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Joseph Barkoff new Capital Journal reporter

Starting as a reporter/photographer on Wednesday, Oct. 2, after 24 hours of driving from California, Joseph Barkoff is the newest reporter for the Capital Journal newspaper.

“I first got into the field because I hate expository writing — English and literature classes. So when I started college, I tried to avoid it and took a Journalism 1 class. Journalistic style — inverted pyramid information order or not — is a single thought per paragraph, not blah, blah, blah.” When he entered college, Barkoff already had three years in the Navy and many years in the food-service industry.

Though able to write and quickly find typographical errors, he was quickly drawn to a different aspect of journalism. “You all have cameras here!,” said Barkoff, who admitted he knew how to use a camera, “but I didn’t know how to use a camera for ‘realsies’.” He learned, and learned well. “I loved the idea of photography, and in getting my bachelors was only three classes from a journalism degree as well, so I took them all.”

While in college he participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. “It has been a distinct privilege and pleasure having Joseph Barkoff as a student in the Military Science program. As an embedded photo journalist with the ROTC program, Joseph was a tremendous asset,” said Lt. Colonel Thomas MacMillin, Western Kentucky University.

Taking photos and writing is now what he does. “A newspaper is a community’s conversation with itself; and that is how you should do your news,” said Barkoff.

Why he is doing his chosen career in South Dakota, specifically the Pierre area is because, “I am a no-name fish in a huge pond of journalism. The Capital Journal took the chance on me. I am ‘old’ and maybe other papers don’t want an older person, with them thinking ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’,” said Barkoff.

Those new tricks included by-line stories and by-line photographs by him done on his first day in Pierre. “I do well in fast-moving environments,” said Barkoff. “And, I think it’s beautiful here. Everybody I work with is super cool. We might not see eye-to-eye, but I have met a bunch of nice people here. I’ll talk to anybody and everybody.”


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Tour the Community Orchard - open house Oct. 15

What: The Pierre area community is invited to guided tours of the Pierre Community Orchard. The orchard is situated on 6,400 square feet of city-owned land.

What day: Next week, Tuesday, Oct. 15.

When: Beginning at 5:30 p.m. and going to approximately 7 p.m.

Where: The Community Orchard, located at 1201 East Sully Avenue, Pierre.

Why: Guests will learn about the various species of fruit trees planted in the orchard, the history of the orchard, and plans for its future.

Who: The event is sponsored by the City of Pierre Arbor Board and the Pierre Community Orchard Project.

How: The project was established in 2018 through a partnership between Girl Scouts Troop #40080 and the city of Pierre. It currently features 22 fruit trees including pear, peach, plum, apple and cherry.

Future: Fruit trees can take several years to start producing fruit. Once the Orchard is fruitful, community members will be invited to harvest the fruit for the local food pantry, community meals, and personal use.


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Fort Pierre to enforce cleaning up of properties

The Fort Pierre city council has approved going with an independent contractor agreement for legal services to enforce clean-up ordinances.

In its Oct. 7 meeting, the council voted to hire Randy Seiler, LLC, of Fort Pierre, as legal council for code enforcement. Seiler is licensed to practice law in South Dakota, and has extensive prosecution and administrative experience. He has served as an elected member of the council, thus is familiar with the city’s ordinances.

Seiler’s main duties are to review current city health, safety and public nuisance ordinances and make recommendations for change. According to discussion by the council, ordinances concerning the clean-up of trash, rubble, unkept lawns, dangerous buildings and other ‘junk’ on properties are to be enforced.

“It is really time-consuming when you have no one who can focus on the task,” said Rick Hahn, director of public works, concerning having someone from out of town trying to enforce town ordinances. “Lots of windshield time.”

“Enforcement of ordinances in small communities has been a real problem. And, say $75 per hour of windshield time sure adds up fast,” said council member Mike Weisgram.

That windshield time would come from the South Dakota Municipal League, which has hired someone to help provide service to small towns, particularly towns with no staff to work on ordinance enforcement. Still, when used, that service would come with a charge.

