State needs to give answers

On Oct. 31, 11 families, a restaurant and several artists are going to be evicted from the former Sustainable Light Industrial Complex and energy (SLIC-e) and State Treatment and Rehabilitation Academy (STAR) campus while the state “evaluates all its options.”
One word, six sentences. That was the state’s official response to our call to them with a bevy of questions about the future of the former SLIC-e campus, why they are evicting the people who live there and why they are giving those who leave there a meager 30 days to not only find a new home they can afford in Custer (which is becoming harder and harder) but to get the money for that home and to move. For many, it’s truly going to be a frightening Halloween.
The state has done a lousy job of communicating what is going on at the facility since it regained ownership of it via repossession last month. When the news broke that the former owner had not made a required payment and the state was going to repossess the building, we called the governor’s office with a battery of questions about what happened and what the future held at the campus. The same canned one-sentence answer was given to us then, as well.
It would be one thing if this was a heap of a building rotting on a prairie somewhere that through its closure would not affect many people, if anybody. That is not the case, however. There are 11 homes occupied on the grounds of the facility, hosting folks who have lived there for years and years. Some of those living there have families, and now are expected to pack up and move within the course of the month. When presented with the question why that had to happen so quickly, it was simply “evaluating all options.”
How about a little empathy for those affected by this? It has been hit after hit for the people who live on the former SLIC-e campus, some of whom worked at the STAR Academy and lost their jobs when it closed. Now, those same people face the specter of losing their home not long after they lost their jobs. No several month grace period. No state assistance in helping them find new homes. No, “Gee, sorry about your luck.” The state has been as cold as it could possibly be toward these people. Why? Because it has to evaluate its options.
Time will tell what becomes of the SLIC-e campus. But this is an all-encompassing loss some are feeling much more than others. Maybe the campus will be closed for good and simply become a footnote in history. But let’s remember in the upcoming fight about what to make the building that innocent people have been harmed in all of this, and the state doesn’t seem to much care.

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