By Travis Gulbrandson
The past year offered a wide variety of local news stories, both good and bad.
The following is a recap of some of the biggest that appeared in the Vermillion Plain Talk in the year 2013.
1. Skeletal remains found
A lower than usual water level in Union County’s Brule Creek led to the discovery Sept. 23 of a 1960 Studebaker Lark that was last seen 42 years ago, being driven by two 17-year-old Vermillion Girls, Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson.
The girls went missing in May 1971.
Although South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said the skeletal remains of two individuals were recovered from the car, DNA testing has not yet confirmed their identities.
Jackley did reveal that the Studebaker was found to be in its highest gear when it entered the water, which he said “would not be consistent with foul play.”
2. Tim Johnson announces his retirement
Sen. Tim Johnson ended weeks of speculation when he returned home to Vermillion to announce his retirement March 26.
Standing before reporters and well-wishers, with his wife Barb at his side, Johnson announced during an afternoon press conference that he would not be seeking a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
“I will be 68 years old at the end of this term and it is time for me to say good-bye,” he said. “I will not be running for re-election to the United State Senate in 2014 or any other office.”
3. Eagle Creek comes to Vermillion
Following the announcement of its arrival last March, ground was broken Aug. 13 for Eagle Creek Software Services behind the old Pamida building.
The completed facility will bring approximately 200 new jobs to the community.
“We think over the next 10 years there’s going to be hundreds of thousands of jobs repatriated to the United States from offshore outsourcing, and we think they’re going to go to South Dakota,” Eagle Creek’s president Ken Behrendt said the day of the ground-breaking. “It’s our mission, our goal, that we can bring those jobs to South Dakota.”
Eagle Creek provides consulting and technical expertise, focusing on customer relationship management, information management and applications development.
4. The Bliss Pointe development district
In April, the Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company closed on the purchase of approximately 30 acres of developable farmland as a solution to the shortage of affordable single-family housing in the community.
In July it was announced that the Chamber had been in contact with interested developers, who will be able to purchase lots from them. There will be approximately 114 residential lots on the development site.
On Aug. 19, the Vermillion City Council approved a required Tax Increment Financing plan for the project at its regular meeting.
5. The Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library is dedicated
A dedication ceremony for the Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library was held Saturday, June 1, a culmination of years of work to expand the facility.
Thanks to the expansion and renovation, the library has more than doubled its size to 22,890 square feet.
The library also has a new circulation desk, a lounge area complete with a fireplace, an expanded community room, automatic doors at the southern entrance and separate areas for teens and technology.
The project was completed in large part because of Edith Siegrist, longtime Vermillion resident and professor of library science at the USD, who bequeathed more than $800,000 to the project two weeks before she passed away in 2011.
6. Vermillion teen drowns at Falls Park
Madison Wallace, 16, of Vermillion, drowned March 14 after she entered the Big Sioux River to rescue her little brother Garrett when he slipped into the water during a family outing.
The incident occurred at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, in a stretch of river below the falls.
A bystander, Lyle Eagletail, 28, of Sioux Falls, also entered the river to help the two siblings, and lost his life.
Crews recovered Madison’s body Friday, March 15, and located Eagletail’s body in the churning river Saturday, March 16.
“Madison wanted to make it clear that she loved us by telling us often and by showing us whenever she could,” the girl’s grandmother, Magaret Knaphus, said during a funeral service March 19.
7. USD loses, then retains its ROTC program
It was announced in October that USD would be among several area schools losing its ROTC program, although the decision was reversed the following month.
The Army announced in November that it was suspending the closure of the programs and putting them on a probationary status.
The schools on probation that don’t meet criteria after one year will receive a year’s notice of intent to close the unit.
Programs that show improvement or meet evaluation criteria will be retained on probation for a second year. At the end of the 24-month period, those schools will be re-evaluated and either receive one year’s notice of intent to close the unit or be retained.
The USD program had fallen one student short of the Army’s requirement of 15 commissions a year.
8. City council gives tentative approval to Prentis Park plan
While no formal action was taken, the Vermillion City Council gave its tentative approval to one of four rendering of the Prentis Park Master Plan last month.
The council voiced its preference for Concept D, which has 80 parking stalls near the baseball field. The stalls are sheltered from foul balls by a canopy of trees and buildings.
The aquatic center is near the center of the park, with the lazy river feature to the north and the bathhouse to the south.
A public meeting was held to present all the potential plans in November, which was followed by the city stating its preference the following month.
The project has been estimated at $6-$6.5 million regardless of what plan is ultimately chosen.
9. Vermillion Red 13-14 Teeners are state champs
On July 28, the Vermillion Red 13-14 Teeners demonstrated they were the best of the best when they defeated Dakota Valley 7-1 to claim the Class A VFW South Dakota Teener Championship.
The win was the peak moment for the young players, who already had experienced plenty of high points during the year, ever since they began practice in mid-May.
It was particularly obvious during the championship game that the Vermillion Red received tons of support this season from more than just their coach. The grandstand and bleachers at Prentis Park were filled with parents, grandparents and friends of hometown team members, who provided a constant stream of vocal support and applause throughout the game.
10. Vermillion enacts texting-while-driving ban
The Vermillion City Council passed a ban on texting while driving in May, although no tickets have yet been issued for violations.
Vermillion Police Chief Matt Betzen said this is due mainly to the difficulty of enforcing the law.
“You need to be stopped in a stationary place (to spot texters), and the officers are either going on calls or driving around,” Betzen said during a council meeting last month. “One of the big things we do is speeding. Speeding is not on the intersections. It’s out on the roadway. It’s a different enforcement model.”
Betzen said this outcome is comparable to that of other communities with similar bans.
Despite the lack of tickets, warnings have been issued to at least two drivers, he said.