- Associated Press - Friday, November 2, 2018

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Nov. 1

Water board dumps $7,500 down drain for private fight

Government has grabbed power by imposing septic tank laws under the guise of protecting public health and safety, rails George Ferebee, who refuses to go silently from public life.

Water-related diseases cause 3.4 million deaths in the world every year, according to UNICEF, so it’s easy to see how water protection might fit under the guise of health and safety. Septic tank laws certainly are an unlikely means of grabbing power.

Ferebee was charged in 2015 over allegations his rural Hill City property’s septic system lacks a permit, required to prevent septic tanks from leaking into streams and watersheds.

Ferebee believes the nature of his landholding makes it exempt, and he has repeatedly challenged the law’s legality. Over the years, city and county governments have rejected the departing Pennington County commissioner’s complaints, as have the state Water Management Board and voters - Ferebee lost to fellow Republican Ron Rossknecht by 32-points in the June primary election. So far, judges have also rejected his arguments.

This country affords wonderful freedoms - limited by well-considered rules like those that keep your sewage from making others sick.

One of those cherished freedoms is the right to tilt quixotically at windmill giants - or in Ferebee’s case, septic tank laws. After eight years of defeats in his ongoing political and legal campaigns, most people would recognize a lost cause for what it is. A law is a law, and if you can’t convince others to change it, you live within it. Flout the law, and you must pay the fine. Speeders, thieves and frauds confront this lesson daily. Contest a violation and you also pay the court costs.

Unless you’re George Ferebee, and you can convince a small, publicly funded board of cronies to back your quixotic campaign.

On Oct. 9, the nine-member board of the West Dakota Water Development District, which collects a total of about $200,000 annually from property taxpayers west of the Cheyenne River in Pennington County, voted 6-3 to commit up to $7,500 to fight local regulation of septic systems. The board’s mission is to protect water resources, and it’s hard to see how funding one man’s legal challenge does that.

This wasteful mistake isn’t on Ferebee. He can pick fights and pay the consequences. This inappropriate and misguided use of public funds is on the six members of the board who flushed up to $7,500 down the drain. Luckily, voters will get a chance to pass judgment on their action Tuesday.

Even West Dakota board member Jeannette Deurloo, who opposes the septic tank rules and admits Ferebee recruited her to the water board, describes the $7,500 authorization as an improper use of public funds to support a private legal fight.

“This is not the purpose of what we’re here for,” said Deurloo. “This is not in our bylaws that we finance legal aid to citizens.”

Three of those who voted in favor of financially backing Ferebee’s crusade - Ken Moss, Michael Mueller and Ernest Getty - face challengers at the polls next Tuesday.

For years, Ferebee has promoted himself as a warrior against wasteful public spending. Apparently he is OK with waste of all kinds when it involves himself.


Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, Nov. 1

We say

- In Passing

A sad THUMBS DOWN on the death of South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Steven Zinter, who died this week of complications following surgery. Chief Justice David Gilbertson recalled Zinter as immersing himself into every case with detailed research because he believed in the case’s importance to someone. Gilbertson and Zinter were the only two justices based out of Pierre full time. Zinter was appointed the 45th Supreme Court justice in 2002 and previously served as a circuit judge for 20 years. Over the years, Zinter and the other justices heard cases during Supreme Court sessions at Mount Marty College and the University of South Dakota. Zinter became a quadriplegic following an accident, but continued his law career and inspired others with his example.

- On The Alert

THUMBS UP to a new type of alert that will be issued by the National Weather Service: a Snow Squall Warning. According to the NWS, this refers to “sudden white-out conditions that move in and move on quickly. They typically only last 15 to 30 minutes and often cause flash freezing of road surfaces in addition to the whiteout conditions. If a Snow Squall Warning is issued for your area, it is best to avoid or delay motor travel until the squall passes through.” While perhaps not as sweeping as, say, a blizzard, snow squalls can created dangerous situations with very little (if any) notice; if you’ve driven through one, you know how hazardous they can be. Hopefully, these warnings can aid travellers - and maybe prevent bad situations from happening.

