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Pitcher Jackson Back threw seven scoreless innings in Sunday’s 13-1 victory over the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks at Hyde Stadium in Pierre.

Hughes County Commission sees jail troubles

The Hughes County law enforcement and corrections department is experiencing some turmoil right now, county commissioners learned at their first July meeting.

Two positions need to be filled:

The sheriff’s department lost a deputy, after the deputy found another position he preferred.

A county jailer position is also open, because the current sergeant of the jail is taking over the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) coordinator position, working on bringing the jail into compliance.

Also, infrastructure within the jail needs work:

The jail is full on a regular basis. Hughes County Sheriff Darin Johnson said the county jail is a 168-bed facility, “and we are at maximum on a regular basis.”

Security cameras are an issue: To improve the surveillance system in the jail, about 12 additional cameras are needed to cover blind spots, a liability issue for the county. Plus, the existing camera system need an upgrade. The cost of these cameras could be “jaw dropping figures,” said one commissioner.

In addition, an antiquated air conditioning system, pushed during recent 100 degree temperatures, broke down, but is now operating. However, the commissioners worry about its dependability.

Meanwhile, the current jail improvement fund is only $40,000.

As a result, the commissioners will discuss costs and possible fixes during their next meeting.

In other business, the commission approved the county applying for partnership with 211 services. County Manager Kevin Hipple stressed that the county’s $8,248 match of the federal hotline program’s costs — $16,497 total — would be paid by United Way.

The 211 telephone helpline center program connects people — individuals and families — to community based organizations and government agencies.

It is meant for non-emergency crisis intervention for those struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault. It has three main help areas:

One is basic human needs resources, such as food, shelter, and utility assistance.

Another area is mental health, such as counseling, drug treatment and intervention.

The third resource area is disaster response, such as shelter, debris management, mental health and how someone can assist in their community and across the state.

Another county-share project was approved with the Department of Transportation’s bridge funding. The bridge south of Harrold requires $702,000 worth of repair. The county has agreed to pay its 50 percent share when it comes due.

S.D. needs to make more progress on open records

Former state senator Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls makes a point during a panel discussion about open records hosted by the S.D. Newspaper Association. To Knudson’s left are Tony Venhuizen, chief of staff for former Gov. Dennis Daugaard; SDNA Legal Hotline attorney Jon Arneson; Argus Leader reporter Jonathan Ellis; and moderator Jack Marsh of S.D. News Watch. (S.D. Newspaper Association photo)

State Senator Arthur Rusch of Vermillion (center) was the 2019 recipient of the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s Eagle Award for protecting the public’s right to know. SDNA First Amendment Committee Chair Tim Waltner (left) presented the award. Also pictured is SDNA Executive Director David Bordewyk. (S.D. Newspaper Association photo)

While South Dakota has made progress on opening government records to the public, more needs to be done. That was one of the conclusions from a panel discussion about open records hosted Friday by the South Dakota Newspaper Association at the Minnehaha Country Club.

The discussion marked the 10-year anniversary of major open records legislation that presumed South Dakota records are open unless they are noted as closed. Panelists for the discussion included former state senator Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls, Argus Leader reporter Jonathan Ellis, SDNA Legal Hotline attorney Jon Arneson and Tony Venhuizen, who served as chief of staff to former Governor Dennis Daugaard. The panel was moderated by Jack Marsh of S.D. News Watch.

Knudson, the sponsor of the open records legislation in 2009, said getting the bill through the Legislature was not an easy process with opponents that included Gov. Mike Rounds, the South Dakota Municipal League, the Board of Regents and the Secretary of State’s office.

“The overriding concern for me through the session was I wanted a presumption of openness and I wanted to have a bill that was not going to be vetoed,” Knudson said. “Even though this got passed by very wide margins all along the way, there was an element of a mile wide and an inch deep support for it, particularly on the House side.”

Similar open records bills were discussed in 2008.

“I just felt this was an idea whose time had come,” Knudson said. “It wasn’t quite right in 2008 but was clearly so in 2009.”

