Custer County Chronicle


News Articles

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

County landowners get tax break
Published: Thursday, February 4th, 2016

A perfect storm of staff turnover at both the county and state levels, along with a recent software conversion by the county has led to county taxpayers getting a break on their taxes at the expense of the county.

The chain of events began when the former Department of Equalization’s (DOE) new software changed how Tax Increment  Finance (TIF) district values are handled.  The DOE’s old software did not include the TIF values in the county “whole” value and DOE’s new software did include the TIF values and, as the new staff at the county and local level did not understand there had been a change in reporting, it reflected in the values being certified.

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Simianer in court
Published: Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Former City of Custer planning director Scott Simianer was back in Seventh Circuit Judicial Court last Thursday for a status hearing regarding his case in which he is charged with three counts of first degree rape for alleged sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl and five counts of possession and/or creation of child pornography.

Unlike his previous court appearances, Simianer was in the Custer County Courthouse for the status hearing, wearing shackles and the pink and white stripes that signify someone in segregation or protective custody at the Pennington County Jail.

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

New hospital to be built
Published: Thursday, February 4th, 2016

The City of Custer is about to get a brand new hospital, courtesy of a partnership between the city, Regional Health and Custer Community Health Services, Inc. (CCHS).

Only a few years removed from trying unsuccessfully to remodel the current hospital and clinic in Custer, CCHS has shifted its focus, joining with the city and Regional Health to formulate a plan that will see a new hospital constructed just across the street and a little east on Montgomery Street from the current hospital, with ground breaking this spring and an opening date of 2018.

The plan was unveiled at the Feb. 1 meeting of the Custer City Council, with representatives from CCHS�and Regional Health both in attendance to share in the announcement.

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Beetle struck trees minimal
Published: Thursday, January 28th, 2016

The City of Custer appears to be winning its war on the Mountain Pine Beetle, if a report given by city public works director Bob Morrison at the Jan. 19 meeting of the Custer City Council is any indication.

Morrison said a recent count of infested trees in Custer showed 200 such trees, well down from the 500 infested trees last year and only one-fifth as many as the previous years when 1,000 such trees were counted.

“The numbers are way better,” Morrison told the council. “We’re very happy about that.”

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

FLDS meeting set for Feb. 4
Published: Thursday, January 28th, 2016

A meeting of those interested in doing something about the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compound in Custer County will be held at the Pine Room in the courthouse annex building Thursday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m.

“Since the showing of the documentary film ‘Prophet's Prey’ Nov. 21 in the Custer High School theater, we have had people call and email us at the Chronicle asking what can be done about the compound,” said Chronicle publisher Charley Najacht.

“We scheduled this meeting so we can come together and share information about what avenues we can explore to shut this compound down and the child sexual abuse that is going on there,” he said. “We could tell that people who saw the film were frustrated that nothing was being done to put a stop to this illegal activity.” 

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Issue of teachers’ raises raised
Published: Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Although several subjects were touched on, education funding — or the lack thereof — dominated most of the almost two hours of discussion at the District 30 legislative crackerbarrel held last Saturday afternoon at Custer Senior Center.

Both the District 30 representatives at the meeting — Reps. Lance Russell and Mike Verchio and Sen. Bruce Rampelberg — and the 20 people in the audience discussed whether or not the half cent sales tax to enhance teacher pay was a good idea, whether or not the tax was really needed and whether or not the money would actually get to the teachers.

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Simianer says he’s not guilty
Published: Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Former planning director for the City of Custer Scott Simianer has pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against him after he was arrested Dec. 21 in front of city hall following a Custer City Council meeting. 

He was arraigned in Seventh Judicial Circuit Court in Rapid City on the charges Jan. 14. Simianer has been appointed Randy Connelly of Rapid City as his attorney.

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Biggest Loser starts
Published: Thursday, January 21st, 2016

The Custer County Chronicle’s Biggest Loser contest is back, with the first official weigh-in day Friday, Jan. 22. Contestants may weigh in any time during the course of the day on Jan. 22 until 6 p.m. If a potential contestant is unable to weigh in on that day, they should call the Chronicle office at 673-2217 to make other arrangements. No late weigh ins will be accepted during the course of the competition.

