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Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Lawmakers end session with mixed feelings
Published: Thursday, March 26th, 2015

As the 90th South Dakota Legislative Session came to a close at the end of last week, District 30 lawmakers had mixed feelings about how the session went. The session saw a $4.3 billion budget passed that gives extra funding increases to education, state employees and health care providers, despite revenue projections being less than previously expected.

The House voted 55-9 to approve the budget put together on the final day by the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee, which was followed by a 30-2 vote in favor of passage by the Senate.



Thursday, March 26th, 2015

West Dam still not settled
Published: Thursday, March 26th, 2015

If the City of Custer wants to receive thousands more dollars in grant money for its French Creek drainage improvement project — which includes solving the long-standing issue of what to do with West Dam — it will have to pony up $23,000 to finalize the current phase of studying the project. 

The final part of that phase will also determine if the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will approve the next phase of the project. 

The catch, however, is that the $23,000, while eligible for a 75-25 grant reimbursement from the government, must be paid up front, and if FEMA nixes the project entirely, the city will not see that money back.



Thursday, March 26th, 2015

City OKs variances contrary to ordinances
Published: Thursday, March 26th, 2015

The final plat for a subdivision of land in the Homestead area in northeast Custer received final approval at the March 16 meeting of the Custer City Council, but not before extensive discussion was held about variances being given to the subdivision’s developer, local contractor Craig Hindle.

The land to be subdivided sits just to the northeast of the corner of Summit and Ponderosa Streets and Hindle’s plan calls for the land to be divided into six lots that will be used for affordable housing. The city’s planning commission, which reviewed the plan extensively, recommended approval of the final plat with variances that technically go against city ordinance, as subdivisions are required to have a 24-foot paved road and have curb and gutter and sidewalks installed. The subdivision as approved will have none of those features.



Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Historic school vandalized
Published: Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Clean up begins at the historic Glen Erin School after the log cabin was vandalized last week. 

According to Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler, a passerby reported the one-room schoolhouse’s vandalism Wednesday, March 11. The vandals broke the school’s glass window with one of the benches, which was still in the window when a sheriff’s deputy arrived on scene to investigate. The benches in the school were also turned over and glass littered the ground outside the school.

“We are not sure when this happened,” Wheeler said.



Thursday, March 19th, 2015

School board talks budget
Published: Thursday, March 19th, 2015

With the end of Custer School District’s fiscal year just around the corner, the debate for the 2015-16 school year has begun. Teaching positions, programs and impact aid were all heavy discussion items during the Custer School  District Board of Education’s March 9 meeting. 

The budget discussion started with Brian Lintz, former board member, who addressed the board during open forum time.



Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Fire season starts early
Published: Thursday, March 19th, 2015

The adage “in like a lion, out like a lamb” may not apply to this March, but nowhere in the saying is anything mentioned about a fire.

The North Pole Fire was reported Tuesday, March 10, at 4 p.m., located in the area of Highway 16 and Renegade Road, west of Custer. What started as a small grass fire on private property quickly grew to 59 acres on Forest Service land, threatening structures, life and natural resources. Over 60 personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, Custer Volunteer Fire Department and South Dakota Wildland Fire Division worked to contain the blaze.

“I was up on Lightning Creek Road when I saw the smoke,” said Phill Randall, Custer resident. “I first thought it was a slash pile of some kind, but with the high fire danger, I knew it wasn’t just that.”



Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Businesses scrambling for help
Published: Thursday, March 12th, 2015

The lowest fuel prices in years. The 50th anniversary of Custer State Park. The 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The summer of 2015 is shaping up to be one of, if not the, biggest summer in the history of South Dakota tourism. And with less than a month before many businesses unlock their doors, dust off their shelves and get ready for the swarm of visitors about to descend on the area, many of them are facing a nearly unthinkable, cataclysmic scenario—not having enough employees when they open those doors.



Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Dam project deliberated
Published: Thursday, March 12th, 2015

During its regular Monday, March 2, meeting, the Custer City Council heard an overview of the French Creek drainage project headed by FourFront Design, Inc., of Rapid City.

The council was presented with a map of the French Creek drainage area as it goes through Custer. Along the drainage area were five key culverts and areas — Cougar Road culvert (West Dam), Wazi Lane culvert, a culvert by Holiday Inn, 4th Street bridge and 11th Street bridge — that were determined as high needs areas, meaning they would make the most sense to improve. 



Thursday, March 12th, 2015

2015 could be banner tourism year
Published: Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Even though it’s only March, the tourism industry in Custer is already gearing up for a busy summer. 

