Share knowledge of 'Gorilla Project'

To the editor:

This letter is being written to express our concern over the still secret "Gorilla Project" in Brule and Spink townships in Union County. We have yet to have anything presented publicly to the citizens who will be the most directly affected. If this project is so "desirable" and so "terrific" for South Dakota, why can't the project developer come forward and share their knowledge and intentions with all of us?

If the rumors are true with respect to the size and scope of the project, we, as local taxpayers and neighborhood residents, have many legitimate concerns that everyone else seems to be ignoring under the guise of economic development, which in their minds is always positive and good as long as it creates new jobs regardless of all other consequences.

Our county, which we agree is one of the 12 best places to live in the United States, has neither the infrastructure nor the services available to provide for the construction and/or operation of such a large development. Furthermore, this particular location would displace farmers whose families have been here for nearly or, in some cases, more than 100 years on land that is best intended to continue to feed America. We are the best stewards of maintaining this land and continuing to improve the environment for our unique and picturesque natural habitat for bald eagles, elk, deer, etc.

It is our greatest worry that some people will desire economic development regardless of the cost to the rest of us. We agree that a continued growth in the Union County tax base is desirable, but we believe it should be done in a planned and measured way, requesting and building on the public input of our local citizens and in accordance with our current comprehensive master plan.

It would appear that our neighbors who apparently signed sales options have not carefully considered some of the possible results of such a development:

1) The loss of century farms, farmhouses, trees and wildlife.

2) Both storm and ground water problems that 2,500 acres of development would bring.

3) Who will pay the bills for the additional infrastructure such as roads, schools, law enforcement, housing, social services both initially and over the next 100 years?

4) The care of empty buildings and parking lots if the facility never opens or closes soon after it is built.

Let's hope that people stop thinking about the "almighty dollar" and start giving some consideration to their neighbors and the lifestyle to which we have all become accustomed and desire to preserve.

Burdette Hanson

Elk Point

Examine dog policy

To the editor:

This letter is written in response to the recent article on Police Chief Mabry's reaction to criticism of the shooting of Terri Peterson's dog, Patches, and the "get-tough" editorial in support of the Vermillion Police Department's handling of that shooting.

This article, written by David Lias, and Lias' editorial suggest that the dog, Patches, was vicious, that his owner was completely in the wrong and thus responsible for the "necessary" shooting of the dog, and that Officer Ryan Hough was therefore completely justified in shooting a dog within city limits.

There are several points that need to be made about this incident:

First, neither Editor Lias nor Chief Mabry was present at the shooting, and they rely for their information and opinions on the police report was filed by Officer Hough. Since the police report was filed after what can only have been a traumatic event for all concerned, including Hough, the public is entitled to ask how reliable it is, especially since the officer's characterization of the dog is at odds with that all those who knew the dog state to be true.

My son is a good friend of Nathan Peterson and is thus a frequent visitor at Terri Peterson's house. As with all of my son's friends, I checked out Terri Peterson's house when my son began to spend time there, as any parent would. I have petted and played with all of her dogs, and Patches was never "vicious" with me or anyone else that I saw there. I have absolute trust in Terri's Peterson's ability to control her dogs and in the good nature of all of the dogs that Terri owns. I know that she is a responsible dog owner and keeps their shots up to date. Therefore these dogs are not dangerous. If they were, I wouldn't allow my son to spend time there. Letters from John Skillbred, Bruce Gray and Cindy Gehm to the Vermillion Plain Talk have made the same point about Terri and her dogs.

Additionally, according to a letter by John Skillbred, Officer Hough violated procedure by not bringing along the equipment needed to restrain and impound Patches. Rather than return suitably equipped to follow procedure and deal fairly with both the complaint (the alleged "bite victim" who has admitted to only having torn her pants during an "attack" by Patches) and the dog's owner, the officer simply skipped the step of impounding the dog and approached him with an animal control officer. The point of this action is unclear, but its effect was to make the dog feel threatened so that he bared his teeth at the officers. At this point, perceiving the dog to be an "imminent threat," the officer shot Patches several time in the head.

It has been my experience that even the friendliest dog, upon sensing fear in a human, will itself become afraid and act in a threatening manner to defend itself. It would not be surprising if Patches had reacted to the officers because he felt threatened in this way. Had Officer Hough followed procedure and also involved Patches' owner in the capture, rather than shooting him while Terri was collecting proof of Patches' rabies vaccination in her home, the result of this incident could have been a happier one for all concerned.

While no one can reverse what happened and bring Patches back, this shooting (one of several recent dog shootings within city limits) should be investigated, and animal control policy in Vermillion should be examined and discussed.

As a useful starting point, I'd recommend the document "A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention," written by the American Veterinary Medicine Association http://www.avma.org/public_health/dogbite/dogbite.pdf which suggests procedures that recognize the rights of both animal owners and the community and promotes a fair and principled approach to identifying and dealing with truly dangerous animals.

Carol Leibiger


Keep an open mind

To the editor:

Economic development is a big job in South Dakota. Every year, we work with many companies interested in creating job opportunities for people in our state. In almost every case, the company requests confidentiality. The company looking at a project in Elk Point is no different.

There are many reasons a company chooses to remain confidential. It might be for competition concerns. It might be that employees at an existing facility might not know about the potential expansion plans yet. Or it might be a new venture and research is still underway on the feasibility of the project. The bottom line is, until the company is ready to make an announcement, we treat it as confidential.

Economic development is a competitive field. In the end, a company needs only one site; therefore, officials are constantly looking for reasons to eliminate sites. I hope the people of South Dakota are willing to keep an open mind about the enormous potential of any large facility in South Dakota that will create an estimated 2,000 jobs and will improve and contribute to our economy in significant ways.

Rest assured, when the time is right, all facts regarding this potential project will be openly discussed. When working with companies looking to expand or relocate to South Dakota, the Department of Tourism and State Development works closely with other state agencies, such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Labor, as well as community leaders and residents. Together, we will ensure that any and all projects are a good fit for our local communities and the state.

Agriculture is still king here, as it should be. And no one wants to change that. But we are losing our greatest resource every year to neighboring states and other areas of the country � our young adults who cannot find secure, decent paying jobs to plant deep family roots here, as their parents and grandparents did generations ago. We need jobs and a viable tax base to sustain our economy in the future, and now is the time to plan for it. Otherwise, the brain drain of our young will deplete South Dakota of a fresh vision and the institutional knowledge of what makes this great state one of the finest in the nation.

South Dakotans are noted for their integrity. Let�s give this company the confidentiality it requested and if we should be fortunate enough to land them, welcome them with open arms.

Richard Benda,


Department of Tourism and State Development

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