Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias You got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

And latch on to the affirmative

Don't mess with Mister In-between

This is the refrain to a famous Johnny Mercer tune. He may have penned these lyrics 50 years ago, but they seem to uniquely fit Vermillion and surrounding communities right now.

We've just experienced a brutal winter. We've watched our gas prices and heating bills soar. A slowing economy has meant job layoffs in Vermillion and other area communities.

It would be easy to focus on the negative right now. Retail businesses appear to be continuing their exodus from Vermillion's downtown. The snow has finally disappeared, revealing portions of the city in their true light � eyesores. The blight especially seems to be concentrated near an area one would expect to reflect some bit of economic and civic pride, namely The University of South Dakota campus.

Some of the student rental housing units in residential areas near USD are little more than shacks, with peeling paint, broken windows and yards full of junk.

Let's take a moment, however, to accentuate the positive. In our haste to identify all that is wrong around us, we sometimes fail to take time to note the positive things that have or are about to happen.

Let's focus on the area surrounding Vermillion, and work our way toward the city limits.

* The dreams and efforts of the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge Corporation are being turned into reality. Work is progressing on the Missouri River bridge that will link Vermillion with Newcastle, NE, and help bring more people to Vermillion to seek medical services, shopping, and education at The University of South Dakota.

* All of the land has been purchased from local landowners to preserve the historically significant Spirit Mound site near Vermillion. Nearly $600,000 in federal funds were secured by Sen. Tim Johnson two years ago so that the Department of Interior and South Dakota Parks and Recreation could purchase the 320-acre site. However, the final amount of the purchase price was not agreed to until now.

The purchase of Spirit Mound will allow it to be restored to its original condition � including native grasses and flowers � when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark visited the site in 1804. This news couldn't have come at a better time, as Vermillion and other communities along the Corps of Discovery route prepare to greet visitors in the next few years who will be retracing the explorers' route.

* Workers have begun drilling test wells near the Missouri River by Clay County Park for the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System. When complete, the system and its pipeline network will serve Sioux Falls and 21 other towns and rural water systems in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. Vermillion city leaders are studying data to determine if it would be feasible to tap into the system as a source of raw water for the city.

* The Buffalo Run Winery has risen in the past year on a bluff on the western outskirts of Vermillion, and from all appearances has been busy since its doors opened, hosting banquets, dances and other social events. The winery and its bed and breakfast is a shining example of how specialized businesses can find success here.

* Giant cranes are at work at the DakotaDome on the USD campus, as crews begin the daunting task of replacing the structure's fabric roof with a new rigid insulated steel roof. The $11 million project is scheduled for completion at the end of August, 2001.

* A couple blocks south of the Dome on Dakota Street, another construction firm has been busy since late last summer, building Vermillion's new $1.2 million fire/ambulance safety station.

* Workers have been making good progress on the new addition to Vermillion High School, made possible by public approval of a $3.2 million bond issue two years ago and over $2 million in capital outlay certificates. When the project is complete, the high school will feature a new 750-seat auditorium, a new commons/dining facility that will seat 300 people, a new kitchen, a new auxiliary gymnasium and an expanded library.

These are just some of the more obvious signs of progress in Vermillion and the surrounding area. The list could go on and on.

Improvements to the USD campus will be coming shortly, with plans for a new business school building, a new medical school building, and a revamping of the public television building and other university structures.

The city continues its Bluffs housing project, while Dave Hertz has undertaken a sizeable housing development of his own near the golf course.

We laud the organizational skills of everyone involved in the 2001 United Way campaign, which surpassed its fund-raising goal by securing approximately $80,000 in pledges.

This paper was printed just hours before the community met Craig Atkins, the new director of the Vermillion Development Company, at a social event Thursday evening at the Buffalo Run Winery. Atkins brings a wealth of economic development experience to his new job here. With support from the community, we feel certain that he can accomplish many good things for Vermillion and Clay County.

And as far as the blight in Vermillion that we mentioned earlier � after this weekend, there will be less of it in the city thanks to Operation Pride which will collect junk throughout a portion of the community Saturday. Vermillion Beautiful, Inc. will soon spruce up the city's downtown with a flower planting project.

Let's keep on accentuating the positive.

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