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SD DOT picks Iowa firm's $50 million bid to build Pierre-Fort Pierre bridge
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The South Dakota Transportation Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 22, voted to award the $50 million Pierre-Fort Pierre Missouri River Bridge replacement project to Jensen Construction of Des Moines.

The Commission met by telephone and from a Sioux Falls office, according to its agenda.

South Dakota Secretary of Transportation Darin Bergquist announced the news late Tuesday and said Jensen Construction’s bid was for $49.99 million.

“Replacing the Missouri River Bridge at this location has been in the planning stages for the better part of 20 years,” Bergquist said. “A project of this magnitude takes tremendous resources and cooperation from several entities. I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to the SDDOT team, cities of Pierre and Fort Pierre, FHWA,(Federal Highway Administration), Governor Noem, and the Transportation Commission for bringing this project to life.”

“We are excited to construct this structure for the state of South Dakota,” Ryan Cheeseman, division manager and engineer with Jensen Construction, told the Capital Journal via email.

He said work on the bridge will begin this fall, with an initial crew of about five “and will grow as we are able to expand our operations.”

“Numerous local subcontractors will be used,” Cheeseman said. “In fact, outside of the river bridge, the remainder of the project will be mostly built by local firms.”

He said Jensen has built Missouri River bridges at Yankton, Vermillion and at Niobrara, Nebraska, spanning the Big Mo from Running Water, South Dakota.

Local star Tom Brokaw made that bridge in an out-of-the way place into a national news story, calling it pork barrel politics and a waste to taxpayers’ money, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Maybe there’s a lesson there, or maybe not, for Pierre and Fort Pierre.

“We have another example of good intentions, money legally spent, but the enduring question: Was this really necessary?” said Brokaw as he introduced a “Fleecing of America” report critical of the project on the “NBC Nightly News” about the time the bridge opened in October 1998.

It cost $17 million.

Brokaw, of course, went to high school in nearby Yankton and maybe was sticking up for his hometown’s own Missouri River bridge. Brokaw’s father also happened to be a construction foreman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who helped build Fort Randall Dam not far upstream from Standing Bear Bridge. So the TV news anchor knew of the lay of the land.

South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow was having none of it and riposted Brokaw as he cut the ribbon for the new bridge in all his winsome frankness in 1998:

“They talk about whether or not this is a pork barrel project,” Janklow told the crowd. “So it is! What’s wrong with that? It’s our turn!”

The late Janklow, elected to four terms as governor, had a style not so dissimilar to certain national political figures today.

Whatever, the news of the bid being awarded for the new bridge to keep Fort Pierre and Pierre linked is good news to local civic leaders.

“We’re pretty excited that it’s been awarded and we’ll be able to move along on that project,” Rick Hahn, public works director for Fort Pierre, told the Capital Journal. “Now we are trying to figure out what our plaza is going to cost.”

The cities of Pierre and Fort Pierre each designed their own areas where the bridge abuts their shore, with varied features; the cities also together are paying for some lighting features on the bridge to enhance its look, as part of the DOT’s plan. Those items are in the contract awarded Thursday, Hahn said.

He had seen earlier that there were three bidders on the project that was estimated by DOT to cost $49.87 million, Hahn said. “Two were in that $69 million area and the low one was in that $49.990 (million) area.”

Jensen Construction dates to 1912 and specializes in bridges, perhaps especially Missouri River ones: it’s also built them at Omaha and at Council Bluffs, Iowa, according to its website.

The John C. Waldron Memorial Bridge built in 1962 carries U.S. Highways 14 and 83 and state Highway 34 over the Missouri between Fort Pierre and Pierre.

The Waldron name, honoring Fort Pierre native Commander John C. Waldron, a hero pilot of the Battle of Midway in World War II.

The new bridge is expected to be completed in late 2023.

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Pierre Commission OKs Riggs High moving Homecoming parade, fireworks to Oct.13,16
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On Tuesday, Sept. 22, while Riggs High School had planned to conduct its 2020 Homecoming Parade through Pierre, the City Commission instead approved postponing the parade until Tuesday, Oct. 13, same route, same fun, same pandemic.

Riggs Athletic Director Brian Moser stood in for the student council and asked the City Commission to make another COVID-19-connected change, re-slating the big fireworks show that has become part of the homecoming post-game tradition.

