Emergency procedures discussed

By Leslie Silverman

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The Keystone Town Board meeting centered around the recent May storm response by both Pennington County Emergency Management, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and city officials.

Dustin Willett, emergency management director for the county, addressed officials’ questions and concerns about the closing of roads and evacuation of businesses.

“Right now there’s no one place people are taken back to,” he said. “Dispatch was trying to keep a running tab of what roads were closed when. My assumption was that Captain (Tony Harrison of the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office) was up here keeping everybody on the same page.”

Discussion centered about ways to increase communication and contact in these situations.

“Historically we do not warn people when we close a road,” said business owner Tammy Hunasker. “Throughout Pennington County, there’s no pre-warning, which affected their bottom line. I absolutely understand the safety of this situation. A lot of businesses voluntarily evacuated, myself included. It (was) a pretty big financial blow. I probably wouldn’t have done that had the communication been a little bit more effective. The communication is really vital.”

Reports indicating that Hwy. 16A would be closed appeared on social media sites and impacted businesses during and after the storm.

“From my understanding it (the sheriff’s office) left the office saying we are going to close Winter Street,” said Keystone Finance Officer Cassandra Ott. “It had driven down Winter Street and decided it didn’t need to be closed. But that information never made it back to city hall in a timely manner. City hall called businesses saying Winter Street is closing and then it never did.”

Willett felt the discussion was “very helpful” and “actionable.”

Willett also offered that the pre-disaster mitigation plan was approved by the state.

“(Federal Emergency Management Agency) did get that plan back with some edits,” Willett said. “FEMA wanted some things added to it. So it’s back on our desk. We have a couple of tweaks to make to it.”

The plan has been held up for several months.

Discussion about a loading and unloading ordinance and loading and unloading zones in town also took place although no action was taken.

“This has been a topic of discussion since the 1970s,” Ott said. “At one point in 2003 they wanted to do an ordinance designating the northbound lane closest to the businesses. We’ve kind of just been word of mouth, ‘hey load and unload in the northbound right hand lane,’ and it’s been that way since the ’80s but there’s no law.”

Without an ordinance the rule is unenforceable and city officials are “hesitant” to enforce an ordinance that doesn’t exit.

“If you don’t have rules you don’t have (anything) in this town,” Hunsaker said. “We’re running into the same conversations.”

The board agreed to contact deputy Chris Plawman  to begin the process of enacting an ordinance to address this matter.

Members of the board were given a copy of a letter of engagement that outlines the work Casey Peterson is being hired to do in regards to the Keystone Chamber of Commerce audit.

The letter’s attachment outlines three parts the city is asking the firm to review —disbursements for supplies and expenses, payroll disbursements and a comparison of payroll to employees for “potential fictitious employees.”

DeShayne Hoag will be responsible for “supervising the engagement.” The report is expected to cost between $5,000 and $7,500.

The price of cemetery plots was discussed with again no action being taken by the board.

“To put on record the city has no plans to raise the plot price for local residents,” said board president Rick Brandfas.

However the board is looking into the legality of charging non-residents more to purchase a plot or limiting the number of plots that can be purchased at one time.

“It looks kind of ragged,” said Cal Loock in reference to the bathroom sign visitors see upon entering the town. “Hopefully we’ll come up with something that will work for both entities.”

Several discussions about what the sign should look like and what information should be placed on the sign have occurred at previous town meetings with no finalized version of the sign yet being approved.

Discussion about the speed limit and how fast cars drive down Watson Street took place with no action being taken.

The next meeting of the Keystone Town Board will take place on July 24 at 9 a.m.

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