By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – Hot Springs Mayor George Kotti last week was forced to veto a resolution which had been unanimously approved by the city council at its Jan. 2 meeting, which named the Fall River County Herald its official newspaper, for the publishing of legal notices, for 2018.
In the mayor’s printed veto of Resolution 2018-2, Mayor Kotti said, while he believed the council acted in good faith when selecting the newspaper, “based on the high quality of the publication and the increased community interest in the Fall River County Herald,” it was recently discovered that a section of South Dakota codified law may actually prevent the city from designating the newspaper of its choice.
“We’re facing a Goliath – a big corporation – and their attorneys researched the law and, through much confusion that our attorney went through, determined that for a newspaper to be declared an official newspaper of the community, it has to have a publication office and mailing permit in the community that its representing,” Mayor Kotti explained to the audience at the Jan. 16 council meeting. “It did not and we decided that we did not want to fight that legally.”
While the Fall River County Herald has a newspaper office located in Hot Springs and mails a large portion of its subscriptions from the Hot Springs Post Office, its postal permit originates from the Edgemont Post Office, since it was formerly known as the Edgemont Herald-Tribune before taking on a new name last December.
The Hot Springs Star, however, which is owned by the Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises with much of its operating staff located in Rapid City and Chadron, Neb., does have its postal permit originating from the Hot Springs Post Office. For that reason, according to the attorneys who reviewed the state law, the City of Hot Springs is required to remain with the Star as its official newspaper.
“Obviously, we didn’t have the stones to fling at that Goliath,” Mayor Kotti said. “And that’s the reason, on the advice of our attorney, that I made the veto and the reason we are considering naming the Hot Springs Star as our official newspaper.”
With that explanation, the city council accepted the mayor’s veto and approved a revised Resolution 2018-2 and made the Star its official newspaper.
“Its disappointing that we find ourselves in this situation,” added Councilman Bob Nelson just prior to the vote.
Later in the meeting, City Administrator Kim Barbieri, who also remains as the city’s Planning Administrator, reported that the year-end valuation of building permits in 2017 totaled nearly $3.3 million compared to just over $1.3 million in 2016. In a phone interview later in the week, Barbieri said a big contributor to the increase was the construction of the new Dollar General building, but that there was also an increase in the number of housing starts and the number of individual building permits. All told the issuance of building permits brought in fees totaling $6,229.
Barbieri also said the city has narrowed down its applicant pool for the Development Coordinator position (formerly known as Planning Administrator) from 31 applicants down to seven.
She also reported that the Mueller Civic Center is exploring ways in which it can enhance its offerings to the public, since the Miss S.D. Scholarship Pageant has begun “shopping for other locations” around the state. See related story on page A1.
Barbieri said a meeting is in the works for February where they hope to gain input from various non-profits in the community, and from citizens at-large, as to how the civic center can better serve the city.
During Mayor Kotti’s report, he explained how he had met with the County Commissioners earlier in the day and discussed their concerns with how the city had allocated funding this year to Prairie Hills Transit. See related county story in this paper. Kotti said he addressed the county’s threat to hold back funds to the city library based on the city’s decision to decrease funding this year to Prairie Hills Transit. Mayor Kotti said he was welcomed by the commissioners and the dialogue was positive.
Mayor Kotti concluded his report by reading a letter he received from Wesley E. Jackson, a tourist from Indianapolis who had traveled through Hot Springs this past summer and thanked the mayor for his family’s positive experience. After reading the letter, Mayor Kotti provided more background to the situation, as he explained how the person was actually pulled over for speeding by Hot Springs Police Captain William Wainman. Rather than writing Mr. Jackson a ticket, Capt. Wainman encouraged him to instead spend the money, he would have spent on a ticket, at one of the local Hot Springs restaurants.
Jackson was reportedly so moved by Capt. Wainman’s gesture that he upped the ante by purchasing gift certificates for the police force and also contributing $100 to the town’s next fireworks display.
Kotti used the story to encourage other members of the community show kindness to their fellow neighbors and to guests of the community, because, he said, “Acts of kindness have the opportunity to grow.”
In other business during the meeting, the mayor and city council:
• Heard an Evans Plunge Committee update from Schuyler Wetzel, who was joining the meeting by telephone, and learned that the facility’s planned closure will be Jan. 29 – Feb. 9, 2018. There will also be a committee meeting on Jan. 18, where they will discuss the closure. That meeting however was closed to the public, Wetzel said.
• Recognized the Hot Springs City Library and its librarian Dawn Johnson for being recognized by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C., as one of the nation’s Star Libraries based on per capita statistical categories in relation to circulation, visits, attendance, internet use and electronic material usage. Johnson credited her current staff and previous librarian Cindy Messenger for earning the library this honor.
• Approved pay increases for 17 employees at Evans Plunge, ranging from $9.25 per hour to $10.25 per hour.
• Approved travel requests for trainings for both Head Librarian Dawn Johnson (workshop in Pierre) and Chief of Police Mike Close (Crisis Intervention Training in Sioux Falls). Councilman Bob Nelson said, while despite voting to approve Close’s request, he expressed concern that the cost of the event was using up 1/3 of the year’s entire training budget. The training will total approximately $1,000, leaving about $2,000 for training in the remaining 11 months of the year.
• Approved a Quinn Construction change order to decrease the final cost of the Boulder Falls Street Improvement project by $51,252.50 due to a final quantities used adjustment.
• Heard during Bob Nelson’s Public Works Committee Report that the city is working with Civil Engineering students at the S.D. School of Mines who may design the city’s proposed cantilever sidewalk idea along North River Street as part of the planned downtown highway reconstruction.
• Heard during Kim Barbieri’s City Administrator Report that the free dump weeks at the city landfill will be April 30 – May 4 and also Oct. 22 – 26, 2018. The fall free dump week however was later changed to Sept. 17 – 21 to try and avoid colder temperatures in the late fall.