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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

September 13, 2018

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, Sept. 11

Dive in Yankton has done things right

No matter how you may feel about a proposed aquatic center for Yankton, you have to acknowledge this: The Dive In Yankton (DIY) citizens group that has carried the ball on the project since early last year has done things the right way.

Since day one, the group has worked aggressively to raise awareness of the project while it has raised funds. In the process, it has gradually built a momentum with an attitude that an aquatic center to replace the aging and crumbling Memorial Park swimming pool WILL happen.

DIY has done this by getting feedback from everyone and getting involvement from people of all ages. This has built interest and excitement in the proposal.

How long that excitement lasts remains to be seen, of course. The group will meet with the Yankton City Commission in two weeks to present the money DIY already has committed and to work on a path forward on a proposed project that is expected to cost more than $14 million. A property tax opt-out is likely, and that’s when this issue will really get down to business.

In the meantime, DIY has done everything possible to promote this idea throughout the community.

Last week, a radio-thon featuring all of the town’s radio stations was held to raise funds. It wound up hauling in close to $120,000 in cash and pledges, which was far more than anticipated.

DIY’s strategy of constant engagement and promotion may seem like an obvious approach, but it really isn’t.

For instance, when an aquatic center was proposed in Yankton back in 2005, we don’t recall the same kind of outreach. Instead, an architectural plan was drawn up and then put forth to residents. There were some public meetings to sell the idea, but Yankton ultimately wasn’t in a buying mood.

Thirteen years later, the aquatic center idea is taking a different path. This time, it’s pursuing a grassroots approach, and that tireless outreach has produced growing enthusiasm for and commitment to the project.

But there are no guarantees, and when it comes down to the money and how much the public is willing to invest, there are many unknowns looming.

However, the ball that DIY has worked to get rolling seems, in some ways, virtually unstoppable. Public interest in the project continues to grow.

Meanwhile, the old pool is nearing the end of its life span and other area communities with aquatic centers are pulling people from this community to spend money elsewhere. The need and the desire are all here; circumstances have aligned and the time is right.

Something will come of DIY’s work. There’s always a chance that it ultimately may not be this project as currently proposed, but something will happen, in part because something has to happen. Doing nothing (other than patches and short-term fixes) is no longer a practical option at the pool. Not anymore.

The members of DIY have worked their butts off selling their plan, and they’ve succeeded in getting a lot of people to embrace the vision. The end game will be intriguing to watch when it starts unfolding later this month.


Madison Daily Leader, Madison, Sept. 12

Good can come from Copper Lounge tragedy

The December 2016 collapse of the former Copper Lounge in Sioux Falls may be causing public officials to take more caution with questionable structures. If so, there is some good that came from the tragedy.

Two examples from the last couple of weeks:

1) The Vishnu building on Phillips Avenue in Sioux Falls was evacuated because its facade appeared to be leaning toward the street. Nearby buildings were evacuated as well, and the street and sidewalk were taped off. The Vishnu is just across the street from where the Copper Lounge collapsed.

Engineers shored up the facade, which is decorative and not part of the structural integrity of the building, and businesses reopened. Other businesses in the neighborhood are examining their own facades, which are part of a downtown facade easement program.

2) In western South Dakota, a grain bin’s walls appeared to be buckling during the loading of wheat in late August. Fire and emergency management officials evacuated the nearby downtown business district in Philip as a precaution. The bin was unloaded and the evacuation notice was lifted later that day.

CHS Midwest Cooperative officials are working with engineers to decide the best method for repairing the grain bin. In both cases, company and city officials acted with caution and made sure no one would be hurt in case of a collapse. We can certainly remember similar instances in the past where structures looked unsafe, but people were allowed to walk nearby anyway.

We don’t know if the Copper Lounge incident caused people to be more cautious, but it’s possible. We’ve overheard general contractors discussing load-bearing walls with more concern in the last couple of years.

In any case, we’re glad to see people taking more caution when there is a safety issue involving structures. We hope the caution continues for the long term.


The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Sept. 10

Week in review: the best, worst

CHEERS to all of the South Dakota Hall of Fame inductees, especially the two area residents earning one of the state’s highest honors. Kennebec’s Rod Bowar and Mitchell’s Roger Musick are both great examples of hard-working business leaders who have made impacts on the state and its residents. More importantly, both have proven to be important members of our communities, serving on various boards and committees away from their day jobs. Congratulations to them once again.

HISSES to the report about the impending costs of wastewater treatment infrastructure around the state, a bill of about $160 million for the state’s municipalities. Frankly, wastewater and sewer upgrades are not items that citizens spend much time thinking about until the systems fail. And in many South Dakota communities, those systems are either old or are distressed, which can cause issues.

Various forms of state and federal funding have been a key segment for cities and towns to pay for these upgrades and will be worth preserving in the future. Similarly, municipalities have to plan and take ownership of the issue, making planning and saving for infrastructure a priority.

CHEERS regarding the news of Mitchell Technical Institute’s enrollment seeing a slight bump for the fall 2018 semester. Importantly, the school has seen growth in some key majors, including the electrical, heating and cooling, construction and manufacturing careers. Electrical Construction and Maintenance, for example, has nearly 100 students and is the school’s most popular program of study. All of the fields are key parts of the workforce that will need graduates and it’s good to see both MTI and the students filling some needs that will be helpful for rural South Dakota. Similarly, the Build Dakota scholarship program and the employer-backed Double Edge programs at MTI continue to be a success for college students, allowing them to live and work in our state.

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