- Vandalism

THUMBS DOWN to the vandalism at the Apostolic Faith Church in Vermillion. A suspect has been identified and faces charges in last weekend’s vandalism of the church. The Vermillion Police Department announced the case was solved as authorities identified and interviewed the suspect, who was not named in the Facebook post. The VPD was working with the Clay County state’s attorney regarding possible charges. Authorities don’t believe a threat exists to anyone at this time. The Rev. Greg Robinson, the church’s pastor, discovered the vandalism when he and his son arrived at the church to prepare for services. A dry-erase board contained an apocalyptic message, and the church contained the smell of gas. The authorities were alerted, and services were moved to a parishioner’s home. Robinson, who is black, told the Press & Dakotan that he suspected race may be connected to the vandalism.

- It’s Time

As is our pessimistic custom (sorry, but it’s been a long week, plus it’s election season), THUMBS DOWN in advance to those people who forget to move their clocks back at 2 a.m. Sunday for the start of Standard Time. Yes, it can be a pain, but at least you get an extra hour of sleep out of it, so it’s a nice reward. On a more serious note, do also take this opportunity to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are not only in good, working order but also aren’t too old. The general rule of thumb is, if a detector is 10 years old, it’s probably time to replace it, even if the test alarm works. There’s never a bad time to play it safe in this instance!


The Public Opinion, Watertown, Nov. 2

Thumbs up, thumbs down

- Thumbs up: Job fair behind bars

Did you see the story in Tuesday’s paper about a unique job fair? It was held at the Mike Durfee State Prison, a medium-security facility in Springfield, S.D. Given South Dakota’s ultra-low unemployment numbers, and the fact that former inmates who land good jobs are much less likely to re-offend, this is a great idea. About 325 inmates met with 15 potential employers during the event, which was held after the success of the prison’s first job fair held last April. Putting former inmates to work at jobs that pay a living wage is a win-win situation. Companies desperate for workers benefit, and the state will likely have fewer repeat offenders heading into an already-crowded prison system.

- Thumbs up: Speaking of unemployment…

Watertown’s jobless rate sat at 2.8 percent in September, which is a pretty low number. But in October, it fell by nearly a half-percentage point to 2.4 percent. Only Huron, Pierre and Sioux Falls had lower numbers among the state’s 10 largest cities. The numbers show that the economy in South Dakota is doing well, and highlight the fact that we need to keep workforce development on the front burner. With so few workers available, many companies that want to expand may have difficulty doing so.

- Thumbs down: Follow the money

We reported this week that campaign spending on the race for the South Dakota governorship is around $10 million. But the time the campaign is over, the candidates in all likelihood will have spent more than during any previous governor campaign in state history. The big problem is that much of that money comes from out-of-state sources. Why would non-South Dakotans pony up millions of dollars in an effort to get a particular candidate elected to Pierre? We believe it’s more about pushing a particular political ideology than electing the best person for the job. When you see all of the negative ads, remember that it isn’t always South Dakotans paying for them. And most importantly, don’t let them determine how you cast your vote,

- Waiting to see: Out with Molly, in with Rocco

We don’t usually hedge our bets, but we’re not sure which direction this thumb should go. We’re talking about the Minnesota Twins’ recent announcement that they are replacing manager Paul Molitor with young Rocco Baldelli. Molitor was a hometown hero with a Hall of Fame ring, and Baldelli is a 37-year-old with no managerial experience. We liked Molitor and were surprised with the move, despite the Twins disappointing season. We are, however, willing to give the kid a chance and see what he can do. The last time the Twins hired a manager in his mid-30s, things worked out pretty well. His name was Tom Kelly, and he led the Twins to a pair of World Series championships before retiring. Let’s hope Baldelli can come close to matching TK’s success.

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