Keystone town board discusses water and H-2B visa problem

By Jeff Smith

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Keystone started off its April 18 town board meeting with a public progress hearing on the sewer plant project and Well No. 3 retrofit. Keystone is hoping to amend its  Community Development Block Grant funds in the amount of $242,861.

The total funding package is in the amount of $904,205. The estimated cost for both projects is $1,062,210. The shortfall the town is facing is $243,000.

Dustin Dale, operations manager for Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, gave an update on both of the projects. He said overall at the sewer plant there are parts that are in better parts than they thought and some are in worse shape.  The plan is to get the cell number two up and running this week.

RCS Construction is a contractor for the Well No. 3 retrofit project as well as the sewer plant project. The goal for it to be done is late June or the first week in July.

Two parking spots on Swanzey St. will be used during the construction. Once the well is above ground there shouldn’t be any problems with it taking up parking.    

Mineral Mountain Resources, Ltd. has contacted the Town of Keystone in order to purchase water from Keystone that will facilitate exploration activities. Mineral Mountain purchased water from Keystone before. This was between the years of 2013-15.

Vanessa Row, finance officer for the Town of Keystone, said they have some issues with the wells right now and there might need to be a change in how the company would be charged.

Keystone is far down the list to turn over water. The requested amount was in the amount of 200,000 gallons.

Tammy Gilbertson of Battle Creek Lodge said the city would be crazy to even think about selling the company water with the issues it has had.

Her two points was that it would be a poor decision to give away water with the current water situation and the past experiences with Mineral Mountain have been poor.

Carla Rae Marshall, member of the Dakota Rural Action, spoke about the issue. She was concerned with leach mining polluting nearby lakes and waterways.

“These mining areas that are coming in are not only going to pollute that one area but the whole western South Dakota,” Marshall said.

She said that they should protect water with every passion in their hearts.

“You guys are going to be be hopping as you normally do but you really need to protect that water,” Marshall said.

She said the tourists are not going to come to a place with polluted water.

At the end of the discussion they voted to not approve the request from Mineral Mountain Resources.

Trustee Justin Moss suggested buying a trailer with multiple dumpsters instead of having to rent dumpsters. He thought that it would be a good idea to have for the town clean-up day and then the trailer can be rented out to other people for events.

Keystone rents dumpsters at $550 a piece. Bids could be looked at before the budget hearing this year. Sandi McLain, president of the town board, talked about a letter that Ben Brink with the Powder House Lodge and Restaurant sent out.

He wants people to send out letters to elected officials about the H-2B crisis. McLain said many businesses are in a crisis mode now as they try to find help.

McLain said that the lack of H-2B visa workers are affecting 10 of the Keystone businesses.

“It’s making it to the point that many of those people cannot open on time,” McLain said.

As there is a low unemployment rate in Keystone there isn’t a large group of people that are being drawn out into the workforce because there aren’t any other people available.

“Maybe in other areas but here we don’t,” McLain said.

The omnibus spending bill passed into law last month nearly doubled the number of Visas allowed to 129,547, from the 66,000 cap. McLain has written a letter and emphasized that the H-2B program is needed in the Keystone community. What happens is that there are going to be Visa recipients not approved to come until July.

McLain is also looking for chamber members as well as residents to serve on the economic development committee. The committee is looking for a variety of different segments of the population so the group looks different than other types of groups.

There are six people on the committee already. McLain would like to have three more members. The goal of the committee is to establish a sheet of services needed in the community.

The plan is to work with  the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) to do an assessment to try to increase the services in Keystone.

“We need a bank. We need housing,” McLain said.

Lynette Gohsman also received more votes than McLain for the three-year term of the town board trustee. The official count was Sandra McLain with 25 votes and Gohsman with 31.

McLain would eventually like to see the city take over the economic development committee.

Jerry Przybylski, public works superintendent, talked about the Well No. 5 project and the work that they have done to hold steady at 85 gallons a minute over a 48 hour timeframe.

They were pumping 13 gallons a minute there last summer. Przybylski said it was previously drawing from the same cone of influence as well No. 4.

“It’s a lot deeper and drawing from a different pool of water,” Przybylski said.

In addition to the continuous work on the sewer plant they are going to be doing work on valve boxes. On May 7 they could either pull up some valve boxes or screw them down.

On April 17, Przybylski reported that they lost 135,000 gallons of water.

“The computer kept calling for water but the reservoir was already full so it was overflowing,” Przybylski  said.

One of the other reservoirs almost went empty but they caught it in time and a whole box needed to be replaced. Przybylski said the fix came at no charge since they had a box from last winter.

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