The events involve city streets, skies and fire trucks, so they need OKs from the City Commission.

Although nobody knows if the parade and homecoming game “is a go or not,” even at the latter dates, the school wants to get “all the permits as needed,” Moser said on Tuesday.

The City Commission approved the parade route and closing certain streets to make it possible. The parade is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 13 in the Riggs High parking lot, go on Broadway, Highland, Pleasant to Pierre Street ending at the cabin down by the river, as usual in this year when little is as usual.

The Commission also approved the public fireworks display originally scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17, to be re-scheduled to Friday, Oct. 16, after dark, at the football field near Hyde Stadium.

Tom Rounds again will be in charge of lighting up the sky in what is “one of the best fireworks displays you will ever see and it’s right here in town,” said Commissioner Jamie Huizenga.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Moser said of managing the new school year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with new news almost every day. “We will kind of take the punches as it comes.”

Pierre Fire Chief Ian Paul told the Commission he would have a fire truck on standby if any dousing needs doing during the fireworks.

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Pierre Dog Park Continues Taking Shape
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For years, a fenced-in dog park in Pierre has been in the works. In July 2019, the city commission unanimously approved the park location at a current alfalfa field on East Sully Avenue, a few blocks east of Downs Marina. Now, trees have been planted along the future border in beginning preparation for the rest of the park, as donations are raised.

“On Saturday morning, we had a great bunch of volunteers to basically ‘break ground’ at the future site of the Pierre Dog Park,” said Guy Ferris, member of the dog park subcommittee. “The group was made up of several groomers from Pet Pros, a couple of city park board members, a city employee and a real estate agent, plus friends/family. A total of 16 trees from East Pierre Garden Center were planted, with more to come — hopefully soon.”

“The Dog Park fundraising has taken a big slow down since the (COVID-19) pandemic hit in March,” Ferris said. “The park is in desperate need of funds for fencing, lights, water fountains, etc. Many people are super excited to get their pets out running freely and safely. To donate, please stop by the Main Street Bankwest or ask a local Realtor how you can help.”

The cost for the trees ranges from $165 to $200 each, depending on the types and their potential shade-creating sizes. Ferris said the first 16 trees just planted are basically spruce trees. Plans are for another 20 shade trees to be added to the periphery, outside the future fencing. “Another dozen will be within the park’s fenced-in area,” Ferris said. “The trees are being purchased through East Pierre Garden Landscaping. The cost of the tree also includes deer protection and irrigation.”

Based on the preliminary vision, the dog park would include a parking lot, a fenced entrance space where dogs could be unleashed without fear of them running off, and two internal divisions: One for large dogs,and one for smaller dogs. All these areas, as well as the dog park as a whole, would likely be cordoned off with chain-link fence, Howard said. Artificial lighting has been added to the wish list.

Realtors in Pierre and Fort Pierre had helped further the push for the creation of a dog park in Pierre. Among the many other benefits, a dog park is something that may move people to move here.

“(Dog parks) are common around the state, and certainly in major municipalities. We’d like to join that list,” said Dr. Craig Howard, a veterinarian and member of the sub-committee. He said they selected this location due its size, pre-existing ownership by the city, and proximity to a potable water source, among other criteria. “We entertained a few other sites, but this site rose to the top to the point that we don’t have an alternate site,” Howard said.

Tom Farnsworth, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said that the idea of a dog park was presented to the Commission board about three years earlier. Farnsworth also pushed for the dog park.

“The Central Board thought that a dog park was something missing from our communities. As realtors, we often show people who are considering a move to Pierre around town and introduce them to our many wonderful amenities. We get asked about dog parks quite frequently, and it was something we were missing,” said subcommittee member Halli Holden-Wright. “Once the tree fundraiser is complete, we will begin fundraising for fencing material. Anyone who purchases a tree or donates to this project in any way will be recognized on our Park Kiosk that will be installed once the park is complete.”

Members of the Pierre Dog Park Committee are Dawn Tassler, Tarrah Sonnnenschein, Halli Holden-Wright, Guy Ferris, Jared Neilan, Kelly Stoltenburg and Amy Stoltenburg.