Representatives from both the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce and the Business Improvement District (BID) spoke to the Custer City Council at the council’s regular Monday, March 2, meeting about their plans for the summer, as well as the good things that happened last year.

“We are a well-oiled machine,” said Dave Ressler, executive director of the chamber. 



Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

BREAKING: Fire breaks out west of town
Published: Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

A forest/grass fire has broken out west of Custer, just off Hwy. 16 and just east of Renegade Pass Road. Firefighters are on scene, including crews from the U.S. Forest Service and Custer Fire Department. The cause and size of the fire are unclear at this time.



Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Facing hard decisions
Published: Thursday, March 5th, 2015

More than a dozen people gathered at Custer Senior Center Saturday, Feb. 28, to hear what District 30 representatives had to say about the 2015 legislative session. The crackerbarrel, hosted by the Custer County Chronicle and Custer Senior Center, featured Reps. Mike Verchio of Hill City and Lance Russell of Hot Springs and Sen. Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City.

One of the bigger issues in this year’s legislation is SB1, which is being proposed by the transportation committee. SB1 would maintain and improve public roads and bridges by raising gas taxes, license plate and registration fees and a wheel tax.



Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Future of firefighting uncertain
Published: Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Will all of Custer County’s volunteer fire departments be forced to move to a taxing district  in a few years due to a lack of funding? Will those fire departments have enough trained personnel to respond to calls in their area? These were just a couple of the questions raised during a discussion of the future of firefighting within the county at the Feb. 26 meeting of the Custer County Commission.

Dar Coy, chairman of the county’s fire advisory board, led the discussion of where firefighting has been in the county and where it is heading, saying the fire advisory board, which he said had become “stagnant” over the past few years, has met and decided to become much more active. Among that activity will be the formation of three committees, including one for training and one for bylaws.



Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Black Hills Power to increase rates
Published: Thursday, March 5th, 2015

On Monday, March 2, Black Hills Power received approval from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission of a settlement agreement that allows the company to implement new electric rates for its South Dakota customers beginning April 1.

Black Hills Power will recover costs and infrastructure investments it says were made in response to escalating environmental regulations on behalf of its 65,500 electric customers in South Dakota, primarily investments for the utility’s portion of the new Cheyenne Prairie Generating Station. The facility was built for less than the budgeted amount and was placed into service on Oct. 1 as scheduled.



Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

New office, same role
Published: Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

The newest planning director for Custer County isn’t new to planning for a government entity, isn’t new to Custer and really isn’t even new to Custer County planning.

Rex Harris began work as Custer County’s new planning director Feb. 17, less than a year after he was terminated in virtually the same role for the City of Custer. Harris, 72, said he was content in retirement, but eventually felt the pull to serve the people again, ultimately leading to his arrival in an office just a few football fields from his old office.



Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Measles outbreak assessed
Published: Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Schools in Custer County are preparing for an outbreak of measles, which hit South Dakota last month. While there has been no case or outbreak of measles in the Custer School District, the administration still wants to let patrons know how to prepare themselves, just in case. 

“To be clear, at this time, there is no measles outbreak in the Custer School District,” school superintendent Mark Naugle said in a letter. “This is only for your information.”



Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

City braces for huge influx of bikers
Published: Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Preparation for the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally—expected to be the largest such Rally in history—began across the state virtually the minute last year’s Rally came to a close. Among the entities preparing for the crush of humanity expected to flood the Hills during the Rally is the City of Custer, which addressed a pair of Rally-related topics at its Feb. 17 meeting.

City officials have been meeting with representatives from the South Dakota Department of Transportation, South Dakota Highway Patrol and the Custer County Sheriff’s Department to discuss how to deal with the swarm of bikers, which is expected to push one million Hills-wide. The typical Rally is 300,000 to 400,000.



Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Custer youth will honor elders
Published: Thursday, February 19th, 2015

For 10 years, the Custer community has celebrated the life of many of its elders and linked generations together through the Elder’s Wisdom, Children’s Song program. The four honorees share their lives, stories and precious moments with elementary students who then write a narrative and song with assistance from a songwriter.

“This is such a great program to put on. I always look forward to seeing the community come out to see and learn about other community members,” said Hank Fridell, program coordinator. “This is one of the events that links the kids and parents in the community to our elders. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate who we are.”



Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Landowners want better access to their property
Published: Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Jim Powell says all he wants to do is drive to and from his home off Pass Creek Road without inconvenience. One of his neighbors is making it such a headache he, along with some of his other neighbors, have taken the first neighbor to court over the issue, and came before the Custer County Commission at its Feb. 11 meeting to see if there was anything it could do to help.

