Housing study to be completed by June 30

By Carol Walker

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As a follow up to the Comprehensive Plan previously developed by Hill City, the city council voted to move ahead with an agreement with Community Partners Research, Inc (CPRI). of Minnesota, provided the language of the contract is approved by City Attorney Frank Bettmann. This contract launches a housing study, which will provide valuable information for the city in future planning.

“What I’m excited about is that it will be completed early enough to get things in the 2019 budget if need be,” said Brett McMacken, city administrator.

Steve Griesert, president of CPRI, has already talked with about a half-dozen community people and will continue to do so, gathering information for the study, with the study to be completed by the end of June. After completion of the Comprehensive Plan, the city allotted money in the budget to commission just such a study, and will pay $5,000 for the services of CPRI.

The city council also authorized Brosz Engineering, Inc. to inspect the Major Lake Bridge and the Museum Dr. Bridge in Hill City in line with a federal regulation that requires inspection of bridges at least every two years. This project is funded by an 80/20 grant.

“I can’t imagine that the city’s cost will be more than $150 to $200 per bridge,” said McMacken.

Janet Wetovick-Bily, executive director of Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, reported to the council regarding the mounting tourism activity and outlook for the 2018 tourist season in Hill City. Visitor Information Center (VIC) visitors were substantially up for March as were phone calls and website information requests.

Wetovick-Bily is enthusiastic about the Lawrence & Schiler marketing that is promoting Hill City with digital, print and social media advertising. She said the primary goal for the campaign will be “putting heads in beds” and focusing on keeping the occupancy rate up.

This week on Wednesday, Apr. 18, the VIC will host their first InfoShare meeting in Hill City which will include representatives from Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower and Badlands. On Thursday, Apr. 19, Hill City will participate in a “Discover the Hills” event at Ellsworth Air Force Base, which will encourage more of our military members to visit the Black Hills.

Also coming up on May 8 is a visit from Midwest Living Magazine representatives who will visit the 1880 Train, explore Main St. and the Mickelson Trail, have lunch at Prairie Berry Winery and interview Sandy Vojta, owner of the winery, and Pete Larson, owner of Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. This is part of their bigger “Road Rally,” encouraging people to visit South Dakota.

“There will be an eight-page spread in an upcoming magazine, possibly July, encouraging visitors to travel to South Dakota. This is sponsored by South Dakota Tourism and has an advertising value of $163,000,” said Wetovick-Bily.

May 11-13 is the Best of the Best in Hill City, formerly Art Extravaganza, which is intended to draw people in around Mother’s Day Weekend. On May 22-24, Diamond Bus Tours, as part of their Crazy Horse Tour, will be in Hill City from 11:45 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. with six buses.

“The travel outlook for the summer is positive. Interest in the Black Hills Vacation Guide is up 100 percent, consumer confidence is high, gas prices are under $3 a gallon. It’s expected to be a great tourist season,” said Wetovick-Bily.

In other business, the mayor and council will stay put for another term as there were no petitions filed for those positions by the deadline at the end of March. Also, Deputy Doug Kimball will run for Custer County Sheriff, so people in the Custer area will begin to see signs for his campaign. The council approved a Retail On-Sale Liquor License for the Hill City Café.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m.

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