Comprehensive plan progresses

Thursday, June 23, 2016

By Kacie Svoboda

The Hill City Comprehensive Plan Survey from spring 2016 has been tabulated and the Black Hills Council of Local Governments is ready to push forward to the next step in the comprehensive plan process.

The survey was completed by 242 respondents — nearly 25 percent of its population — ranging in age from teenagers to seniors over age 60. Of those who were surveyed, 28.6 percent were 60 and over, 18.3 percent were 17 or younger, 14.7 percent were aged 50-59, 13.8 percent were 40-49, 12.1 percent were 30-39, 5.8 percent were aged 21-29 and 2.7 percent were 18- to 20-year-olds.

The majority of the respondents live in Hill City year-round, 56.7 percent, while 33.5 percent live outside the city limits; 27.2 percent work in Hill City year-round and 4 percent live in Hill City part of the year.

The survey sought to elicit ideas on what Hill City does well, what it could do better and what new avenues could be pursued. For example, respondents were asked what they loved about Hill City, what improvements would make Hill City better and to name the biggest issues facing Hill City over the next 10 years.

The survey results yielded many interesting and varied possible directions for the city. The results showed repeating concerns for the availability of affordable housing and employment and business opportunities. Respondents stated that it is difficult to start a business in Hill City due to the high cost and low availability of property and the focus on seasonal economic activity. Employment is limited to mainly seasonal and low-paying jobs and many survey takers felt a greater focus on year-round activities would help create more job opportunities. Respondents also found there was a “serious lack of available housing for low to middle income people.”

Some of the survey results should come as no surprise. The renovation of Main Street’s sidewalks was listed time and again as a necessary Hill City improvement, as was the need for well maintained public restrooms. Many who completed the survey also commented on Hill City’s need to clean up the unsightly junk at the edges of town and address issues at the Old Hill City Road and Main Street intersection. Several respondents also brought up the town’s many narrow and unpaved city streets and the need for additional parking downtown.

These recurring issues cropped up again when respondents were asked to choose two community facilities, services or enhancements to add to Hill City. Downtown restrooms and a community center topped the list at 42.1 percent and 41.2 percent respectively. A recycling service, 35.6 percent, and the paving of gravel roads, 34.3 percent, followed close behind.

Some more surprising survey responses were the need for better maintenance and upgrading of Hill City’s parks and a desire to see more non-tourist centric events. This disconnect between tourist and resident activities can be seen in the 59 percent of respondents who rated Hill City as an excellent place to visit compared to the 44 percent who rated it as an excellent place to live.

The next step in the comprehensive plan will be the visioning meetings on Tuesday, June 28 from 3 - 4 p.m. or 6 - 7 p.m. at the Hill City Senior Citizens Center. The public is invited to attend and ice cream treats will be provided.

The purpose of these meetings will be to narrow  the survey results and establish a consensus about what the community’s priorities are Hill City’s future. These meetings will also look to provide a template for how these priorities will be achieved.

“This will be a great opportunity to think big about Hill City and help shape your community’s future,” commented Lysann Zeller, Black Hills Council community development planner/GIS specialist.

Zeller and City Administrator Brett McMacken, stressed the importance of the community members taking time out of their busy summer schedules to attend these meetings.

The summary of the survey results can be found online at or hard copies can be viewed at the Hill City Public Library and Hill City Hall.


Keystone approves temporary bridge repair

By Kacie Svoboda

 The Swanzey Street bridge was once again the focus of the Keystone Town Board meeting on Wednesday, June 15.

On May 31, the bridge was shut down after an approximately 1x2 foot hole was discovered in the middle of the deck. The issue was discussed at the last town board meeting on June 1 and at that point the bridge was considered unsafe for use.

On June 6, Albertson Engineering, Inc., completed a site assessment of the bridge. The company discussed three temporary repair options for the structure — laying down heavy timber planks perpendicular to the bridge girder span over the existing deck, hand-chipping and sandblasting the damaged deck areas and replacing them with structural concrete patches, and adding a four-inch reinforced concrete deck over the old one. Ultimately, the timber plank option was chosen, as it was the fastest and most cost effective since the city already has most of the timber required for the repair.

