P&Z clears path for Dollar General

Thursday, February 4, 2016

By Kacie Svoboda

On Monday night, the Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposed by Vaquero Ventures, which would include a Dollar General store, was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission in a vote of 4-1. This authorization came after Vasquero brought forth a plan that would include 40 parking spaces, bringing the lot to just shy of the 43 spaces mandated in city parking requirements. The other issue of changing the town’s setback requirement from 25 to 10 feet was proven consistent with past requests.

As one more hurdle is cleared on the path to opening a Dollar General, Hill City residents seem to be falling into two positions. Some believe it would be a useful addition to the town, filling a gap in locally available goods. Others are concerned the Dollar General would cut into the profits of existing businesses, such as Krull’s Market and Hardware Hank's.

However, Doak Raulston of Vaquero Ventures argued that a Dollar General store could help local businesses. “What we’ve found is that when Dollar General goes into a town, you tend to see a trend where people want to get all their shopping done locally,” he said. “It encourages them to stay in town to shop.”

Dollar General carries health and beauty supplies, toys, cleaning products, everyday household goods, some foodstuffs and apparel for men, women and children. Food items account for approximately 10-15 percent of store merchandise and consist mainly of snack and convenience products with no produce available. The company operates just less than 12,000 stores in 43 states in the Southern, Southwestern, Midwestern and Eastern areas of the country.

“The Black Hills are part of Dollar General’s expansion into the West,” explained Raulston. “It (the Dollar General corporation) believes it’s the perfect demographic. Hill City doesn’t have anything like it in town.

The property for the PUD is currently owned by Rodney Alexander. Alexander bought the land on the southern edge of Hill City’s limits to sell commercially, but is also concerned about Dollar General’s impact on local businesses.

“We just cannot stop our little town from growing,” he commented. “You’ve got two ways to go — upward or you’re going down. But I would be interested in public opinion.”

To help gauge local attitudes on the issue, the public is encouraged to go to HillCityPrevailerNews.blogspot.com and vote in the online poll.


Keystone teen makes big impact

By Kacie Svoboda

Casey McNulty, 15, is making a big impact in the small town of Keystone with his volunteer work on several community events and committees. Casey, the son of Sean and Susan McNulty, has been volunteering on several Keystone projects since he was only 11 years old.

Currently, Casey keeps busy with his involvement in several community organizations — such as the Holy Terror Days Association (HTDA) and the Keystone Area Historical Society. With the non-profit HTDA, Casey attends most of the meetings and helps plan and execute the organization’s events — namely, the annual Holy Terror Days celebration and the Haunting of Keystone. The Haunting was one of Casey’s first volunteering positions and for two years now, Casey has also organized the haunted forest attraction at the event. This is comprised of constructing set pieces, picking up supplies, getting the actors into position, setting up, tearing down and being on hand to help every night of the Haunting.

“His commitment to volunteer hours in all organizations is phenomenal,” commented fellow HTDA member and town board representative Sandi McLain. “Just on this activity (the Haunting) alone, he has put in over 200-300 hours in the supervision of this (the haunted forest) part of the haunting.”

As part of the historical society, Casey has aided in Keystone Historical Museum construction projects, like the recent remodeling of the basement that involved painting and redoing the floors. He also runs errands, volunteers at events and shares the secretary position with Karen Boland, who has nothing but nice things to say about him.

“Casey’s an asset for any committee he’s on,” Boland commented. “He has good ideas and takes good notes. He’s just an all around good hand and a very fast learner.”

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Keystone water, sewer improvements move ahead

By Bev Pechan

A state water plan application to retrofit Keystone well #3 to an above-grade operation was signed by board president Nikki Ball.

The application, if approved, will be the first phase in upgrading the town’s sewer system, which will cost $630,000. Retrofitting the well itself will cost an estimated $98,000.

The previously approved chlorination system for the town’s five wells will be installed and ready to go by March 1. Trustee Cathy Madison said a letter would be sent to residents explaining the process.
It was approved at the Jan. 20 meeting to have public works director Jerry Przybylski attend a class in Rapid Valley on lift stations and related matters on Feb. 10 and for Val Johnson to attend a wastewater treatment class with testing in Spearfish on Feb. 23-26.