The Pierre City Commission, during its July 2019 meeting, heard lengthy testimony concerning the location of the future fenced-in dog park. The meeting room was more than packed with proponents and some opponents. The debate was not if there should be a park; one would be a boon to the community. The debate focused on where the park should be located— before any design, costs, or construction were to be considered.

Those favoring the park spent considerable time and effort picking a spot that had acceptable size (at least an acre), a residential buffer (minimal impact on the neighborhood), a water source (most likely city water), and availability for humans of parking, shade and restrooms. Their preference was a city-owned, park-zoned, field south of East Sully Drive in the southeastern part of Pierre. It is next to the Community Orchard, which is run by the Girl Scouts.

Meanwhile, homeowners on the north side of this street feared the possible noise of dogs and traffic, worries about children versus escaped or otherwise uncontrolled dogs, people partying in the open parking lot, loss of their open-field southerly view, turkey and deer no longer visiting the field and commercially-purchased signage going up on any fences.

However, discussion was fairly well shut down when the commission called on a newly acquired resident professional: Thomas Moore had been, for then a little over a month, the city’s new superintendent of park operations.

“I have experience with three different cities putting in dog parks. It is important to listen to people, and this is only the start. The pros are not nearly as high, and the cons are not as hard as you think,” he said.”Each side will realize more of a common ground (when a park exists).” He then added, “This is one of the best locations I have seen. Socialize dogs and socialize with people; it’s only a win/win situation.”

The commission voted, unanimously, to approve the location.

Shown is a highly magnified photo of the virus that creates COVID-19.

CDC: 200,275 U.S. deaths from COVID-19
  • Updated

4 (Same as Monday)

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Hughes County, according to the South Dakota Department of Health as of 4 p.m. Wed., Sept. 23.

166 (+ 12 from Monday)

Active COVID-19 cases in Hughes County as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

7 (Same as Monday)

Active COVID-19 cases in Stanley County as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.


Total COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.


Deaths attributed to COVID-19 across the U.S. as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, as of CDC.

19,634 (+ 765 from Monday)

Total COVID-19 cases in South Dakota, according to the state Department of Health as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

3,108 (+ 218 from Monday)

Active COVID-19 cases in South Dakota as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

202 (Same as Monday)

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in South Dakota.

192 (+ 31 from Monday)

 People currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in South Dakota.

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Who Will Trump Pick? President likely to nominate woman for Supreme Court on Saturday
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Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he will announce his nominee to replace the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday at The White House in Washington, D.C.

And U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., seems to believe that in his role as majority whip, he has enough GOP votes to get Trump’s nominee through the Senate confirmation process.

“Whomever (Trump) nominates, I am confident that she will be in the mode of the president’s other Supreme Court appointments – a nominee with a profound respect for the law and the Constitution,” Thune said Tuesday while speaking on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

“Someone who understands that the job of a Supreme Court justice – or any judge – is to interpret the law, not make the law. To call balls and strikes, not rewrite the rules of the game,” South Dakota’s senior U.S. Senator added regarding what he expects from a new justice.

Republicans currently control the Senate by a count of 53-47. However, as of late Tuesday, the only GOP members who said they would not support a Trump nominee were U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

“The Constitution gives the president the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,” U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said.

“I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law. Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, added.

After Trump already saw a GOP-controlled Senate confirm Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, Democrats fear a third Trump nominee confirmed by a Republican Senate would endanger the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion. There are several other matters that concern Democrats about another Trump nominee, particularly the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages.

Not surprisingly, some high-profile Democrats are rather fired up about this.

“The Supreme Court makes decisions on issues that affect millions of Americans—including health care, the economy, our fight for racial justice, climate change, and more. The voters must choose a president, and that president should nominate Justice Ginsburg’s successor,” U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who is the party’s 2020 vice presidential nominee, tweeted.

“Congressional GOP have made one thing extremely clear: To them, there are no rules. There are no principles. There is only power. They are ruthless, and always have been in my lifetime. Dems must recognize they cannot be reasoned with at present & better adapt to that reality,” added U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a member of the group of left-wing congresswomen known collectively as “The Squad.”

However, Thune said GOP senators would not be intimidated by “threats” from Democrats.

“One thing I can say is that Republicans won’t be deterred from performing our constitutional role by Democrats’ undemocratic threats. We will work to fill this Supreme Court vacancy, and I look forward to receiving and reviewing the president’s nomination in the near future,” he said.

