Frank Loring Miller Jr., of Fort Pierre, was charged by a federal grand jury indictment with dealing methamphetamine, which could mean 40 years in prison.
The grand jury indicted Miller, 61, on July 16 and on July 18 he pleaded not guilty in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Moreno in a Pierre courtroom, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons.
The maximum penalty for the charge, if Miller were to be convicted, would be 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine and at least four years of supervised probation.
The charge says between Feb. 1, 2019 and July 16, Miller conspired with others “known and unknown” to distribute 50 grams or more of meth, and that during a June 23 traffic stop, 236 grams of meth were found in the vehicle in which Miller was a passenger.
He was remanded last week to the custody of the U.S. marshals pending a trial or other disposition of the case. Miller remains in the Hughes County Jail in Pierre.
He was arrested after the traffic stop of a red Honda CR-V on June 23. A Highway Patrol officer, tipped off that such a car with Stanley County plates would be coming through, carrying a large amount of meth, pulled it over in Murdo, which is southwest of Fort Pierre on Interstate 90. The car came into Murdo from the south on U.S. Highway 83, according to an article in the Mitchell Daily Republic.
Melissa Scull of Pierre was driving.
According to state records, she’s on parole from the state prison and was sentenced in 2013 on a forgery felony and in 2018 on a drug charge. Charles Olson, 47, of Pierre, also was in the car and arrested with Scull and Miller on June 23. The three faced state drug charges.
Miller has been in involved with a car dealership in Fort Pierre with a relative, according to state records.
Parsons said the investigation is being conducted by the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Enforcement Task Force and the South Dakota Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan N. Dilges is prosecuting the case.
No trial date has been set.
A 10-foot deep sinkhole that gaped open the past weekend on a walking path along the Missouri River in Griffin Park, not far from the tennis courts and the outdoor swimming pool in Pierre, is attracting attention of passersby and city leaders.
At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, Commissioner Jim Mehlhaff asked other city leaders about it, saying he’d heard about it and wanted to know what the plan was.
“We are going to fix it in the next couple of weeks,” City Administrator Kristi Honeywell said.
“So that part of the park is safe?” Mehlhaff asked
“That is ringed off from the public,” Mayor Steve Harding said.
Bill Bishop, a retired railroad man, walks this way often and on Wednesday morning stopped with his two tiny dogs to check out the sinkhole ringed with orange plastic fencing.
He’s noticed a depression, or settling, on the ground along the path that seemed to get more apparent this spring, Bishop told the Capital Journal..
“Then the hole was there, Sunday, or maybe it was Saturday,” he said. “The first time I saw it there weren’t any signs around it or anything.”
Looking at it Wednesday, Bishop said the sides of the hole appeared to have fallen in more since the weekend.
“Ever since the flood in 2011, there are a lot of voids — I call them — along Missouri Avenue here, there’s one at my place,” he said, describing what he suspects are underground spaces he blames on effects of the disastrous flood eight years ago.
Lynn Patton, the city’s construction and operations manager, said the hole goes down about 10 feet to an old sewer trunk line.
He thinks. There’s still some research to be done before the fix can be done.
“There was a small dip on the edge of the path more than a week ago that we were made aware of,” Patton said. “We were in the process of starting to come up with a plan, and then it just collapsed and has opened up even bigger yet.
If it is an old sewer trunk line, the pipe itself dates back decades to the first moves by the city to switch the sewer disposal plan from simply piping it down to and into the river, to collecting it from those old ways and piping it to the first wastewater treatment plant, Patton said.
The trunk line was lined back in the 1990s with a plastic inner surface to extend its life.
Now his crews have to find out; just what happened so they can fix it, he said.
“We’re going to try to videotape it during a low flow, and suck some flow out to haul cameras in the line to see if we can determine (the cause.) That’s an old pipe that has been lined. The outside pipe is clay and that’s probably where the material and inflow is doing into. We’re hoping the it’s just between the liner and the old pipe. But until we get a camera in there, we won’t know. This is a trunk line, so it flows quite full.”
If relying on a low flow period doesn’t work, the crews will have to set up pumps to get the flow to where a video camera can be inserted, he said.
A sort of city colonoscopy.
“We don’t know at this time if any sewage leaked out. If ground water is getting in between the pipes and the liner is in good shape, than the sewage is staying within the pipe.”
No one has lost any utility service yet from the sinkhole.