Albertson Engineering cleared the structure for passenger-vehicle traffic and recommended the temporary repair of affixing three-inch timber planks to span the girders and serve as the decking. They also recommended constructing an asphalt ramp on each end of the bridge to meet the height of the new decking, installing a steel frame with 8x9-foot clearance to limit vehicle size and restricting the bridge to one-way traffic.

While Albertson Engineering has recommended these temporary repairs, the company’s assessment of the bridge also concluded that the bridge is “nearing the end of its serviceable life” and “should be replaced once the summer is over.” These repairs were only considered in order to get Keystone through its busy tourist season.

Available only in the print version of the Hill City Prevailer News. To subscribe, call (605) 574-2538.


Row named Finance Officer of the Year

Finance Officer of the Year — Keystone city finance officer Vanessa Row shows off her second Finance Officer of the Year Award. After 26 years with the city of Keystone, Row has taken home two awards honoring her dedication and distinction as a finance officer in the state of South Dakota. [Submitted Photo]

By Kacie Svoboda

Keystone city finance officer Vanessa Row was awarded South Dakota’s Finance Officer of the Year award at the South Dakota Governmental Finance Officers’ Association School in Spearfish Thursday, June 9.

This was Row’s second time receiving the award in her 26 years with the city of Keystone. According to Keystone Town Board trustee Sandi McLain, Row is the only finance officer to receive the award more than once.

McLain nominated Row for this honor to recognize her exemplary service to Keystone and her willingness to step forward and help out a fellow finance officer.

“She is a very loyal, kind-hearted, organized and the ultimate, perfect employee,” McLain wrote in her letter of recommendation. “We all have our faults but Vanessa has far and few in between.”
Row was especially qualified for the award this year, as she took on additional duties both in Keystone and in Hermosa.

 In the summer of 2015, Hermosa finance officer Shana Harris was diagnosed with cancer. Harris had to attend many appointments and treatments and was unable to fulfill her regular responsibilities. Row was asked to fill in as a substitute finance officer and after getting the approval of the Keystone Town Board in September, she agreed.

Available only in the print version of the Hill City Prevailer News. To subscribe, call (605) 574-2538.


Sculpting quality Hills events

By Kacie Svoboda

One of Hill City’s biggest summer events — the 9th annual Sculpture in the Hills Show & Sale — will display the work of 22 sculptors this weekend, solidifying Hill City as a small town with big art. As a relative newcomer to town, I have been in awe of the events that Hill City puts on. From the Sculpture in the Hills to the Black Hills Film Festival, to Olde Tyme Christmas the town provides a fun array of happenings for community members and visitors to enjoy.

I can’t say that Sculpture in the Hills is my favorite Hill City event or even Hill City Arts Council (HCAC) event. (Woo! Open Stage.) Though I’m sure that has more to do with my insufficient funds to take home any of the stunning sculptures on display than any lack of quality.

However, I am always impressed by the event’s grandeur and originality in the Hills. As the Black Hills’ only juried sculpture show and sale, Sculpture in the Hills exposes many to new artists with techniques as varied as scrap-metal and intricate beadwork.

Plus they’ve added several opportunities for attendees to see some of the sculptors in action, including Jeff Schaezle and Peg Detmers, artist of “Patriarch.”

Detmers will show how bronze artists work with an assortment of materials to achieve different effects from 11 – 11:45 a.m. both days, while Schaezle will demonstrate hammer and chisel techniques on stone from 2 – 2:45 p.m. each day.

One of my favorite parts has to be the newly added food sculpture competition between Hill City businesses. The inaugural contest last year saw business owners get creative with hippos, bunnies and abstract art all created out of edible items.

The HCAC will also be including an inventive activity for kids aged six to 12 for the second time this year, as children can design their own sculptures out of recycled materials.

There are plenty of ways to get involved in Sculpture in the Hills this weekend, but none are quite as important as voting for the People’s Choice Award. This award gives artists an additional chance to be recognized and in the past, it has helped direct the HCAC in purchasing permanent art for the town. “Iron Star” by John Lopez, for example, was winner of the People’s Choice Award four years in a row.

Sculpture in the Hills kicks off Hill City’s summer events, heading a strong roster. The Heart of the Hills Logging Show/Parade should be back again in July, followed by Wine, Brew & BBQ in August. The long-running Hill City Area Quilt Show & Sale is planned to finish out the summer season in September.