The contest will run for six months, with the winner declared at the end of the six-month period. The contest runs six months in order to help create habits and give contestants a better chance of losing and keeping weight off. The winner will be the individual who loses the largest percentage of their body weight over the course of the contest. 

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

­Rodeo is approved by school board
Published: Thursday, January 21st, 2016

After a unanimous approval from the Custer School District Board of Education, the high school rodeo club is looking forward to saddling up and competing in the Wildcat name.

Three members of the Custer County Rodeo Club requested sanctioning from the board during its Jan. 11 meeting. The team members argued that not only would the school sanctioning allow them to letter in rodeo, but it could also mean earning points and trophies for the school, as well as state, regional and national awards and recognition.

Members of the rodeo team are Rachael McCoy, Lexi McCoy, Ashlee Kritenbrink and Gracey Carlin, while club advisor is Taylor Fox.

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Legislators weigh in on recent state scandals
Published: Thursday, January 14th, 2016

While the recent scandals involving two government programs—EB-5 and South Dakota Gear Up—were a black eye on the state and cause for concern, two of South Dakota’s District 30 legislators say the scandals were simply the results of state employees who were underhanded and should not result in an overall condemnation of current or former administrations in Pierre.

“You can speculate all you want, but until facts come out and something can be proven to the contrary, I have complete confidence in our governor and attorney general,” Rep. Mike Verchio said. “I think we are a very trusting people in this state and we believe you until you prove you have been lying to us.”


Thursday, January 14th, 2016

North 3rd Street to get new signage
Published: Thursday, January 14th, 2016

If you drive a semi up and down north 3rd Street, your days of doing so are numbered.

At the Jan. 4 meeting of the Custer City Council, the council decided to take a more measured approach to dealing with the problems on north 3rd Street, starting with putting up more signage, including a sign saying large trucks are no longer allowed to use the street.

Residents in the area came before the council at a previous meeting complaining about the traffic on the road, which they said has become a bypass for people—especially those coming from or heading to the west—who do not want to stop at the light at the corner of 5th Street and Mt. Rushmore Road. The result, they say, is an overly busy residential street that sees constant speeding and dust, which means a dangerous and unpleasant situation for those living in the area.

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Burn, beetle, burn!
Published: Thursday, January 14th, 2016


By Carrie Moore
Come Saturday, Pageant Hill will be filled with flame, fireworks and fun, proving that those Mountain Pine Beetles don’t stand a chance. 
The third annual Bark Beetle Blues, presented by the Custer Area Arts Council and the Bark Beetle Blues Committee, will be held Saturday, Jan. 16, and is sponsored by Sage Creek Grille, Naked Winery and the Custer VFW Post 3442.
Much like last year’s ceremony, this year’s Bark Beetle Blues will feature a gathering at the high school, a parade and the popular variety show. Last year, nearly 1,000 people participated in the event and organizers hope to see even more this year. 
The event will begin at 1 p.m. at Frontier Photo, where Black Hills Raptors will be with its birds of prey for the public to see. The birds of prey will be at Frontier Photo until 4 p.m.
At 4 p.m., revelers are encouraged to gather at the high school parking lot for their torches, with the torch march beginning at 4:30 p.m. The crowd will march to Pageant Hill, where the Custer Volunteer Fire Department will shoot off fireworks and light the Burning Beetle, a 28-foot wooden beetle — built by Karl Svensson and other volunteers — from killed trees, sitting on top of a giant beetle-killed slash pile. The burning will happen approximately around 5 p.m.
“The fire department has been great with helping organize and giving us storage space for the beetle,” said Hank Fridell, member of the Bark Beetle Blues Committee and one of the coordinators for the Burning Beetle.
Bark Beetle Blues’ mission is to create awareness of Custer community’s response to the Pine Beetle infestation by celebration and renewal. When they came up with the idea for the Burning Beetle a few years ago, the committee spent a year following other groups’ models of creating a series of events, celebrations, craft shows, music events and book readings to help people understand what’s happening, in addition to get them through the grieving process.  
The idea for the Burning Beetle came from other effigies created — a Zozobra in Santa Fe, which represents all the bad things of the year past, and the Burning Man epic in Nevada, which is a symbol to wash away all that plagues participants. 
The plight of the beetles is constantly evolving, which also allows the annual Burning Beetle to change and evolve every year.
After the burning, at about 6 p.m., food — brats and S’mores — will be served at the Custer YMCA, leading up to the crowd favorite Burning Beetle Variety Show at the YMCA. The variety show will feature music and dance acts, as well as an auction, the Black Hills Raptors and other surprises. A small donation is requested for admission to the show.
Those participating in the Burning Beetle Variety Show include the Blues Beetle Brothers, Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra, Lily Fridell and Hanna Kremer, Steve Linde, Luke Anderson, Wolf, Gary Daiss, Lo-Ru West Dance Studio, Hannah Brink, Marianne and Hank Fridell, Steve Thorpe, Lizzie Anderson, Allen Biesman and Hank Fridell,  Kremer and Sarah Keil, Destruction of Youth, Van Arp and the Ramblin' Rangers.
Also after the beetle burns, two Custer businesses will feature live music in addition to serving drinks and food. Steve Gardner will perform at the Naked Winery while Leif Hey-Running will perform at Sage Creek Grille.
There will be a limited number of T-shirts and sweatshirts available at the variety show. Shirts may also be ordered for later delivery.
For more information on the Burning Beetle and the committee, visit http://the or 

