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Ringneck Energy's ethanol plant finally is up and running

About four years after dirt first was moved on the site just south of Onida, South Dakota, Ringneck Energy’s ethanol plant finally is in full production, turning 80,000 bushels of corn every day into 225,000 gallons of ethanol, says Walt Wendland.

He’s president and CEO of Ringneck Energy and will host an open house for Ringneck’s 190 investors/shareholders on June 25 in the Sully County Phoenix Center on Main Street in Onida.

“We expect probably 150,” Wendland told the Capital Journal. “We will have a lunch and then give them a tour of the plant. “

Later on in the summer, when the plant site is spruced up with some landscaping, Ringneck Energy will hold a “grand opening” for the public to show off the new $150 million plant that will produce 80 million gallons of ethanol a year from 29 million bushels of corn every year, Wendland said.

The winter blizzards and spring rains helped delay the completion of construction of the plant, just the latest issues that have kept things from going as swiftly as Ringneck had hoped.

The initial preliminary dirt work on the site began in 2015, as Ringneck officials began meeting with Sully County residents and officials to seek approval for the plant. Opposition from a few nearby residents and obtaining local, state and federal approvals for many steps along the way took longer than earlier hoped, Wendland has acknowledged. The first deliveries of corn came in February as construction by Fagen Inc. was winding down. A massive mid-March blizzard and a similar one in mid-April pushed back planned progress again.

“We started production the 23rd of April,” he said. But it wasn’t 100 percent at first.

“We had some ups and downs with the new process. It was kind of a mess around here that first month.”

Ear plugs might have been in short supply in Onida.

Tuning up the new boilers meant blowing off steam in a big way that made normal conversation in Onida homes not possible for a few days, according to a report in the Onida Watchman weekly.

“We were trying to work out some bugs,” Wendland said.

The boilers are mostly in tune now and there shouldn’t be much of a problem anymore with the noise, he said. “And if it does, we are building a muffler so it won’t be so noisy.”

For the past couple of weeks, production has gotten in the groove.

“It’s going 24/7 now,” he said. “We passed the performance test on June 4” that was set to check the construction and make sure everything goes according to plan, Wendland said.

That means the Fagen construction company has pretty much vacated the plant site with its crews and equipment, he said.

“We’re not at full employment yet, we are short a couple of grain and car handlers,” he said. Full employment is 42.

Finding enough workers has taken longer than expected, too, largely because of the low unemployment rate across the region, Wendland said.

Ringneck still is advertising for those two jobs.

Meanwhile, corn prices paid by the plant have gone above $4 a bushel.

“It’s been a long time since we have been over $4,” said Wendland who has been involved in building and operating other ethanol plants in Iowa and Minnesota.

While higher corn prices would appear to cut the profit possibilities of an ethanol plant, Wendland said the industry works on margins. “Ethanol prices have tended to follow corn prices to some degree because they know if ethanol doesn’t flow, production is going to drop and corn supplies will increase.”

The wet year has meant less corn will get planted than expected, probably, and the flooding along the Mississippi and the Missouri south of South Dakota has disrupted ethanol plants’ production and delivery.

But around Onida, a lot of corn got planted and looks pretty good, Wendland said.

Another marker was hit last week: “We have loaded our first unit train, 96 cars of ethanol,” Wendland said. “It will leave (Friday, June 14).”

It will go to Texas to be loaded on a ship for the export market.

“We will ship about 96-car unit trains a month,” he said.

About 14 years ago, the United States became the world’s biggest producer of ethanol and the nation’s production has kept growing: from 1.6 billion gallons in 2000 to 3.9 billion in 2005 to 13.2 billion in 2010 and about 16 billion last year.

About 10 percent of the nation’s ethanol production goes to the export market of about 20 countries, Wendland said.

Ringneck Energy is part of a marketing cooperative of 21 ethanol plants in the MIdwest, — Renewable Products Marketing Group based in the Twin Cities — that is the largest such marketing cooperative in the country, he said.

“We are hoping for the China market to open up,” he said. “That is what the industry is waiting for.”

The new plant up and running means not only more value-added agriculture with ethanol being produced, but more demand for the corn and milo grown in the area and the distillers grain byproduct of the ethanol-making that gets sold as livestock feed.

The key role the plant plays in the region’s farm economy is illustrated by the fact that one of Ringneck Energy’s directors is Tim Luken, general manager of Oahe Grain Corp. in Onida.

Three new Governor’s statues unveiled

As of the official unveiling on June 14, 25 of the 31 former South Dakota governors’ statues are complete.

The Trail of Governors project of eventually having bronze statues of all former South Dakota governors interspersed around the Capital City of Pierre, began eight years ago. It was planned to have three new statues unveiled each year. Each statue costs approximately $72,000, funded through civilian donations.

The three latest statues are of Samuel H. Elrod, the state’s fifth governor, Archie Gubbrud, the 22nd governor, and Dennis Daugaard, the state’s 32nd and most recent former governor. The number of former governors and the number of statues will not match, because William Janklow was the 27th (1979-1987) as well as the 30th governor (1995-2003).