But if the exam finds some repairs are needed to underground pipes, “there will be some bypassing,” to keep everyone with water and sewer service and any other utility affected, he said.
This area of 100 feet or more from the river used to be mud flats from regular floods before Oahe Dam was built in the 1950s and completed in 1962, bringing a new measure of flood control, Patton said.
Back in the day, the river and mud flats were used as dump sites and some of those things still are found when digging goes on, he said.
“There are a lot of things underground we’re not aware of.”
The hole dug in and around the sinkhole to fix the broken sanitary sewer line in Pierre’s Griffin Park filled with water this weekend as work crews took time off when it rained again.
Utilities Director Brad Palmer on Sunday told the Capital Journal the request for residents to cut water use as much as possible would remain in effect for now.
An apparent leak in an old, 24-inch clay sewer pipe in the park down by the Missouri River led to a sinkhole appearing a week ago, Palmer said. City crews had been aware of a possible problem with a sewer pipe there for some days and were ready to get at it when the sinkhole appeared.
A heavy rain at mid-week caused the sinkhole to collapse more. Crews worked on Thursday and Friday, going down to about 13 feet trying to get at the pipe through the rising ground water from the wet July. The crews bypassed the sewer leak with rubber hoses to keep sewer service going during the repairs. But getting the water pumped out of the hole proved difficult.
On Saturday, July 20, 1.11 inch of rain fell on Pierre at the airport gauge, according to the National Weather Service, after 0.55 inch fell on Wednesday, July 17. That means the precipitation on Pierre since Jan. 1 has totalled 20.22 inches, a full 7.8 inches above the 30-year norm for the period. It’s also more than a normal year’s total precipitation in Pierre.
It’s been a wet July.
July’s rainfall by Sunday in Pierre was 4.12 inches, which is 2.45 inches more than the norm of 1.67 inches for July by the 20th of the month.
“With the rain Friday night, we didn’t work in Saturday, it was too muddy,” Palmer told the Capital Journal on Sunday.
The bypass of the broken sewer pipe segment using rubber hoses will continue, as will the city’s request to residents to reduce water use as much as possible.
The broken pipe near the river at the low end of the city’s sewer system ends up handling about 75 percent of the city’s sewage in the last run to the waste water treatment plant, Palmer said.
“Anything people can do to help will keep the flows down,” Palmer said. “Hopefully, tomorrow we can get this buttoned up.”
Sinkholes are a fairly regular problem in Pierre’s utilities and were made worse by the big summer flood in 2011, city leaders have said. In late summer and early fall in 2011, several sinkholes appeared in city streets near the river. City leaders blamed them on underground damage from the flood.
In September 2011, city leaders said two or three sinkholes were appearing each week
In August 2012, a small sinkhole in Griffin Park appeared when the right front tire of an RV driven by tourists from Texas sank to the axle. City leaders said the sinkhole likely was a result of flood damage from 2011.
For the current sinkhole, there is a short-term goal and a long-term one, Palmer said.
“We just want to get the sewer flowing again.”
“Then we will probably come back next year and do a big project to address that whole (area.) More than likely it has other issues.”
The Stanley County GOLD (Greater Opportunities for Learning and Development) Program has received a 21st Century Community Learning Center funding award for a five-year period.
“We were founded about 1940 to have a place for kids to go. That is what it is about,” said Pat Duffy, the one-person power behind the Pat Duffy Community & Youth Involved Center. “We are getting between $170,000-173,000 per year for five years. This does not include food, so we will have to raise about $12,000 for the summers each year.”
These grants support out-of–school-time programming for school age children in eligible schools and districts. The grant was awarded to the Three Rivers Special Services Cooperative, with the Pat Duffy Community Center as the local coordinating agency.
The Community & Youth Involved Center is at 19 East Main Avenue, Fort Pierre. Its phone number is 223-2701.
“No cost to any child,” stressed Duffy. “Based on learning, that is how we wrote the grant application.”
Duffy said Youth Involved and the Stanley County School have worked on this, but there are 20 other partners involved, committing resources and programming to the program. “It is a neat program, all featuring learning,” he said. Activities include visiting the Discovery Center, even maybe learning scuba diving.
“Now we have to hire a director, that is so very important,” Duffy said.
The 11-person board, with Sherri Reitz a president, already has advertisements out for a future director. The grant application was written based on a projected 75 participating children, pre-kindergarten to late teens. Because many teens can drive, work and watch themselves, Duffy expects participants to mostly be sixth grade on down. Minimum age is five years old. Duffy plans to have one person hired for every 15 children.