On Wednesday, Thune continued affirming his position.

“One of the principal reasons that many GOP senators – myself included – ran for office was to confirm principled judges to our courts,” he said.

Who Might Trump Pick?Virtually all indications are that Trump plans to select a woman as Ginsburg’s replacement. Four of the women getting plenty of attention as the possible pick in the national media are:

Amy Coney Barrett, 48, of Indiana;

Britt Grant, 42, of Georgia;

Barbara Lagoa, 52, of Florida; and

Allison Jones Rushing, 38; of North Carolina.

Barrett:Her Notre Dame Law School biography states of Barrett: “She is a Notre Dame Law School alumna and has taught as a member of the Law School’s faculty since 2002.”

“She earned her J.D., summa cum laude, from Notre Dame, where she was a Kiley Fellow, earned the Hoynes Prize, the Law School’s highest honor, and served as executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review.”

“Before joining the Notre Dame faculty, Judge Barrett clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court.”


A member of the conservative Federalist Society, the organization states of Grant: “Judge Grant was appointed to the federal bench in August 2018 after serving as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Georgia. Prior to her appointment to the bench, she served for two years as the Solicitor General of Georgia and, before that, as counsel for legal policy to the Attorney General of Georgia.

“She earned her J.D., with distinction, from Stanford Law School, where she served as managing editor of the Stanford Journal of International Law and as senior articles editor of the Stanford Law and Policy Review. She was also the Co-Founder and Co-President of the Stanford National Security and the Law Society, and the President of the Stanford Law chapter of the Federalist Society.”

Lagoa:Trump’s Supreme Court list states of Lagoa: “Barbara Lagoa is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Before her appointment in 2019, Judge Lagoa was a Justice on the Supreme Court of Florida. She also served as District Judge on the Florida Third District Court of Appeal and as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Judge Lagoa earned her B.A., cum laude, from Florida International University and her J.D. from Columbia Law School.”

Rushing:Of Rushing, Trump’s list states: “Allison Jones Rushing is a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Prior to her appointment in 2019, Judge Rushing was a partner at Williams & Connolly, LLP. Judge Rushing clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge David Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then-Judge Neil Gorsuch on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Judge Rushing earned her B.A., summa cum laude, from Wake Forest University and her J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University School of Law.”

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Fort Pierre approves $2.9 million budget; Veterans poppies to be part of Oct. 3-4 Fort Pierre horse races
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A proclamation by Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson urges citizens to recognize the merits of the annual distribution by the American Legion Auxiliary of veteran-made poppies. Local activities and fundraising of this year’s National Poppy Day — May 22 — were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, members of American Legion Auxiliary Post 20 of Fort Pierre will distribute poppies on Oct. 3-4 during the Fort Pierre horse races; donations are encouraged.

Jeannine Loesch, past department president and currently Post 20 president, presented to the Fort Pierre City Council on Sept. 21 the history and significance of the poppies. This year the Post is taking donations to go toward backpacks to be used by residents at the State Veterans Home in Hot Springs. “Our unit has purchased 25 backpacks for them. Some residents come with nothing except the clothes they are wearing. These backpacks will help them with the necessities,” said Loesch. Gail Stover assisted with the presentation.

Continuing with the Commission meeting, the 2021 Fiscal Year Budget was unanimously approved. The total appropriations, and the total anticipated revenues, are $2,994,748. Some notables are the $122,201 under Mayor/Council as part of the Total General Government section’s $400,090. The police are budgeted $363,977 of the Total Public Safety’s $505,062. Streets and Highways gets $879,806 of the Total Public Works’ $1,183,188. The Park gets $320,903 out of the Total Culture and Recreation’s $473,008. Debt Services gets $406,290.

Some highlights on the revenue side include the heading of Taxes being anticipated to bring in $2,464,382. Charges for Goods and Services should bring in $164,785.

The city will be notifying landowners to clean up after their dogs, not only in their own yards but also when their dogs visit neighbors’ landscaping.

Temporary liquor licenses have been granted to the Silver Spur, one for the Stanley County Fairgrounds during the horse races on Oct. 3-4, and the other for at the fairgrounds on Oct. 10 for a wedding.