Governor did the right thing

The good news is we have a compassionate governor in South Dakota who listens to the voice of reason. The bad news is we have some less compassionate people working at the Department of Corrections (DOC).
The good news is that the 11 residents at the former STAR Academy, former SLIC-e LLC property south of Custer will not have to vacate the premises by the end of this month as first decreed in an Oct. 1 letter to them. They now have until March 1 to find new places to live, thanks to the intervention of Gov. Kristi Noem.
When the SLIC-e $2.34 million deal for the 173-acre property went south last month, ownership of the property reverted to the state DOC. The department’s knee-jerk reaction was to evict all tenants from their rented properties, which included 11 families and three businesses. The businesses have relocated and the families will have until March 1 of next year to find other housing.
The governor heard from a lot of people on the original eviction notice letter of Oct. 1. Some of the tenants themselves, along with our District 30 representatives and senator, appealed to the governor to extend their stay until the end of the school year next year. The governor listened and set March 1 next year as the new date to vacate the premises, which is a darn sight better than Oct. 31 this year, with winter nipping at our heels.
The news release from the governor’s press secretary Kristin Wileman said in part, “She (Noem) understands it can be difficult to find housing in the Custer area on short notice ...,” which is an understatement at best. It’s difficult to find housing in the Custer area at any time and we can see why the 11 families were having a panic attack.
Finding housing for 11 families at the same time in the Custer area is no easy task. We already have a housing challenge with the lack of decent “affordable” homes in this area. Maybe the folks at the DOC in Pierre were not aware of this fact, but they should have checked before giving residents on the property such short notice. That appeared to be a bit heartless.
The state now apparently plans to winterize the remaining buildings on the campus as it makes plans to sell it again in the spring. We don’t agree with that decision as it is evident we need some kind of drug rehabilitation center or juvenile detention center in this part of the state. The facts speak for themselves in that there is rampant illegal drug use in this state with meth being the main culprit.
There is also a need for a juvenile rehabilitation or detention facility in this part of the state. In spite of the Daugaard administration’s plans to cut down on the juvenile delinquent numbers in the state by shutting down STAR Academy, we still have juvenile delinquents, only now they are back in the home environments that got them in trouble in the first place.
Then there is the ever-increasing need for a mental health facility in this part of the state. It costs Custer County a lot of money just to transport a person all the way across the state to the Human Services Center in Yankton. Costs vary if a person is held here overnight under observation, whether one or two deputies are needed and whether a hotel stay is needed.
Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechaley said at the very least it costs $700 to transport a person to Yankton and this amount could easily double depending on how long a person must be held here before a slot opens up for an 8 a.m. delivery time in Yankton. This means one or two deputies must drive all night in order to be in Yankton at the appointed time. He said Yankton sometimes is at full capacity, which means deputies must take a person to a facility in Sioux Falls instead.
Everyone knows there is a desperate need for a mental health facility, juvenile detention center or drug rehab facility in this part of the state and it only seems logical that such a place could be renovated or built new on land the state already owns at the former STAR Academy property. The woodsy, peaceful, outdoor setting offers an ideal venue far from the hustle and bustle of a larger urban location.
State officials seem determined to sell the property instead of spending some money to repurpose it. We suggest they at least appropriate some funds to study the possibilities of locating a much-needed facility there. 

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