Arneson, known for his work on First Amendment issues, took exception to Knudson’s description of the timing. “I would say a long, long time before that we should have been ready for a presumption of openness,” Arneson said, noting that prior to the 2009 legislation records were open only if a specific state statute said they were open. Otherwise they were closed. Arneson said about 15 years ago he worked with The Associated Press to get a list of South Dakota vanity license plates, “which of course are publicly displayed license plates,” Arneson said. According to Arneson, the state agency in charge of license plates said, “Until you show us a statute that says you must open up vanity plate records, you’re not going to get it.”

As Daugaard’s chief of staff, Venhuizen was appointed chairman of a 2012 open government task force consisting of representatives from law enforcement, state and local governments and the media. Five of the eight bills proposed by the 2012 task force eventually became law, with the most recent one happening in 2017 when a law requiring certain police booking photos to be a public record was passed. “I would say the open government task force did a good job of trying to move the ball forward,” Venhuizen said. “These are always incremental changes.”

During Daugaard’s eight years in Pierre, Venhuizen said the governor’s office worked hard to change the attitude of government employees who were faced with a request for information. “The law had changed, but in a lot of ways the mindset really hadn’t,” Venhuizen said. “There used to be a real sense that these are our records and this is our department and why are you calling us. There is still a lot of that, probably.”

Ellis, the Argus Leader reporter, said he was “astounded” to find out that police reports aren’t open records in South Dakota. He also agreed with Venhuizen about the attitudes of public employees when it comes to giving out information. “That mentality that ‘these are our records,’ that’s still very prevalent in Pierre,” Ellis said. “Department people, administration people just assume that these are their records and not the taxpayers’ records.”

Asked for their top open records priority moving forward, Venhuizen and Knudson said that making government records easily accessible and searchable online should be a priority. Ellis said that most other states have deemed government correspondence and emails as public records and South Dakota should, too.

Arneson said he would like to see a change of philosophy in state government’s executive branch, ensuring that employees know they are working with the public and not against the public. “If you want to work in government, you’re still working for the public,” Arneson said. “You are our employee. Those are our records. If you don’t like that, move into the private sector.”

Prior to the panel discussion, the Eagle Award, sponsored by SDNA’s First Amendment Committee, was presented to Senator Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, for his work on legislation that prohibits certain confidential court settlements in government lawsuits.

“The people of South Dakota are fortunate to have people like Sen. Arthur Rusch as an advocate,” said former Freeman Courier publisher and First Amendment Committee chair Tim Waltner while presenting the award.

Rusch, who served as a judge for 18 years, told about 50 people gathered for the presentation and the panel discussion that he presided over many cases in which confidential settlements were reached. “I always wondered about that,” Rusch said, because even in those cases where a settlement was reached between private parties, they were reaching that conclusion in a court system and courthouse that was paid for by taxpayers. As he worked for two years to get the bill passed, Rusch said he heard some critics say that making the terms of court settlements public could prove to be embarrassing. “If it’s embarrassing, then it’s even more reason people ought to know about it,” Rusch said.

Five things to know this week in Fort Pierre

1. Representatives from the Izaak Walton Society and South Dakota Walleyes Unlimited approached the Fort Pierre City Council on July 1, seeking their support for the 9th annual Missouri River Lake Sharpe Cleanup. Every year, volunteers from Pierre and Fort Pierre work to scour the river and riverbanks of litter and debris. This year’s Cleanup will take place on Wednesday, July 10 from 5 to 8 p.m. It will begin at Downs Marina in Griffin Park, Pierre. Since 2009, volunteers have managed to remove an average of 2.12 tons of debris from the river every year, Walleyes Unlimited representative Bret Afdahl said. After the Cleanup, everyone who participated is invited to enjoy a picnic dinner in Griffin Park — and this is what the representatives were asking the council for financial help with. The council decided to approve up to $300 dollars for the Izaak Walton Society to buy picnic groceries from Lynn’s Dakotamart, “In Fort Pierre,” Mayor Gloria Hanson clarified.

