Keystone comes to an agreement over licensing fee

By Jeff Smith

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The issue of unity and the need for a business license fee increase was brought up at the Keystone town board meeting on Feb. 21.

An ordinance revising and amending the fee for the business license was the catalyst for the discussion around the topic of having businesses be a part of the chamber of commerce. The original plan was to have a $100 fee for business merchants in Keystone, with $25 to go to the Keystone Chamber of Commerce and $75 to the general fund.

Some town board members saw it as a way to force businesses to be a part of the Chamber of Commerce.

“Not everybody needs to be part of the chamber. This isn’t Obamacare,” said trustee Trygve Nelson.

Temple Estrada, Keystone chamber of commerce director, agreed that it would not be a good thing if people saw it is a way to force them to join the chamber.

Sandi McLain, president of the Keystone town board, said that they would be glad to reimburse the $25 to anybody who did not want to be part of the chamber.

“What I feel this community needs is unity,” Estrada said. “That has to start somewhere.”

She feels like the chamber is a unifying force that can bring everyone together.

Mitch Johnson, city attorney, said the fee for business licenses should be across the board and it shouldn’t be uneven.

Karen Boland, Keystone resident, asked why businesses were subject to a mandate of purchasing a business license in Keystone.

Other communities in the Black Hills don’t have an extra fee for a business license. A South Dakota sales tax permit is what is needed in other communities.

Boland said that $25 is a fair cost to be in the chamber and wisely grow a business.

For $25 a year, Boland said the membership is really seven cents per day.

“For seven cents a day each business has a vote and you are able to run for a position and cast your vote in the annual election for the board of directors,” Boland said.

Through chamber of commerce membership, the businesses are given a voice to share how money can be spent with the chamber of commerce.

Vanessa Row, finance officer, said years ago the Department of Revenue found that businesses were operating without a sales tax license.

The fee was for the research and the set up fee for the sales tax license.

Estrada said maybe the town board doesn’t feel like the town is getting their money’s worth and they are giving away too much after trustee Bill Babcock said “they’re already getting half of our money.”

Estrada said all she wants to do is drive the sales tax so there are better parks, museums and cemeteries. McLain said if they don’t work together it’s going to be so divisive that the town is not going to go anywhere.

The town board approved for $25 of a $75 business license to go toward the Keystone chamber of commerce. They wanted to keep business license at $75 and then earmark $25 of it for the chamber.

The Town of Keystone also approved the ordinances for a $20 fee to be charged for the water at a property to be be turned off or on.

Another ordinance made it so bikes would not be classified as vehicles and validate the use of bicycles on sidewalks.

Estrada also presented the chamber report too. There was a chamber board training that occured on Feb. 27 and 28 to get the members to be more effective.

The membership committee with the chamber of commerce has taken an active role with recruitment. She said peak season marketing will happen using print and online advertising. According to Estrada, 90 percent of people plan their vacation online.

“The goal for Keystone is to get more people’s heads in Keystone’s beds. And getting people to spend their money in Keystone,” Estrada said.

The chamber of commerce is putting together a big book directory that will be in all of the businesses. It will tell all about our businesses and give employees a reference if they have a question about a business in town.

Robert Sharp & Associates is also completely re-building the Keystone chamber of commerce website. Estrada said the website was really good when it was done but it is considered old right now.

“It’s going to be more dynamic and interactive,” Estrada said.

The website will also  feature Keystone itineraries. Some portions of the website will be for Keystone chamber of commerce members and those in the Keystone community.

The Mt. Rushmore half-marathon is also going to be taking place this September.

“All of the hotel bookings are happening through the Keystone chamber website,” Estrada said.

Less than eight percent of the people coming to the half-marathon are from South Dakota. The organizers were also looking for a place to get 20 buses to shuttle the runners and other people coming for the race.

Lisa Schaeffer recently sent a letter to the Town of Keystone about the issue of a past due water bill. Another landowner in the Keystone area had a similar problem which was resolved at a previous Keystone town board meeting. Landowners are feeling a lack of control due to the fact that they are not able to contact the people or person who had an account with Keystone.

In October of 2017, Schaeffer’s tenant disappeared and she was informed that she would be responsible for their past due bills and would need to pay them to have the water turned back on. The late fees are $60 but the total cost for the water and sewer is over $300.

A restoration of the trailer was done before the tenants moved into it. Now, the trailer is uninhabitable.

McLain said the difference between this problem and the one with Derek Alexander was that Schaeffer has not kept up with any payments. Some landowners didn’t know they were responsible for any missed payments. The city has been in communication with Schaeffer, however.

Alexander had to pay half of the late fees for water on his property. The town board decided to have the city clerk send a certified letter to Lisa Schaeffer informing her that the board agreed to waive only half of the late fees and the remainder of the bill needs to be paid within 30 days

Cassandra Ott, city clerk, will also come up with a new ordinance that makes the responsibility that is placed on the landowner for unpaid fees more black and white.

McLain said South Dakota Housing Development Authority contacted McLain about Paint — South Dakota for 2018. McLain told the town board and members of the public at the meeting that they could let her know. Keystone has done it in the past.

A volunteer group is responsible for organizing the necessary equipment, as well as preparing and painting a house.

“The government, or South Dakota Housing, pays for all of the paint,” McLain said.

The intent of the program is to help someone in need. The owner of a single family residence should be physically or financially unable their house.

Jeanie Kirkpatrick, director of the Keystone Museum, thought that 2017 was the best year the museum has ever had in terms of visitors. Kirkpatrick presented the annual report at the town board meeting. There were 5,223 visitors in 2017; this didn’t include the students that came for the Living History event.

“We had a few days where there was back-to-back a hundred or so people,” Kirkpatrick said.

There were also people from 19 countries and 48 states that visited the museum.

Kirkpatrick said that 95-97 percent of people that come to the museum come for the connection to Carrie Ingalls Swanzey. 

Interns were employed at the museum over the summer for the first time since Kirkpatrick has been there.

“They were given some pretty big projects I knew they would not complete, so the projects are ongoing,” Kirkpatrick said.

One of the projects is the genealogy of Keystone residents.

“I have a lot of people that call and say ‘my grandfather is from that area. Do you have anything on who this person is?’”Kirkpatrick said.

In the future Kirkpatrick is hoping to have something where they could look up names.

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