- Associated Press - Sunday, February 26, 2017

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - The owner of a hotel near Mount Rushmore has bigger problems than just a potential shutdown of his septic system by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a report published Sunday.

Mark Arend, of St. Paul, Minnesota, owner of The Lodge at Mount Rushmore, also owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes, and a lawsuit by Pennington County alleging that he violated septic system laws is due to go to trial next month, The Rapid City Journal reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/2lZlhNh ). There’s also an arrest warrant out for him for allegedly telling an underage employee to serve alcohol in 2015. The newspaper reported his problems with the EPA last week.

Arend told The Associated Press on Sunday that he’s working with the EPA and Pennington County to resolve the septic system issues and has spent over $37,000 in the last 12 months on system upgrades. He said the septic system is now in its best operational shape ever, and that the upgrades went beyond what the county sought.

He also said he’s in the process of refinancing the hotel, which will allow him to pay the back taxes. And he said he looks forward to working with Pennington County to resolve the misdemeanor alcohol charge.

“We look forward to getting all these issues resolved so we can welcome all our guests back to The Lodge at Mount Rushmore for a fabulous summer season,” he said.

Last week, the EPA said it intended to deny a permit for the hotel’s septic system, pending a 30-day comment period, alleging the lodge discharged wastewater onto a neighbor’s land and could be contaminating the hotel’s own drinking water and other nearby wells. Since then, the Journal has used public records and interviews to document Arend’s other legal and regulatory problems.

Arend runs the Winona Inn Limited Partnership, which owns The Lodge at Mount Rushmore, a seasonal 50-room hotel near Keystone that’s 4.5 miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The company acquired the lodge in 2008. It lost another hotel, a Quality Inn in Winona, Minnesota, to foreclosure and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The company emerged in 2014 with a court-approved plan to pay or partially pay creditors whose claims totaled $5.31 million.

Pennington County Treasurer Janet Sayler said Arend’s company still owes $368,257 in taxes. She said the bankruptcy has prevented the county from seizing the hotel and selling it to recover the debt.

Complaints about the septic system date to at least 2015 and have brought government inspectors to the hotel numerous times over the past two years. On some visits, inspectors noted a stench emanating from the system and observed raw sewage surfacing from an underground drain field.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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