Come Saturday, Pageant Hill will be filled with flame, fireworks and fun, proving that those Mountain Pine Beetles don’t stand a chance. 

The third annual Bark Beetle Blues, presented by the Custer Area Arts Council and the Bark Beetle Blues Committee, will be held Saturday, Jan. 16, and is sponsored by Sage Creek Grille, Naked Winery and the Custer VFW Post 3442.


Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Hiltunens thankful for support
Published: Thursday, January 7th, 2016

What started as a quiet evening at home the night of Friday, Dec. 18, for Mike and Heather Hiltunen soon took a turn for the worse with one simple phone call. 

“We were just in disbelief,” Mike said about the phone call alerting him that his business, Custer County Market, was on fire. “It’s something that you just can’t believe.”

“We weren’t sure if it was real or not,” Heather added.

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Simianer fired
Published: Thursday, January 7th, 2016

The City of Custer is without a planning director again for the time being after the council formally fired former director Scott Simianer at a special meeting Dec. 30 held in executive session at the Custer Volunteer Fire Department Hall.

City finance officer Laurie Woodward said when the council emerged from the executive session, a motion was made to acknowledge a letter from Mayor Jared Carson terminating Simianer effective Dec. 30, pending any appeals. 

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Arp is Citizen of the Year
Published: Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Family man. God’s disciple. Community enthusiast. Music lover.

Those are just a few words that describe the driving passions of Van Arp as he continues his mission to give back to the town he calls home.

“One of Van’s favorite quotes is, ‘Preach the gospel; use words if necessary’ (by Saint Francis of Assisi). Your actions should speak louder than anything you say,” said Rose Arp, Van’s wife. “Van wants to bring it all to the Lord. Being involved in the community — it seems cliché, but it’s true — is a tangible way to show God’s love. Van truly invests in people’s lives.”

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Don’t get burned by winter home fires
Published: Thursday, December 31st, 2015

With a chill in the air and snow piles on the ground, it’s clear to see winter is here. And with winter comes the increased risk for home fires, with December through March as peak months. 

One of the leading causes for home fires during the winter months is heating equipment — chimneys and wood stoves, propane, electric, space heaters, etc. But according to Bill Bell, first assistant fire chief with the Custer Volunteer Fire Department, the potential for fires can be lessened with annual routine maintenance.

STAR�Academy to cut...
Published: Thursday, December 31st, 2015

The State Treatment Rehabilitation (STAR) Academy south of Custer is set to lay off 44 percent of its full-time positions beginning the state’s next fiscal year July 1.

Jeff Haier, STAR Academy superintendent, said STAR’s budget request for fiscal year 2017 will see the elimination of 47.7 Full Time Employees (FTE), from the 108 FTEs that are currently available at the academy.  The request is part of the larger South Dakota Department of Corrections (DOC) request that must now meet both legislative and Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s approval as the legislature convenes in January.

City planner facing child sex, porn charges
Published: Thursday, December 31st, 2015

City of Custer planning administrator Scott Simianer is being held in the Pennington County Jail after being charged with eight felonies, including first degree rape of a minor.

Simianer, 53, is charged with three counts of Rape in the First Degree, a Class C Felony, as well as five counts of Possession, Manufacturing or Distribution of Child Pornography for creating child pornography, a Class IV�Felony, along with five alternate counts of the same offense for possessing child pornography.