I will be out and about this weekend, enjoying the craftsmanship of the artists and the planning and execution of the HCAC. Hope to see you there.


Dollar General breaks ground

Thursday, June 16, 2016

In the making — The plans for Hill City’s Dollar General were released by the Hill City Planning and Zoning committee. [Submitted Photo]
By Kacie Svoboda

 At the June 6 Hill City Planning & Zoning (P&Z) meeting, the last hurdle for Dollar General was finally cleared when the commission voted to approve the store’s building permit. The permit had been tabled at the previous P&Z meeting so the plans could be adjusted to Hill City’s standards. The designs for the sewer extension and the foundation walls and footings were all altered to meet city codes for the June 6 meeting.

The only other question was on the look of the building, which did not meet the committee’s expectations. The May 16 meeting’s plans showed a fiber cement board with a wood-like finish on the top third of the storefront and a rough-faced concrete block on the rest. The committee objected to this style based on earlier comments made by Vasquero Ventures representatives that claimed the Dollar General would fit in with the rustic style of Hill City. The approved design has the wood-like fiber cement board covering the top two-thirds of the fa├žade and concrete blocks faced with stone on the bottom.

City administrator Brett McMacken summed up the approval, as an obvious choice as all of the issues had been corrected.

“We addressed all of the outstanding questions,” said McMacken. “So I think it’s a positive thing.”

The Dollar General project wasted no time following the approved building permit, breaking ground on the site next to the old Kamper Kars building on the southwest edge of Hill City over the weekend.

Vaquero Ventures acquisitions associate Doak Raulston and developer Devin Pharis were unable to be reached for comment.


Sculpture in the Hills is around the corner

By Kacie Svoboda

With “Patriarch” and “Iron Star” sculpture’s prominence in Hill City, it is no wonder that the town is home to the only juried sculpture show and sale in the Black Hills — the  Sculpture in the Hills. The 9th annua Hill City Arts Council (HCAC) sponsored event will be held on Main Street in Hill City from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 25, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 26.

The 2016 Sculpture in the Hills will feature 22 sculptors from seven states, including past Best of Show and People’s Choice Award winners Jared and Nicole Davis of Colorado, Jim Green of Rapid City, Becky Grismer of Spearfish and Stuart Hurd of Idaho.

“My favorite part of the event is the variety of artists and mediums,” commented HCAC executive director Cheryl Whether.

Local Peg Detmers and Jeff Schaezle of Billings, Mont., will also be back this year to host free demonstrations of artistic techniques.

Detmers will show how bronze artists work in a variety of materials to achieve their desired effects from 11–11:45 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, while Schaezle demonstrates hammer and chisel techniques on stone from 2–2:45 p.m. on Saturday and 1-1:45 p.m. on Sunday.

In addition to these familiar faces, the HCAC- sponsored event always looks to promote new artists, such as Anna Achtziger of Sundance, Wyo. Achtziger’s sculptures use turned-wood vessels as a base for intricate Native American beadwork.

“I've been beading since I was a small child, making ceremonial cloths, then deer skin bags and on to jewelry,” Achtiziger explained. “I decided about five years ago to look into wood turning, so I could use it as a canvas for my beading. Wood has a natural beauty all its own and with the added beaded pictures it comes to life.”

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‘Movies on the Square’ approved by city council

By Kacie Svoboda

At the Monday, June 13 meeting of the Hill City Council, the special event permit for a new free family-friendly event “Movies on the Square” was unanimously approved.

The event, to be held on Saturday, July 2, at the basketball court next to the Boys & Girls Club of the Black Hills will be sponsored by the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Crow Ridge Productions and the Black Hills Film Festival (BHFF).

“We are really thrilled and excited to bring this special event to downtown Hill City and provide a great Saturday evening experience for our visitors, our residents and for our merchants, too,” said Janet Wetovick-Bily, Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce executive director.

According to Wetovick, the idea of showing “Apollo 13” came from a brainstorming session with BHFF executive director Chris VanNess to create a “Hill City Happening” that tied into the Fourth of July.

“We also wanted to create a fun family experience for our community, offer it at no cost, bring in children’s activities and make it a profitable evening for our Hill City retailers,” Wetovick added.

Available only in the print version of the Hill City Prevailer News. To subscribe, call (605) 574-2538.