Letters

Letters Citizens urged to attend community meeting

To the editor:

We were asked by the group mentioned below to write this letter. Following the recent suicides in our community, we have attended a series of meetings convened by the high school counselors. The agenda of the initial meeting was to disseminate information about suicide, offer support to concerned parents, and assist parents in talking to their children about the loss.

In the second meeting, held on March 30, school counselors led an open discussion about the immediate and future needs of students, parents, staff, and community members. The clear consensus in this meeting was that the loss extends far beyond the high school. Elementary and middle school students, teachers, and parents have also been impacted. In fact, this kind of tragedy affects us all as a community.

Although these meetings were always open to the community, there may have been a perception that they were intended only for those who knew the young people who committed suicide or their families. Many of us cannot fully imagine what the families of these young people are going through right now, but we share their pain and mourn the loss of our community's children.

In addition, we recognize that in order to address the needs and issues of children and young people in Vermillion, we need to do so as a community.

We would like to invite everyone, students, parents, and community members to attend and participate in the next meeting, which will be held on April 13 at 6:15 p.m. in Vermillion High School Commons. Our community's children and young people need all of us and we need them. Our hope is that, together, we can begin a process that will be both healing and responsive to the needs of the Vermillion community.

Beth Todd-Bazemore

Mary C. Merrigan

Representing a group of parents and concerned community members

Consumers urged to review phone bills

To the editor:

This letter is intended to alert South Dakotans about two telecommunications issues which are running rampant in our state. Those issues are "slamming" and "cramming."

Slamming is the unauthorized switching of telephone service. Last year approximately 1,000 South Dakotans were victims of slamming. Cramming is the unauthorized billing for services through your telephone bill. Over 200 South Dakotans received charges "crammed" onto their telephone bill for such things as unauthorized website development, monthly psychic services which weren't ordered, or memberships to sportslines which weren't requested.

In an attempt to address this problem, South Dakota adopted one of the toughest antislamming laws in the nation. This law will force an offending telecommunications company to remove all charges from the consumers' billing and pay $1,000 to the consumer for their inconvenience. In addition, the Commission can impose a fine on the company of up to $20,000 for each violation.

Consumers are urged to review their billings every month to look for unusual charges. If there are any discrepancies, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will help consumers resolve the disputed issues. The PUC's toll free number is 800-332-1782.

Sincerely

Laska Schoenfelder

PUC Commissioner

Homeowners urged to test for radon

To the editor:

One of the most serious health hazards in our community is completely invisible. It is odorless, colorless radon gas � the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. For smokers, radon and smoking combined can dramatically increase their risk of developing lung cancer.

Because radon is impossible to see and smell, people tend to ignore the possibility that it might exist in their home. Yet statistics show that as many as 10 percent of U.S. homes have high levels of radon.

Fortunately, testing for radon is simple and inexpensive. The Surgeon General recommends that all homes below the third floor be tested for radon. The Environmental Protection Agency conducts the Radon Measurement Proficiency (RMP) Program to evaluate companies that make and analyze test kits. RMP approved kits are available at local hardware stores, other retail outlets, and through the mail for about $20. The state Radon Office can also provide lists of places where reliable radon test kits can be obtained.

Making repairs to eliminate radon gas can be simple as well. There are many qualified contractors in the U.S. who can reduce elevated radon levels for about $500 to $2,000. The state Radon Office can provide names of qualified contractors in your area.

I am concerned about lung cancer and strongly encourage patients and acquaintances not to smoke. I also encourage them to test their homes for radon. Reducing radon levels today may prevent lung cancers in the future. Everyone can decrease their risk by testing their homes and fixing elevated radon levels when found. Radon is a serious health hazard that has a simple solution.

Ben Taylor

Emergency

Management director

Clay County

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