Hot Springs City Council passes new fireworks ordinance, discusses EPMS employee bonuses and Dollar General beer/wine licenses

By Brett Nachtigall

Publisher

HOT SPRINGS – At the Dec. 20 Hot Springs City Council meeting, the second reading of a new fireworks ordinance was passed by a margin of 6 to 1, with only Councilman Craig Romey voting in opposition. The new ordinance drastically changes the kinds of fireworks and the timeframe to ignite them, in comparison to what took place this past Fourth of July holiday when any and all fireworks that could be legally sold in the State of South Dakota could be detonated over the course of about two weeks.

According to the new ordinance, “approved fireworks for individual use shall be limited to stationary ‘cones and fountains’ and novelty devices only. No consumer fireworks legally or illegally sold in the State of South Dakota that are thrown, propelled or otherwise travel may be discharged. Additionally, no consumer fireworks that explode or provide a ‘report’ such as but not limited to firecrackers, aerial mortars, bottle rockets, skyrockets, etc. may be discharged.”

Additionally, fireworks will not be permitted when the Black Hills Area Fire Danger for Custer and Fall River Counties is High, Very High or Extreme, or if a Red Flag Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service.

Another change from what was in place this past summer is the timeframe in which the aforementioned “cones and fountains and novelty devices” and are allowed, which will only be from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July.

The first reading of the ordinance was passed unanimously at the council’s Dec. 6 meeting, but Councilman Romey appeared to change his vote on Dec. 20 after hearing a single person express their opposition to it during Communications from the Public earlier in the meeting.

Former City Councilman Tim Tescher spoke during the public portion of the meeting and said he was opposed to the new ordinance for a number of reasons, including that it would be impossible for police to enforce it. He also said, as a veteran himself, that the limited timeframe to only one day and limiting it to mainly novelty fireworks did not adequately allow him to celebrate his country’s independence, which he and a long line of family veteran members, worked so hard to ensure.

Council members Bill Lukens and J.R. Huddleston both said they appreciated Tescher’s comments but also pointed out, that no matter what the city council decided, a portion of the community would probably like it and the other portion would not. They said the wording of the ordinance was derived from several weeks of meetings with input from several community members, with fire danger and the health concerns of city residents as the main priority.

Also during the Dec. 20 meeting, a pair of public hearings were held, with both garnering significant back-and-forth input from the public and the council members.

First, a hearing was held in regards to the City of Hot Springs’ proposed application to secure funding from the Board of Water and Natural Resources for drinking water improvements, which take into account the city’s anticipated growth in relation to the current capabilities of the system. The application will request funding assistance for an amount up to $6.5 million and could include the construction of a new Madison aquifer Well, a well house and a 1.5 million gallon storage tank. 

Jennifer Sietsma with the Black Hills Council of Local Governments was on hand for the public hearing and provided the details and the requirements of the application.

Public input was taken from Don Olstad (co-owner of Dependable Well Service) and Keith Neugebauer (manager of Fall River Water Users) who both expressed concern in regards to the Madison Well, as they shared their previous experiences with unproductive wells being drilled into the Madison. Olstad suggested that the city instead explore expanding the capabilities of their current wells and then piping the water to the new storage tank.

Following further discussion, which included input from City Engineer Tracey Bastian, the council ultimately decided to reword the resolution in relation to the application which was more vague and thus allowed the possibility of either expanding their current well or drilling a new well.

The other public hearing which garnered significant public input involved the new Sherman Street Dollar General and their applications for an on/off sale retail Malt Beverage and S.D. Farm Wine license and a new on/off sale retail Wine & Cider license.

Typically these types of public hearings go unopposed and pass unanimously, however, three seperate individuals spoke in opposition to the business earning their requested licenses. Bob Paul, Larry Pratt and Carl Bochert came to the public microphone and opposed the new licenses due to the business’s proximity next door to the Skyline Motel, which currently serves as short-term housing.

All three expressed concern due to the motel’s history of drug and alcohol calls into the police department, according to the three men’s own recollection from living in the neighborhood. 

It was pointed out by Councilman Romey that the motel is now under new ownership, and that the new owner, Tom Iverson, was in the process of cleaning up the property and addressing the location’s previous reputation.

Ultimately, the council decided to table a vote on the application until Mayor Bob Nelson could have a conversation with the motel’s owner and also get input from the Police Department.

Another topic which received considerable discussion from the city council was a New Business item which would have approved a $200 bonus for Evans Plunge Mineral Springs lifeguards, front desk and custodial staff for the 2022 calendar year. In order to qualify, an employee must work a total of 300 hours in the dedicated position, as scheduled, over the 10-week peak season, between May 1 and August 31.

Councilman Romey spoke against the concept, as he felt it was not treating other city employees fairly, since bonuses were not offered in other city departments. 

When asked for his input, new City Administrator Jeff Temple, who was attending his very-first city council meeting since beginning his job on Dec. 13, said, since he was new, that he was not familiar enough with the situation to fully understand why the bonus program was to be implemented, but agreed to look into it further and report back at the next meeting. With that, the motion to implement the bonuses was tabled pending Temple’s input at the next meeting.

Fall River County Herald Star

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