Hahn said that Fort Pierre already has a list of properties that fall under the nuisance (clean-up) ordinances. Demolition of old buildings by certain property owners is taking years. “Some are cleaning up, but slow. It needs to happen,” said Hahn.

Weisgram agree, “This is something easier to put off than to address. If we can get some action on these pieces of property, then I’m in. I think this project will be on the top of Seiler’ mind, not just pushed to a different part of his desk (like has happened in the past and with many small towns.)”

Weisgram voiced that enforcing the clean-up ordinances should have a snowball effect, in that once one owner has been made to comply with the requirements, then it should be easier to make others comply. “If we can get an owner to clean up one piece of property, it will be easier to enforce our codes with other property owners,” said Weisgram.

$25,000 has been put into the 2020 budget for this enforcement project. And, there is still some excess budget from 2019 that was earmarked for legal fees. Mayor Gloria Hanson pointed out that Seiler, not being on the city’s staff, will not cost benefits or even dedicated office space.

The independent contractor agreement may be terminated by either party upon 30 days written notice, thus Fort Pierre is not locked into it if the project is not working as expected. “I propose we try this for six months, then evaluate,” said Weisgram.

The council voted unanimously to accept the independent contractor agreement.


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Not all heroes wear a cape: Fire prevention week lights up at Buchanan Elementary School

Sunday October 6 began National Fire Prevention Week across the U.S. sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association. This year’s theme is, “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!”

At Buchanan Elementary School, principal Ryan Noyes, a Pierre resident for life minus his time at Black Hills State University to earn his teaching degree, was ready to help his students learn about fire prevention and awareness.

“I remember attending the assembly here as a student,” Noyes said. “We got little red hats.”

The students with the help of their teachers and staff filed into the well-lit and perfectly miniature gymnasium like a choreographed exercise in cat herding.

Excited, but polite, the students cheered at the introduction of the Pierre Fire Chief Ian Paul and his crew of fire personnel, including three cadets.

Paul, after his brief intro by Noyes, introduced assistant fire chief Paula Tronvold, resident of Pierre now 16 years, to guide the information doled out to the young learners.

“No matter the theme of the year,” Tronvold said. “We hit on these themes over again.”

“Stop, drop and roll.”

“Get out, stay out.”

The basic themes are repeated to the students, and the students, teachers and all staff present, in turn, repeat them back and say them along with assistant chief Tronvold and her crew.

Each year, one student is chosen by a panel of judges to be the official junior fire marshal. This year, after “writing four rough drafts” before making a final product, Shane Jones won the award.

“It means a lot to me because I really like firefighters,” Jones said. “It’s pretty cool. I get to ride in the trucks.

Jones likes trucks. He likes writing too.

Jones’ essay began with the prompt, “I would make a good junior fire marshal because…”

“I can help teach people what to do when there’s a fire. Always practice fire drills at your house because you’re never sure if there’s going to be a fire. You should talk to your parents about where a good meeting point is if there is a fire at your house. I think you should check your smoke detectors every once in a while to see if they work. But if you are on fire you should stop, drop, and roll. Stay low to the ground because the smoke is not good for your lungs. If there is a fire don’t stop and get your precious items just get out as fast as you can. The firefighter’s job is to help get you out of the house and take out the fire. If you can’t get out stay where you are and yell for help. Here are some ways you can get out of the house if there’s a fire: a near by door or a window. Here are some things that can start fires: a hair straightener, a plug in, wires, fireworks, matches, a lighter, gas, and cigarettes. Cigarettes are bad for your lungs and if you drop them they could start a fire. Matches can burn you when you swipe it for a fire and when you swipe it, it could hit something and burn down your house. Same with lighters. So make sure kids have a guardian close by just in case something goes wrong. The whole point is to stay safe. I want to teach people about staying safe when there is a fire. Thank you firefighters for saving lives and risking yours for us. You are a very important part of our country. I hope I would make a good jr. firefighter. Thank you,” writes Jones in his award winning essay.