Przybylski said he has purchased a new coin machine for bulk water sales and that the old one will be repaired as a back- up.

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


State should go with one time

If you are like us, changing all our clocks twice a year is a hassle. It’s not all that difficult, but it seems to be an unnecessary hassle. “Springing forward” and “falling back” have become a twice a year ritual in everyone’s business and household, not to mention vehicles. Cell phones seem to adjust automatically to the time changes.

All this could change if the Legislature takes a good look at Senate Bill 60 which has been proposed by state Sen. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City. Olson says changing clocks twice a year is a real waste of time, and we agree.

The history of daylight savings time (DST) can be traced all the way back to Benjamin Franklin who first proposed it. In European countries it is often referred to as “Summer Time.” It has been used in this country and many European countries since World War I. The idea was to conserve fuel needed for the production of electric power.

The daylight savings time plan was formally adopted in the United States on March 19, 1918. This law set up standard time zones and set DST to begin on March 31, 1918. It was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. After the war, the law was repealed and DST became a local option, continuing in some states and large cities.

Pres. Franklin Roosevelt instituted year round DST during World War II, calling it “War Time,” from Feb. 9, 1942, until Sept. 30, 1945. Until 1966 there was no federal law regarding DST, so it was up to states and cities to decide if they wanted it and when it would begin and when it would end. Imagine the confusion that must have caused! In 1966, to alleviate some of this confusion, the Uniform Time Act was signed into law by Pres. Lyndon Johnson whereby DST was to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. Any state wanting to be exempt from DST could pass a state law.

In 1967, Arizona and Michigan became the first states to vote to exempt themselves from DST, with Michigan reversing this decision in 1972. Currently, only Arizona, Hawaii and some of our territories do not observe DST. Logically, it would seem South Dakota would follow in the footsteps of Arizona and Hawaii, but Olson is a rancher and probably values that additional daylight in the summer months.

We don’t know why this has not been an issue at the national level, but can just surmise that people have just gotten so used to the twice a year time change that they don’t give it a second thought.
We hope Olson’s bill can find its way out of committee and to the senate floor for debate, instead of just being killed in committee. It deserves some discussion. Whether you favor standard time or daylight savings time, it is time to make it the same year round once again.


Athletes of the Week

Athletes of the week — Chosen for this week’s honors are, from left, Brenden Johnson for boys basketball, Bailee Volk for cheerleading and Skylar Ross for girls basketball. ­­­[PN Photo/KACIE SVOBODA]
Girls Basketball:
The girls basketball Athlete of the Week is Skylar Ross. She has been a very consistent player all season. Ross has averaged eight points per game her last three games and also contributed with strong defensive play on the opposing ball handlers.

Boys Basketball:
The boys basketball Athlete of the Week is Brenden Johnson. Johnson has improved a lot this season. In addition to making a 15-foot jump shot in the varsity game against Spearfish, he has been a big rebounder for the team. Johnson also scored 12 points against Sundance’s JV team.

The Athlete of the Week for cheerleading is Bailee Volk. She is a huge asset to the cheerleading squad. Volk is always positive and brings a lot of spirit to the squad.


One-act community showcase

ONE-ACT SUPERIOR ACTORS — From left, Madison Busetti and Molly Anderson were two of only 10 actors chosen for individual Superior Acting Awards at the Regional One-Act Play Competition on Wednesday in Belle Fourche. Busetti was honored for her role as Arlene and Molly for playing Shadown in the dramatic play, “Mine,” which will be performed for the community on Monday, Feb. 8.   [Submitted Photo]

By Kacie Svoboda

Though Hill City High School (HCHS) did not qualify for the State One-Act Play Festival last Wednesday, Jan. 27, two of the seven-member cast received individual Superior Acting Awards. Only 10 actors were chosen for the honor across the six crews at the Regional One-Act Competition. Molly Anderson was chosen for her portrayal of Shadow and Madison Busetti was honored in her role as Arlene.

But the HCHS group isn’t done yet. The 10-member cast and crew will also be putting on a community performance at the high school theater on Monday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Hill City will showcase the dramatic play “Mine,” which centers on a dying woman whose grown children come home to see her. In “Mine,” several old and new conflicts arise as the family comes together. 
Everyone is welcome to attend.