The rape charges, which are punishable by up to life in prison and/or a fine up to $50,000 for each charge, stem from the time period of June 1 to Aug. 31, when it is alleged Simianer committed an act of sexual penetration with a 12-year old girl on three occasions. The First Degree Rape charge applies when the victim is under the age of 13.

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Senior open hours proposed
Published: Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Come next year, Custer High School seniors could have a schedule shake up, should the Custer School District School Board of Education approve the proposed senior open hours.

During the Dec. 14 board meeting, Custer Jr./Sr. High School principal Derek Barrios proposed adding a block of open hours for seniors, which would allow them to have a free period.  

As it currently stands, Custer seniors have 1,031 contact hours in the school year, averaging 28.5 hours a week, with no privileges. Other schools in the Black Hills have privileges for the seniors, such as Spearfish, which gives students one free block and Hot Springs, which gives seniors one free open period.

Talking shop with Mrs. Claus
Published: Thursday, December 24th, 2015

In its continuing series of interviews with some of the biggest names in Christmas, the Custer County Chronicle was able to land an interview with the woman behind the man at Christmastime, Mrs. Claus. 

Mrs. Claus sat down with the Chronicle’s Jason Ferguson to discuss what it’s like to be married to the man who delivers toys to millions, her secret to success and how a spill down her chimney led to her falling for Santa.

Jason Ferguson (JF):â��Wow, thanks for stopping by, Mrs. Claus. It’s a pleasure to meet you. May Iâ��just say, you look much different in person than you do in books?

Fire destroys Custer Countyâ�ï¿...
Published: Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Many Custerites are still reeling in the wake of the Friday night fire that claimed Custer County Market on Mount Rushmore Road.

The fire, which was reported around 10:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, gutted the grocery store and provided first responders with numerous obstacles in the fight.

“We knew we were going to have a fight on our hands,” said Bill Bell, Custer Volunteer Fire Department’s first assistant chief. “We knew right away that we were going to need a lot of water, since there was a lot of smoke showing.”

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Carroll Creek Road is latest complaint
Published: Thursday, December 17th, 2015

It was another meeting and another road complaint at the Custer County Commission’s Dec. 9 meeting, as this time a resident of Carroll Creek Road was before the commission complaining about what he felt was a lack of maintenance after the Thanksgiving weekend snowstorm that hit the area.

Kenny Zumbaum told the commission he was upset Carroll Creek Road—or at least his portion of it—was not paved after the first snow Thanksgiving weekend, and said when the plows came through after the second snow, it served only to pack the first snow down and make ice, creating a hazardous situation. He also complained that the county did not sand an especially treacherous downhill curve on the road.

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Cruisin’ still plans bike show
Published: Thursday, December 17th, 2015

The Custer Cruisin’ Committee may have had a light agenda Friday, Dec. 11, but huge progress was made, specifically with the bike show. 

The Cruisin’ committee heard from a Custer man who was interested in assisting sponsoring the bike show, along with his motorcycle club, which is a national club. The committee, which is interested in having a bike show during the Custer Cruisin’ Rally week line up, doesn’t have the time or resources to plan an entire event and has been looking for an organizer for over a year.

“I found out about this through (Cherish) Baker (committee member) and my club has shows interest in promoting this,” Robert Edwards, president of Brothers N Makhai motorcycle club.

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

City considering closing north 3rd Street
Published: Thursday, December 17th, 2015

The residents of north 3rd Street in Custer have spoken loud and clear. They want the road closed to the traveling public. Whether or not that actually happens will come down to a decision by the City of Custer, U.S. Forest Service, more likely, some combination of the two.

At the Dec. 7 meeting of the Custer City Council, a handful of residents in the area again made their feelings about the road known, after previously stating those feelings at the most recent city public works committee meeting.

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Over 100 turn out for VA meeting
Published: Thursday, December 10th, 2015

About 125 people gathered in the Mueller Center’s auditorium in Hot Springs last month to learn how they could continue the fight to keep Hot Springs’ VA center as a continuing part of The Veterans Town.

Hot Springs’ Save the VA committee sponsored the meeting following the release of the long-awaited draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in October by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Black Hills Health Care System (VA BHHCS).

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