13 can still tour Mt. Moriah for free. Although the fee increase was approved last year, it was not officially implemented until January 1, 2018.
Several tour bus companies expressed their disapproval of the fee increase. In anticipation of the fee increase, Boot Hill Tours increased their 2017 rates and received pushback from customers as a result. Alkali Ike Tours noted that their bottom line would be impacted by the rate hike, and suggested charging children under 13 $1 to take the tour in order for the city to raise more revenue. While alternative rate hikes were suggested during the city commission meeting, the original increase of $1 per adult remained, with Commissioner Gary Todd noting the additional revenue would be used to maintain the cemetery.
To read more news from Deadwood, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
PACE Strategic Development, LLC, a consultant hired to facilitate the Spearfish Community Strategic Plan, recently presented to the Spearfish City Council, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. During the presentation, members of the public, city council, city staff and others listened to and helped determine priorities for 2018-2020.
Some of the highest priorities for Spearfish include a recreational path to Exit 8 of Interstate 90, rehabilitating the McLaughlin property which was recently purchased by the city, conducting a study of the city’s utility rates, a strategic plan for the fire department, and others. Next steps for the strategic plan include the development of detailed action plans as well as developing methods to track progress and accountability.
The Sturgis Police Athletic League is looking to deter juvenile crime by creating a professional quality bike park, reports KOTA News. The park would have attractions for bicyclists of varying skill level—from toddlers to BMX aficionados.
The total cost of the park is estimated at $75,000. So far, the Sturgis Police Athletic League has raised over $31,000 at an auction held at the Knuckle Brewery. Construction of the park will be done by Pumptrax USA, which has build the past three Olympic BMX tracks.
To read more news about health and wellness in Sturgis, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
In the month of February, Rapid City issued 166 building permits with a total valuation of $27,917,585, as reported by KOTA News. One of last month’s highest-valued permits included eight apartment buildings for Meadow Apartments on Moon Meadows Drive. The permit issued for the apartments was valued at approximately $22 million. Additional projects with high valuations included two homes valued over $300,000 as well as a grocery-pick-up addition at the LaCrosse Street Walmart.
For 2018 so far, Rapid City’s Building Services Division has issued 402 permits valued at a total of $125,483,613.
To learn more about Rapid City, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The City of Deadwood recently purchased a van for its paratransit services, according to the Black Hills Pioneer. The 2017 Dodge Caravan was purchased for $24,977 alongside a city commission resolution which approved a fee schedule for paratransit ridership.
Passengers 60 years and older can receive transportation within Deadwood or from Deadwood to Lead at no cost. Trips to Spearfish and Sturgis from Deadwood are $10 per trip while trips to Rapid City will cost $15 per trip. Passengers under 60 years of age can receive transportation in Deadwood and to Lead for $2.50 per trip. Trips to Spearfish, Sturgis and Rapid City are the same cost as those listed above.
Paratransit rides originating in Deadwood, which run from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., require 24 hours’ advanced notice. Deadwood’s paratransit program is administered by its Transportation, Safety and Buildings Director Tom Kruzel.
For more information on Deadwood, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The Keystone Wye Bridges on Highway 16 will soon receive an inspection by Stantec and Wood Research Development, reports KOTA News. The bridges will stay open during the inspection but lanes will be adjusted during daylight hours.
WRD will look for signs of decay using stress wave timing. The South Dakota Department of Transportation aims to prolong the service life of the bridges and must have a better understanding of their current conditions in order to do so.
For more information on Keystone, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s community profile.
After conducting a five-month audit of energy usage at the City/School Administration Building in Rapid City, students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology identified $10,000 worth of potential savings annually for the city. As reported by the Rapid City Journal, some of the recommendations made by the student team include updating the current lighting system to LED technology. The initial cost of updating the lighting would be $49,000 and would be recovered in three years’ time.
Additional recommendations included an excess of office equipment and use of space heaters and fans as a result of inefficient heating and cooling systems. Students conducted the energy audit at no cost to the city.
To read more news about Rapid City, visit the BLack Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
After a year of declining gaming revenue, the gaming handle in Deadwood was up approximately 7% in January 2018 when compared to January 2017, as reported by KOTA News. Nearly $82 million were bet on tables and slot machines last month in Deadwood, according to the South Dakota Gaming Statistics Monthly Summary.
Hotel occupancy also increased slightly in January 2018 when compared to the same point in time last year. With the potential addition of new attractions, including new hiking trails and main street squares, Deadwood officials are hopeful for increased tourism traffic.