Young Master Jones is correct about everything he wordsmithed.

Wisdom from the young people involved did not stop with the students of Buchanan Elementary.

Three fire cadets, students at T.F. Riggs High School accompanied and help the PFD educate the youngsters.

“My parents are firefighters,” cadet level 2 Naomi McCarthy said. “I just wanted to do it. It’s a pretty big deal. We get to get out of school and help them learn about fire safety.”

Being a level 2 cadet is a pretty big deal in Pierre. A level 2 cadet is allowed to assist on fire calls. They do not go into burning buildings but are allowed to contribute from outside the danger helping with equipment and monitoring the situation.

In his fifth year as principal, Noyes knows there is potentially nothing more important than having a plan of action if a fire breaks out. He wants his students to know too.

Educating our students so they know how to stay safe, at home and at school, and know what to do is what it is all about,” Noyes said.

Chief Paul makes sure everyone knows fire is not a seasonal thing and tries to get the message out any chance he can.

“It doesn’t stop here,” Paul said. “We are always educating adults or youth and it continues through the year.

Chief Paul would like the community of Pierre to know if there is need for a smoke alarm in a home, call or stop by the station on W. Dakota Ave. because he has free ones with 10-year battery life.


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Pint size is just the right size

Saving a life is easier than one might think. Vitalant set up and held a blood drive in T.F. Riggs High School’s theater entryway for half a day October 8.

Donating blood could potentially save three peoples’ lives, and it only take 45 minutes of your time, according to phlebotomist Brittany Refsland, 30, from Aberdeen.

“I get to save lives everyday,” Refsland said. “Not in the way a doctor does, but I get too.”

Refsland feels more of the population should donate.

At least once a month, Vitalant, one of the nation’s oldest non-profit community blood services sets up in the Pierre community, according to their website.

At T.F. Riggs High School Tuesday, students and the public were encouraged to donate blood, and some participated for their first time.

Three sport athlete, student and now first time blood donor, Cade Hinkle, 18, from Pierre donated some of his blood.

“Fine. Normal,” Hinkle said. It’s like getting a flu shot.”

Hinkle’s favorite subject, when he isn’t playing linebacker, wrestling at 145 pounds or playing catcher is math, Advanced Math Concepts, and now he can calculate how many people he could potentially save through his lifetime of being a donor.

Another phlebotomist on duty at T.F. Riggs, Miranda Nissen from Aberdeen, prefers blood drives over working in hospitals because it is a faster paced environment.

“High schools are great,” Nissen said. “They bring us new donors.”

Nissen’s patient at the time was donating for his second time.

Addison Westergn, 17, from Pierre, who’s favorite class is history, was relaxed and swiping through his phone while pumping out his pint’s worth. Westergn felt this experience was better than his first, thanks to Nissen.

“Actually, yeah,” Westergn said. “’Cause you didn’t stab me a ton of times.

Greeting donors as they entered, sat both the student council president, Nolan Rounds, and his vice president, Emma Lusk. Both are juniors and enjoy math as their favorite subject with Mr. Schwarz. Both have been in their current positions on the student coucnil all three years of high school so far.

With support from the students, Refsland was pleased about the general outcome of the day.

There were 46 people, of the 59 who showed up to donate, able to donate their blood totaling the take in at 46 pints of blood.

Refsland feels getting students involved is a good way to help everyone. It allows the students to contribute in ways they didn’t even know they could.

The blood supply is completely reliant on donors and while Vitalant says they try to keep at least five days of blood on hand of all the blood types, being one of the only providers of blood to 70 hospitals in the region means the people in the community need to show up.

Around 30 percent of the blood collected goes to cancer patients in the region, according to a Vitalant press release.

It is a constant struggle to keep enough blood on hand, especially O-negative, the universal donor, but it is worth the effort.

“I love it,” Refsland said. “How do you not.”