2. Kale Urban, the “Dam Run Chairman” for the local auto enthusiasts’ club “Street Masters,” also made his case to the city council on Monday. He told the city council about several measures needed to help facilitate the Street Masters’ 30th annual “Dam Run” festival. The “Dam Run” this year will take place August 9 — 11, and will include car shows, a Saturday evening meal, and a cruise through Fort Pierre and local campgrounds. “We bring in quite a few people to this event from around the state. We’re hoping for somewhere in the 150 — 200 cars [range],” Urban said. To keep the events running smoothly, Urban said Main Street would have to be closed to traffic from The Silver Spur Restaurant to Stanley County High School. Urban suggested that the street should remain closed from noon on Saturday, August 9, to noon on Sunday, August 10. The council made no official approvals of Urban’s proposals, but after assurances to Councilman Bob Ricketts that access to the Silver Spur would not be blocked off from Deadwood Street, they seemed receptive to his ideas. Mayor Hanson said she was glad the bulk of the Dam Run events would be held in and around Fort Pierre. “That will make a very nice parade,” she said.

3. Summer efforts to curb incidence of West Nile Virus and the general mosquito population in Fort Pierre are well underway, City Superintendent Vern Thorson said. “We’re going to fog tonight and up through the Fourth,” he said. To assist with these efforts, the council authorized City Treasurer Roxanne Heezen to sign a $2,876 West Nile Prevention Grant agreement with the state Department of Health. “After we have shown proof of expenditure, they’ll reimburse us,” Heezen said. This grant money could be used in a number of ways to help the city cull West Nile-carrying mosquitos. “In the past we’ve bought additional backpack [insecticide] sprayers,” Heezen said.

4. The council approved payout number three to Sharpe Enterprises for the construction of the Yellowstone Street Project. This payout was to the effect of $338,241.73. A portion of Yellowstone Street has recently been reopened, and as the project continues, city Public Works Director Rick Hahn said “there will be one more [payout].”

5. Mayor Hanson and Councilman Larry Cronin both voiced how impressed they were with this weekend’s Indian Relay Races at the Stanley County Fairgrounds. In particular, Cronin thanked Fairgrounds Manager Scott Deal and Fort Pierre Chamber of Commerce Manager Shane Kramme for their efforts in preparing the space for the Relay. The two-day event drew large crowds, despite being the first time Indian Relay had come to Fort Pierre. “It was very nice to have something new down there,” said Cronin. With the loss of flat track horse racing this year, and its future in the state uncertain, Mayor Hanson said she hoped the Indian Relays would become an annual event for the town. “I would not be surprised if Fort Pierre is on the circuit now. That would be a good thing,” she said.

Homes, farms, businesses and public infrastructure were wiped downriver from the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River in northeastern Nebraska, which failed due to heavy water and ice flows in March. The failure of the 90-year-old dam, which took place not far from South Dakota’s southern border, also led to the death of one man who was washed away and remains missing. (photo courtesy state of Nebraska)

New SD Codified Laws now online

Changes made to the South Dakota Codified Laws by the 2019 South Dakota Legislature can now be viewed on the Legislative Research Council’s (LRC) website.

A LRC news release reiterated that a total of 218 bills from the 2019 session passed the Senate and House of Representatives and were signed into law. Unless a bill prescribes when it will take effect or it is passed at a special session, a bill becomes law on the first day of July after its passage.

Jason Hancock, director S.D. Legislative Research Council, also reminds people that South Dakota’s government is divided into three distinct branches. The legislative branch makes the laws, the executive branch carries out the laws, and the judicial branch interprets the laws.

While the Legislative Research Council maintains the codified laws, people having questions about specific laws should contact the state entity that oversees and regulates them. Contact information for state agencies, boards, and commissions is available on the South Dakota State Government website. For more information about South Dakota’s government and legislature, visit the Student Resources page on the Legislative Research Council website.

