Bridge name appears to be a done deal

Bridge name appears to be a done deal by David Lias It appears that attempts by some Vermillion citizens to persuade local government officials to seek a different name for the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge have effectively been stopped.

The bridge's name is already set in stone, or more specifically, in brass plates that were recently cast and will be placed on the scenic overlook near the bridge after its dedication Nov. 10.

Mayor Roger Kozak also told citizens at Tuesday's Vermillion City Council meeting that the city doesn't have the authority to name a bridge on a state highway.

That authority lies with the South Dakota Department of Transportation. Kozak said he learned in a telephone conversation with a DOT official Monday that if a conflict arises among citizens in South Dakota and Nebraska on this issue, the state will not give the bridge a name.

Casey Davidson told the city council members that petitions were being circulated in the community in support of calling the span the Lewis and Clark Bridge.

"After some discussions, people have asked to circulate some petitions, and we've been doing that just to see what kind of public support there is for alternative names or at least for a public debate," Davidson said. "We'll be presenting them to the council in a couple weeks."

"What would it mean to present them to the council?" asked Alderman Jack Powell. "What authority does the council have to receive the petitions?"

"I think that since it's a state bridge, I would suppose that ultimately the state would be entitled to choose a name, but if it's presented to the city, I suppose the idea would be that the city would make it known how the people feel here to the state," City Attorney Martin Weeks said.

James Green, co-chairman of the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge Committee, said he recently spoke with Dennis Landguth, deputy director of the South Dakota DOT, Pierre.

"I talked with him last Friday when he was in Rapid City and indicated to him that we have a number of special interest groups around wanting to name the bridge now that we're down to three months before the time of completion and dedication," Green said. "I indicated that we've had this designated as the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge all the way along ? and despite the special interest groups, it will stay as it was designated all the way along."

Kozak said he is concerned about the controversy being caused by the bridge name dispute.

"The city council does not have the authority to name this bridge or any other bridge," he said. "The state of South Dakota Department of Transportation is the designated authority to name this bridge."

Kozak said he learned earlier Tuesday afternoon that this controversy has been brought to the DOT's attention.

"As it sits right now, I believe I can be confident in saying that the bridge will not have a name, because the state of South Dakota is not in the business of having disputes with neighboring states," he said.

Kozak noted that the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge Committee stuck with the planning of the Missouri River span year after year.

"Now, their efforts are becoming a reality," Kozak said. "They are being criticized for a name that has evolved, being the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge."

He noted that petition circulators favor naming the bridge after Lewis and Clark. "Here's a group that criticizes the bridge committee because they selected a name, and yet as I understand it, their petitions call for them to name the bridge," Kozak said.

Davidson said citizens simply wanted other name choices to be considered. "To indicate that we are casting dispersions on the efforts of the committee that has built the bridge � that's certainly the furthest thing we wanted to do," he said.

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