The goal is to have the after-school program going after Labor Day.
“The doors will be open even before the program is quite ready to start. There’s going to be a place for the kids to go to, even before we get the program up and running,” said Duffy.
21 st Century Community Learning Centers provide a range of services that support student learning and development. The main components of the grants include academic enrichment, tutoring, mentoring, homework help, music, arts, sports and cultural programming. One of the program’s goals is to involve parents/school/community in sharing their strengths to improve collective abilities to support GOLD goals and to sustain GOLD beyond the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant cycle, and the program looks forward to building these relationships.
The program will operate in the Pat Duffy Community Center and Stanley County Schools after school, on Fridays, and in the summer. Once hiring is completed, there will be an application process for youth. Duffy wants to include as many children — residents and summer-long visitors — as possible. Enrollment forms will be available at the Youth Center and on the Stanley County School’s website.
The City of Pierre is enhancing safety along the waterfront. On July 18, city crews installed buoys and warning signs on the fishing piers at Steamboat Park.
“Because the fishing piers are a popular recreation area and because we’re seeing sustained high water levels in Lake Sharpe, we thought it important to put some additional safety measures in place,” said Ian Paul, Pierre Fire Chief.
Those enhanced features include three signs warning of strong currents and advising no swimming, and two safety buoys that can be thrown to someone who may have fallen in the water.
Chief Paul says that the city has had buoys along the fishing piers before. “In the past, vandals either destroyed or stole the buoys,” said Paul. “We’re really hoping that our community members are more respectful of the property this time around.” Paul said those first buoys were before his time, but believes they were up shortly after the construction of the original fishing pier. He added that the difference is the new ones are in protective cases, helping with how long they last and hopefully deterring vandalism. The new buoys are bright orange and, as stated, encased.
The new life-ring, throwable buoys with their protective cases cost approximately $500 each. “When you’re in the water and in trouble, all you want is something that floats you can hang onto,” said Paul. “We want to do what we can to keep the area and the people safe.”
If anyone does see someone vandalizing the new features, they should report the incident to local police by calling 773-7410 with descriptive information of the individuals involved.
The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation was recently awarded a $1.2 million State Apprenticeship Expansion Grant from the United States Department of Labor. The funds are to increase the number of new apprentices in South Dakota during the next three years. Funding will also be available to businesses to help in new program development.
“Registered Apprenticeships aren’t anything new to South Dakota, though in the last year they have broken into new industries,” said Dawn Dovre, director of policy and public affairs, S.D. Dept. of Labor & Regulation. “Businesses across the state have taken a proactive approach to the bleak workforce and skills gap challenges by developing Registered Apprenticeship programs.”
“The apprenticeship training model combines work-based learning with related classroom instruction, using the highest industry standards,” said Marcia Hultman, State Labor and Regulation Secretary when the award announcement came out.
“Registered Apprenticeships are an intensive training program where an apprentice takes part in related classroom instruction and applies that knowledge with hands-on training to become an expert in a specific occupation,” Dovre said.
The grant will provide businesses a financial incentive when hiring a new apprentice to offset the upfront cost of training. Key industries of focus include healthcare, manufacturing, accommodation and food service, and computer science/information technology.
“There are approximately 600 apprentices in 154 programs in South Dakota today,” Dovre said. “The state intends to increase that by 500, and 15 respectively, over the next three years by using the award grant. The grant will provide businesses a financial incentive when hiring a new apprentice to offset the upfront cost of training. Key industries of focus include healthcare, manufacturing, accommodation and food service, and computer science/information technology.”
Registered Apprentices get on-the-job training from a qualified worker in their field of choice, while earning a paycheck. Opportunities are available in thousands of industries — from construction and commercial trades to the healthcare and service industries. For businesses in South Dakota, having an apprentice helps build a qualified workforce with the exact skills needed to fill job openings and help reduce employee turnover.
“Registered Apprenticeships use a network of technical assistance and are vetted through the industry to provide an increased level of expertise and accountability,” Dovre said. “The long-term benefits for both the business and the apprentice largely outweigh the initial start-up costs associated with the development.”
“One of these benefits include the automatic inclusion on the State’s Eligible Training Provider List, providing eligible participants tuition assistance through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), making the cost of education more affordable to those with barriers to employment,” Dovre said.