Getting to know your candidates: Keystone

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The Hill City Prevailer News asked each of the individuals running for Keystone Town Board to respond to a questionnaire so that voters may better know their candidates.

The election is April 9.

Their responses are below, unedited and in alphabetical order. Candidates were limited to 200 words per question.

Mike Gammel

Occupation: Ministry leader/maintenance

Years lived in Keystone: one

My three main objectives would be to increase clear communication among council members and townspeople, to build bridges between citizens and businesses and to encourage commitment to positive change. The very breath of God is the only manifestation of life that brings forth a viable crop. If we the council, the Town of Keystone, and myself can come into agreement as a whole, I truly believe that the town and its people will embark not only on a productive future but rather a renewable one. My one true hope for the town is this—circumstances are addressed with long term, sustainable goals accompanied by manageable, cost-effective strategies that will set Keystone up for a fruitful future. I would be delighted to be a voice in these issues addressed and to be of service to the citizens of this community.

Richard Greene

Occupation: General manager of Rushmore Express

Years lived in Keystone: eight.

What would be your three main objectives for improving Keystone? Closing statement:

1. Focus on prioritizing projects.

2. Help to bring more services into Keystone.

3. Focus on unifying rather than dividing.

We have a wonderful community full of great people. I want to be a part of helping move us forward as a community into the future.

Jeanie Kirkpatrick

Occupation: Park ranger

Years lived in Keystone: three-and-a-half

What would be your three main objectives for improving Keystone?

1. Grants, obtaining grants for city projects.  This will help with the city budget. Also, obtaining grants for the residents.  There are so many grants for the private sector that the residents of Keystone should try to obtain grants for projects they would like to do. 

2. Recycling. We live in the beautiful Black Hills, as residents and businesses we need to become land stewards. There are many times during the peak season the local resources are stretched very thin. By recycling this could help the resources from being stretched. It is great to have so many visitors from all over the world, but our resources need to be here for many years to come. It would be great to have future residents hear from future visitors that their relatives visited many years ago and the beauty of the town and Black Hills is still the same. 

3. Year around. Making Keystone a year around destination. Vacations are not in summers anymore. This objective would take a lot of planning with the town, residents and business owners. Scheduling events that people would want to plan their vacations around. Many of the smaller originations do a wonderful job having “in and out” events. We just need to look into bigger events.

Closing statement:

Keystone is a very quaint town. The town gets many wonderful compliments from the many visitors that stop by, but there is room to grow. With the three objectives of grants, recycling and year around destination Keystone could go from being a quaint town to fabulous town where everyone wants to be. Grants would be a big step with the other objectives of recycling and year around destination. Studies have shown that when people know that recycling is taking place, they are more willing to stay in that town compared to one that does not. The Town of Keystone has so much to offer the visitors year around, we just need to come together to get the visitors here.  Remember, Keystone would not be here without the residents.

Kwinn Neff

Occupation: Geologic consultant

Years lived in Keystone: five

What would be your three main objectives for improving Keystone?

My three main objectives to focus on include:

Workforce development. Workforce development is important to Keystone because many of our area businesses continue to face challenges and uncertainties year-to-year finding enough workers for the summer season. This is a big issue for Keystone since our budget is almost entirely dependent on sales tax collected by businesses. Many business owners can’t plan to grow their businesses in the long term without the certainty there will be an available workforce. I hope to find alternative sources for seasonal workers including reaching out to college students in our tribal communities and surrounding areas who would enjoy spending summers working in Keystone.

Infrastructure Development. When I was on the town board three years ago, I focused heavily on obtaining monies to bring much needed repairs to the town’s sewer plant and also upgrade and treat our water wells. Since then those projects are complete or nearly complete.

The next step is to focus on the sewer collection system. This will involve inspecting our sewer lines for ground water infiltration, repairing lines and upgrading undersized lines in the system. Completing this will help bring down the operating costs at the sewer plant and will ensure we have the ability to handle additional services in the future. I would also enjoy having a discussion about funding for paving and installing curb and gutter on a number of roads in town.

Lastly, a priority project would be to work with the county to take a look at the safety issue with the pedestrian traffic on Old Hill City Road in the summer and find a way to provide a pedestrian path into town.

Economic Development. Economic development has always been a tough task in Keystone. Without other industries except for seasonal tourism and the lack of available land to develop more businesses, parking or housing, it creates a tough environment for economic growth. One opportunity I see is the continued development of businesses and land lots going up on Hwy. 16A towards the Keystone Wye. This area is going to continue to grow and Keystone should take a hard look at the feasibility of providing services to encourage growth in the area and possibly expanding the city limits to bring the growth into Keystone.

When it comes to growing our tourism industry, I will never stop exploring options to expand city parking. Based on the fact there are 3,000 to 4,000 visitors who pass through Keystone daily, compared to the 320 city parking spots, subtracting about 100 spots for business employees, we have about 220 available parking spots. Increasing parking space would have an instant, direct impact on increasing tourism dollars to our businesses and bringing sales tax to Keystone.

Closing statement:

There are many other issues, including a discussion about the direction of the Keystone Chamber. For a second summer we are beginning without an executive director. We have a new motivated director at the senior center and I hope to help her on finding funding sources to improve the aesthetics of the building and pave the parking lot.

We have to keep working on ADA issues at the park, finding summer activities to keep our youth busy and finishing the veterans memorial at the Keystone Cemetery.

I gained a good amount of experience the first time Keystone elected me to the board and I will have less of a learning curve this time around when it comes to understanding the basics of the town. I’m a good candidate for this job because I have a diverse background in dealing with many different issues, people and like finding solutions to complex problems. In the next couple of weeks leading up to the election I look forward to talking to my Keystone neighbors to discuss issues, receive input and would appreciate your vote on April 9. You can reach me through email at [email protected] if you have questions or comments.

Sandi McLain

Occupation: owner of Big Thunder Gold Mine and Big Thunder Bar and Grill. Was a teacher/counselor in Rapid City Public Schools previously

Lived in Keystone for 14 years and erved in Keystone board as a trustee for nine years previous.

My three main objectives for improving Keystone would be: I love this community. The uniqueness of all the people is outstanding.

1. Our town has so much to offer. The economic development association that we have started has and will work on a housing study. We will interview residents and businesses to find out where our housing needs are in our community. We need to bring more affordable housing, banking services and a medical clinic to our community.

2. To develop and add to our community park such as newer park playground equipment which follows the third phase in the park plan.

3. Consistently improve our infrastructure such as replacement of old water and sewer pipes in various parts of town. To research granting opportunities to pay for our services.

I love this community and feel that I have the experience, the passion and the fortitude  to push forward with these objectives. I will and have removed myself from officer positions on nonprofits that receive city funds to operate their budget. This will eliminate any potential conflicts if I am elected. I feel that board members need to be a vital part of the community.

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