Legislators discuss education, Medicaid

Thursday, January 28, 2016

By Kacie Svoboda

“I think we all know that we have some tough issues this year. In fact, people can’t really say when it (the legislative session) has been this difficult,” began District 30 Sen. Bruce Rampelberg of Rockerville at the start of Hill City’s crackerbarrel on Saturday.

Rampelberg, along with District 30 representatives Mike Verchio of Hill City and Lance Russell of Hot Springs, used the crackerbarrel to field questions about the ongoing legislative session from the approximately 15 concerned citizens in attendance.

The two foremost issues for the legislators and attendees were Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s proposals on education and Medicaid.

Daugaard has proposed a half-cent increase to the state sales tax, which would raise approximately $100 million dollars yearly. He plans to use $60 million of these funds to finance increased teacher pay and to use the remaining $40 million to reduce property taxes.

Russell had a lot to say about the governor’s proposed changes to funding education. He explained that six years ago the state legislature cut education funding by 10 percent, with the belief that this reduction would be backfilled by other newly established programs. However, these additional programs did not make up the deficit in funding and 2016 is now the first year since the 10 percent cut in which the funding ratio is back up to $4,800 per student.

However, Daugaard’s proposal also looks to change the allocation formula from pay per student to pay based on a student- teacher ratio of 14-1 for small schools, 15-1 for medium-sized schools and 16-1 for large school.

Russell believes this formula will reward larger schools for having higher ratios and smaller school districts, like Hill City, that strive for smaller ratios, will receive a decreased amount of funding. Based on this new formula, all schools’ student totals will be divided by 14-16 to determine the goal number of teachers and hence how much funding is allocated for increased teacher pay.

School districts with lower student-to-teacher ratios — which is generally considered to be beneficial to learning — may receive less allocation than the current number of teachers on their payroll. On the other side of the equation, school districts with high student- to-teacher ratios would, in theory, be given more in allocation funds than their actual number of teachers. Russell feels that this formula will force school districts to consolidate in order to cash in on the additional pay for a higher number of students to teachers.

In the case of these higher ratio schools, the idea would be that more teachers would be hired to bring student-teacher numbers closer to the 14-1 ratio. However it has already become clear that school districts are reluctant to put government funding toward teacher pay.

“South Dakota is the only state where 38 equals 51. South Dakota is 38th in the amount of funding we give to schools, but is 51st in teacher pay,” explained Rampelberg.

Russell and Verchio also agreed that allocating the funds intended for raising teacher pay through school districts is another problem with the governor’s proposal.

Russell pointed out that there is $80 million in one-time money available this year that could be allocated to raising teacher pay. This would put off the need for a sales tax increase for another year and would cover the full $75 million estimated to cover raises for all South Dakota teachers. However, the school districts would be an issue in this solution as well.

“Schools have said they won’t use one-time money for teacher pay,” Verchio explained.
Russell agreed that one-time funds is only a temporary fix.

The other major discussion point at the crackerbarrel was Daugaard’s push to extend Medicaid coverage to include approximately 50,000 additional South Dakotans at no expense to the state’s general fund. This measure would add a lot of younger, able-bodied individuals to the Medicaid program, simply because they are below the poverty line.

“Why increase Medicaid,” questioned Hill City resident Georgiana Neff. “Why not create jobs that provide insurance?”

Verchio’s responded, “Good question.”

Both Verchio and Russell expressed their opposition to the governor’s proposal. They both think it would incentivize these younger individuals to stay below the poverty line to continue to receive healthcare on the dime of the taxpayers.

“You can make more money on welfare than in a job right now,” Verchio stated. “I don’t think we should encourage people who can work, not to work.”

Russell speculated that this additional burden on Medicaid is designed to “break the current system,” which would have people “begging for a single-payer system.” Russell believes instituting a single-payer system is the government’s end goal.

The main takeaway from the crackerbarrel discussion seemed to be a supreme dissatisfaction with the governor’s proposed changes to education and Medicaid from both the legislators and attendees.
“We are not going to be happy until the governor changes his ways,” Verchio concluded.

Both Rampelberg and Russell are up for reelection in 2016.

The Hill City crackerbarrel was sponsored by the Hill City Prevailer News, the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Little White Church.