The crux of the issue is whether or not one of Powell’s neighbors on Hazelton Road can legally put up gates on the portion of the road in front of their property. Hazelton Road is a 33-foot private easement off Pass Creek Road. One resident of the neighborhood has put up barbed wire gates at each end of their property, meaning any time someone drives down the road they must get out, open a  gate at one end of that neighbors’ property, drive through, get out, close that gate, drive up to the other gate, get out, open it, drive through, get out, and close the second gate.



Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Fee increases are discussed
Published: Thursday, February 19th, 2015

It may be a forgone conclusion that county taxpayers will soon be paying a few increases for certain county services. The one Custer County Commissioner against one of the fee increases, however, again let his displeasure with that possible increase be known at the Feb. 11 meeting of the commission.

Among the significant proposed fee increases are raising the cost of a grading permit from $50 to $150 for those within 10 miles of the city and $250 over 10 miles, the cost of a floodplain development permit from $50 to $100 and raising the cost of the per-square-foot portion of the building permit fee for agricultural buildings from .02 cents per square foot to .05, the same rate a residential parcel would have to pay for a non-occupied building.



Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Dam this place:�DU m...
Published: Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Coming soon to West Dam: An interpretative marsh trail?

Ducks Unlimited (DU) would sure love to see it.

Whether or not such a trail will happen remains to be seen, but representatives from the City of Custer, the Rocky Knolls Golf Course board and DU all got together at city hall Feb. 2 to discuss if DU�would be interested in helping fund a project at West Dam, and, if so, in what fashion.



The art of love
Published: Thursday, February 12th, 2015

When Mike Pierce and Carrie Smith started painting the VFW mural in 2010, they never expected to become more than friends. Fast forward a few years, and the couple is not only creating more murals, but doing so while happily married. 

Mike Pierce moved to Custer in 2007 from La Crosse, Wis., and soon began creating murals to beautify the town. His mural at Custer County Market depicting the landscape of the Black Hills and native animals such as buffalo and elk was his 29th mural, while his mural at the Custer VFW Post 3442 was his 30th.



Thursday, February 12th, 2015

City to ban camping sewage in sewers
Published: Thursday, February 12th, 2015

The Custer City Council has taken another step toward cracking down on those living long-term inside a camping trailer or motor home within the city limits. At its regular meeting Feb. 2, it passed the first reading of an amendment to its ordinance prohibiting the use of a recreational vehicle, travel trailer, motor home or converted car or bus for dwelling purposes.

The amended section of the ordinance states that in no case shall any camping trailer, tent, travel trailer or motor home hook up to private sanitary sewer. Initially, the section of the ordinance continued on to say “except for minimal short term hookups in order to flush on-site generated waste from any self-contained holding tank.” However, when alderwoman Karen Schleining made the motion to approve the reading, she asked the latter sentence to be removed, a request most on the council agreed with.



Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Don’t play ball: Hermosa fields in disrepair
Published: Thursday, February 5th, 2015

The Custer County Commission, the Custer County Fair Board, the Town of Hermosa and a group of concerned parents all agree something needs to be done with the decrepit state of the baseball fields at the Custer County Fairgrounds. How to go about repairing the fields, however, is another story.

At the Jan. 28 meeting of the Custer County Commission, parents and baseball organizers of children who use the fields on the fairgrounds in Hermosa came before the commission to highlight the litany of problems with the fields, along with a rough outline of a phased plan to repair the fields back to adequate and safe condition.



Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Land-for-tax-break swap addressed
Published: Thursday, February 5th, 2015

An informal, failed and ultimately illegal proposal for a pair of Custer County landowners to give the county land adjacent to the Custer County Fairgrounds to use for the county’s planned east county shop in exchange for tax breaks on other property it owns within the county was discussed again at the Jan. 28 meeting of the Custer County Commission. The question has now become whether or not the landowners could “gift” the land to the county and then receive a tax write-off in exchange.

The saga began when some Hermosa area residents, as well as the Town of Hermosa board, questioned what they said was a waste of taxpayer money by the Custer County Commission over the commission’s declining of the land swap. The county, however, said the proposed deal wasn’t legal.



Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Forest Service to consolidate locations
Published: Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Besieged by a lack of space, an overabundance of less-than-ideal retrofitting, a leaky basement that was never intended to house offices and overall inefficiency, the Hell Canyon District office of the National Forest Service in downtown Custer is set to close in the near future. 

When it does, the 28 employees that call the building home will head up 5th Street to the Forest Supervisor’s Office, a move that will mean drastic change for both district and supervisor’s office employees.

At the Jan. 28 meeting to discuss the move held at the supervisor’s office, Forest Service natural resource staff officer and acting supervisor Dave Mertz said  “there are a number of plusses and some minuses to the move.”



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