Active Duty Banner Program sees another Honor Guard presentation

As part of the area’s ongoing Active Duty Banner Program, a color guard recognition was held July 1, in Pierre and in Fort Pierre. While under the individual banners, presenting appreciation plaques to each of the service person’s families were American Legion Post 20 honor guardsmen Eugene Collett III, Larry Manke, Dennis Wackel, San Johnson, and Kim Hallock.

This time, banners were presented for public display for Pierre-area military veterans Tyler Smith, Pedro Abraham Tafoya, Darla Dunn-Mayo, Shannon Dean Fromm, Kyle Dennis Mammenga, and Nathanael W.D. Thompson, and for Fort Pierre area veteran Sarah E. Smith.

The original idea for the banners was first brought before the Ft. Pierre City Council and the Pierre City Council in late 2016. Hallock said the banners, featuring the names and faces of area servicemen and women, are placed on city-owned light poles in Pierre, and hung on The Fort in Ft Pierre.

Hallock said Vickie Samuelson, a Pierre resident and the mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Brett David Samuelson, brought the concept to his attention. Samuelson said the banners are a nationwide program. A lot of communities do it, and she took the idea from other Marine moms, she said. “My son is now a Marine Veteran, as of last October after his four years of service. He departed as a sargent,” said Samuelson.

The program is supported by both American Legion Post 20 in Fort Pierre and American Legion Post 8 in Pierre, Hallock said. According to Samuelson, the first banners in Ft Pierre went up November 27, 2016, and the first banners in Pierre went up May 27, 2017. Active duty personnel are honored, as well as the Guard and Reserves, Hallock added If a banner becomes tattered, it will be replaced. Once it is taken down, it is presented to the family.

“The banners cost $100 to hang for a year. And, if the personnel are active duty the banners can be hung for $100 again, as long as they are active duty,” said Samuelson. “The funds are either from the family or a business, who are more than willing to sponsor. Other families have offered to sponsor as well. Finding a sponsor has been no problem at all. It does not cost the city anything.”

So far, banners for Fort Pierre area service personnel have been for Jaylen G. Brown, Air National Guard; Ryan Robert Habeck, Air National Guard; and Sarah E. Smith, Air Force.

Banners for Pierre service personnel have, so far, been done for Albert Lowell Lenerville, Marines; Alexander J. Aplan, Army; Amanda Ellwein, Air Force; Brett David Samuelson, Marines; Cody W. Hall, Air Force; Courtney Marie Larson, National Guard; Dallas J. Cronin, Air Force; Daniel Leroy Varilek, Air National Guard; Daniel Schumacher, Army National Guard; Dejay Jennings, Army National Guard; DeNeil Jane (Hosman) Taylor, National Guard; Dominik Diedrich, Army National Guard; Darla Dunn-Mayo, Air Force; Shannon Dean From, Air Force; Gerrit Tronvold, Army National Guard; Havens Paul Kenefick-Aschoff, Army, James “Danny” Snow, Navy; Jay William Carroll, Army National Guard; Jess Powell, Army National Guard; Jesse Barker, Air Force; Jonathan Nesladek, National Guard; Justin Robert Nichols; Air Force; Kane Kortum, Army National Guard; Kit William Bramblee, Army National Guard; Lisa A. Peary, Army National Guard; Logan David Meyer, Marines; Kyle Dennis Mammenga, Navy; Marne Lynn Dooley, Air National Guard; Matthew Donald Green, Air Force; Michael Young; Army National Guard; Nicholas James Marbach, Marines; Paul M. Giovanetti, Army National Guard; Ryan Hahn, Air Force; Shaina A. Seidel; Army; Shawn Schulz, Army National Guard; Tyler T. Smith, Air Force; Stephanie Rae (Trujillo) Hawthorne, Air Force; Pedro Abraham Tafoya, Air Force; Tane Allen Bramblee, Army National Guard; Thomas Christian, Army; Thompson, Nathanael W. D. Thompson, Army; Travis A Vallery, Army National Guard; Ty James Larson, Army; Tyler Davin Bonnett, Marines; Tyson James Bramblee, Army National Guard; William DeSchepper, Army National Guard; Zachariah Daniel Strand, Marines; David Erickson Zachery, Air Force.