Traditions sometimes change. The most recent statues did not have to wait weeks or even months, either in the Capitol rotunda or at the State Museum, before being placed at their permanent outdoor locations. The Daugaard statue was placed within hours, at the east side of Capital Lake and near the Governor’s Mansion. The Elrod statue’s show place is near South Euclid Avenue and Capitol Avenue. Gubbrud’s statue’s permanent placement is near South Pierre Street and E. Pleasant Avene. For all locations of the current statues, as well as a myriad of other information, see the Trail of Governors tourism brochure.

“Our state is small in population, but big on ideas,” said Rick Jensen, Trail of Governor’s Foundation president, of the national originality of the project. He spoke to the wall-to-wall audience, who included descendants — some direct and some not-so-direct — and family friends of the honored men. “We are not honoring these men as just former governors, but also honoring them as fellow South Dakotans.”

Matt Michels, former lieutenant governor under Daugaard, was this event’s master of ceremonies. Comments of his and comments from current governor Kristi Noem summarized the three men’s careers. Among many other accomplishments, Elrod was key in building the State Capitol Building and in acquiring the land for the State Fair complex. Other accomplishments not being diminished, Gubbrud is best known for the state’s Minuteman Missile range system, the State’s interstate highway system, the state having annual legislative sessions, and S.D. having a chief budget officer. Daugaard, who was personally in attendance, may become most remembered for being such a fiscally-conservative leader, yet treating people like people.

“I love history. We walk it everyday, especially in this building,” Michels said. He praised the three men, and added praise for their wives, the women who supported these men, and supported South Dakota. “This is a beautiful remembrance that we should carry through.” Michaels quoted former governors; “If you can dream it, you can do it,” and “To impress people with South Dakota, call out the artists.”

In describing the importance of not the governors, but what has been accomplished for the state overall, Daugaard said, “There shouldn’t be one statue, there should be hundreds, thousands, an army of South Dakotans.”

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1 killed, 3 injured in 2-vehicle crash near Philip

A woman died and three people — including two children — were injured Friday in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 14 east of Philip, South Dakota, according to Tony Mangan, spokesman for the Highway Patrol.

It happened about a half-hour after noon on Friday, June 14, at mile marker 154 on Highway 14, about 75 miles southwest of Fort Pierre.

A woman driving a 2007 Ford Edge west pulling a boat on a trailer slowed to pull into a driveway when a westbound 2005 Chevy Silverado pickup tried to pass the Ford, colliding with it.

The Chevy rolled, landing on its roof. A 36-year-old woman riding in the pickup was pronounced dead at the scene. The 32-year-old man driving the pickup, and the other two passengers, a 12-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, were seriously injured and taken to the hospital in Philip.

The 30-year-old woman driving the Ford with the boat trailer was not injured.

All five people in the crash were wearing seat belts.

The crash closed down U.S. Highway 14 for a time, said Mangan.

Names of the people were not released pending notification of relatives, he said.

The Patrol’s investigation continues, Mangan said on Saturday.

Pierre man arrested on several charges

A Pierre man, 37-year-oldArnold Provancial Jr.was arrested on multiple charges after officers were called to the 1600 block of East Dakota St. for a noise complaint.

While on scene and conducting their investigation officers came in contact with Provancial.

Provancial initially provided officers with a fictitious name in an attempt to hide his identity as he had an active warrant for his arrest.

Officers were able to determine Provancial’s true name and take him into custody.

As they were doing so Provancial resisted officers attempts to place him into handcuffs.

During the arrest Provancial threatened the officers with physical harm upon release from custody.

Provancial was able to be restrained and was transported to the Hughes County Jail.

He was charged withresisting arrest, disorderly conduct, false impersonation to deceive law enforcement, threatening law enforcement, and an outstanding warrant.

Free childcare provider training

The Right Turn is continuing its offering of free Professional Skills Training for Childcare Providers from 6 p.m. — 7:30 p.m. on the dates listed below.

Using a “Bring Your ‘A’ Game” curriculum, the trainings focus on a separate work skill each session. The next sessions are June 18, June 25, July 2, July 16, July 23, and July 30.

There is no cost to attend, and the workbook is provided. People may sign up for the series, or individual sessions. For more information or to register, contact The Right Turn at 773-4755 or view www.TheRightTurn.org.

Sessions are at the Oahe YMCA, 900 East Church, Pierre, call 605-224-1683.

The Bring Your “A” Game to Work format is a program through the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, which is sponsoring this Professional Skills Training for Childcare Providers. The seven soft skill behaviors determined to be the most important are addressed: Attendance, Appearance, Attitude, Ambition, Accountability, Acceptance and Appreciation. The work curriculum is designed for participants to discover these skills through activities and group participation.

The goal of The Right Turn, Inc., at 115 E Sioux Avenue, Pierre (605-773-4755), is to strengthen the community by nurturing personal growth and promoting economic success through education and job training.