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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, April 19, 2015
A word of thanks to volunteer firefighters
Thank you, volunteer firefighters.
Thank you for putting your lives on the line to save people and property.
You are mayors, mechanics, business owners, teachers and farmers.
You have given up your holidays, your free time and sacrificed your day jobs to protect others. You don't get paid, or if you do, it's very little. You don't receive benefits.
You jump out of bed at night when your town needs you. And you do it not knowing whether it will be your last call.
Valley Springs volunteer firefighter Steve Ackerman's last call came after 10 p.m. on April 12.
His crew was the first to respond to a house fire in Brandon. The blaze started in the basement, and homeowner David Smith was inside.
Smith was found and was later pronounced dead at a Sioux Falls hospital. Later, a team of three from Valley Springs re-entered the home to put out some hot spots.
Ackerman never made it back outside.
Forty-three firefighters have died in the line of duty in South Dakota since 1924. More than 20 of them worked for volunteer departments.
Across South Dakota, in the towns between Sioux Falls and Mitchell and Rapid City, there are volunteer firefighters who are the first on the scene at car accidents, medical emergencies, grass fires and home fires.
They do it with less training than a professional. They do it with equipment that isn't as high-tech. But they do it because they love their town. They do it because they love their neighbors.
And we don't thank them enough. We don't appreciate them until it's our burning house they are running into or our child they are tending to after a car accident.
We don't appreciate them until one is gone.
So thank you, volunteer firefighters.
Thanks to all the first responders.
Thank you, Steve Ackerman.
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, April 19, 2015
Beehive proposal needs more work
After being put on the back burner last summer, a proposed beekeeper ordinance is now making a beeline to the Rapid City Council.
If approved by the council, it would allow as many as four permanent and two nucleus colonies within 20 feet of a neighbor's house in a residential area. According to the state Department of Agriculture, as many as 40,000 to 60,000 honey bees can live in beehive, which would create quite a buzz in about any neighborhood.
But what is perhaps most striking is the proposal does not require hobbyist beekeepers to get a permit from the city, register their apiary operation with the city, prove they have training as a beekeeper, or subject beekeepers to inspections by code enforcement.
Instead, it unfairly places the onus for enforcement on beekeepers' neighbors, who would need to make a nuisance complaint to the code enforcement department to initiate a process that could lead to the removal of the bees.
The ordinance also has few requirements the hobbyists are expected to follow and even those are not as stringent as in other communities across the nation. For example, many communities require a flywall, which can be a fence, hedge, screen or any obstruction that makes it more difficult for bees to buzz on over to the neighbor's yard.
The Rapid City ordinance only "encourages" a flywall to reign in bees that can travel as far as two miles from their hives. The ordinance also says that beehives must be at least 15 feet from a neighbor's home, that adequate water is available and the beekeeper manages the hives so they don't create a nuisance.
When asked why the proposal does not require that beekeepers get a city permit, Assistant City Attorney Carla Cushman said instead it requires beekeepers to register with the state Department of Agriculture, which charges an annual $11 fee for the registration. The list of registered beekeepers, however, can only be released after a written request to the state, according to Bob Reiner, the state apiarist.
The ordinance is being pushed by a small group of beekeepers, who say they are concerned about the long-term viability of the bee population while pointing out the critical role bees play in pollinating flowers, fruits and vegetables.
But despite the best of intentions, raising tens of thousands of bees does not come without risks for beekeepers, who are often clad in protective gear while working with them, and others who in this case happen to live in the neighborhood.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, a honey bee sting can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, shock, a drop in blood pressure or cause a person to become unconscious.
Currently, the city only allows beehives in areas zoned agricultural, which are more open and far less densely populated. If the city chooses to allow beehives in residential areas, it should raise the bar and require a permit approved by a code-enforcement officer, regular inspections by the city and a flywall. In addition, it should determine if as many as four permanent beehives are needed in someone's backyard. Finally, if a neighbor complains that a bee colony is a nuisance the city should make it clear that it will move swiftly to remove it from the property.
This is more than a pollination issue. It is a public safety issue as well for those who one day might wake up to find a large swarm of bees in the neighbor's yard. Hopefully, the city council will keep this in mind when they discuss the proposed ordinance at Monday's meeting.
Watertown Public Opinion, Watertown, April 20, 2015
We say president saved best for last
In less than three weeks, Watertown will be the host community for a visit by the president of the United States.
By now, everybody in town, South Dakota and the surrounding area knows that to this point President Barack Obama has visited every state in the union except one. South Dakota is the last state on the list and on May 8 he will be in Watertown as the commencement speaker for the 2015 graduating class of Lake Area Technical Institute.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that South Dakota is last on the list. President Obama is a Democrat and South Dakota is a heavily Republican state. So Republican in fact that in 1972 when South Dakota native son George McGovern was the Democratic nominee for president he didn't even carry the state which sent him to Washington. D.C., several times as a United States Representative and Senator.
In addition, when President Obama was running for president he not only didn't win the South Dakota primary, he didn't carry Codington County either. And, of course, he didn't carry South Dakota in the general election later that year.
So that could easily explain why South Dakota is last on the presidential visitation list. Whether that played any role in the priority list we don't know, but if it did we understand. No hard feelings
After all, we're last on the list, or near last, in so many categories when it comes to national rankings that being last on a presidential visitation list is no big deal. The funny thing is things like that don't seem to bother us much. It seems like we almost take a perverse sense of enjoyment in learning we are last in something yet again.
"Oh, yeah?" our collective silent response seems to be. "What do you know? We've got a lot to be proud of here."
We've been described by some folks as people who take pride in our low rankings because we know when it comes to living daily life that being ranked on a list somewhere between the top and bottom doesn't matter a whole lot. Sometimes you're on top; sometimes you're on the bottom and sometimes you're in between. In the end, it doesn't make much difference to most South Dakotans because we know what it is to live here. And despite all the deficiencies that outsiders claim to find we know how special a place South Dakota is.
We live in an uncrowded, uncluttered state with wide open skies, fresh air and plenty of room to breathe. People are quick to smile, slow to question and respectful enough to let you go about your business without interference.
We know what we've got in our state, our individual communities and our quality of life here. We know when we need a helping hand we can count on our friends and neighbors because that's what friends and neighbors do.
If you read the Letters to the Editor section on our opinions page, every now and then you'll see one from a traveler who encountered a problem of one kind or another and got the help needed often with only a simple 'thank you' required for payment. That's unheard of in many parts of the country but just a fact of life here.
The philosophy in South Dakota is you help someone else because you may need help yourself someday. People these days call it 'paying forward' and it's kind of a trendy thing to do. We've been doing it since territorial days because it's the right thing to do.
So welcome to South Dakota, Mr. President, and more importantly welcome to Watertown. We like to think you saved the best for last.