This story has been updated with clarifying information from Southeastern Electric and information from the South Dakota Department of Corrections and the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The state of South Dakota will need water, power, sewer and other utilities at the chosen site for a new men’s prison in Dayton Township in Lincoln County but apparently hasn’t communicated with at least some of the would-be providers.
In its request for information for land to consider for a prison, the state said the annual estimated electrical usage was up to 12.47 KV. Todd Nelson with Southeastern Electric Cooperative, which provides energy to the area, said on Oct. 11 the state has been in contact with some cooperative team members.
Nelson said he couldn’t provide any context on how much electricity the prison would use because 12.47KV is not a measure of usage. Instead, it’s a designation for the cooperative normal distribution line, Nelson said.
The prison would also need an estimated 150,000 gallons of water per day, according to the RFI. On Friday, Oct. 6, Robin Dykstra, the general manager of Lincoln County Rural Water System told KELOLAND News “at this time I have not had recent contact with a representative of the new men’s prison about a chosen location.”
The prison would be located roughly five miles south of Harrisburg and eight miles northwest of Canton, which means it’s unlikely water would be extended that far.
The Harrisburg mayor indicated to KELOLAND News in an Oct. 8 story, the city was not willing to expand its sanitary sewer service to the prison.
“This site can have utilities developed at a reasonable cost for infrastructure and roads to be built at the state’s expense,” Michael Winder of the DOC said in an email response to KELOLAND News questions.
The state’s RFI said it could expand an existing sanitary system or build its own system.
Lincoln County commissioner Joel Arends said he’s curious about a state-built sanitary sewer system and if the state has the ability to use lagoons in a system.
“The use of lagoons to treat wastewater is allowed in South Dakota if the system is designed and operated in accordance with state requirements,” Brian Walsh of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources said in an email to KELOLAND News.
Arends and Michael Poppens, also a Lincoln County commissioner, said the county did not receive any formal communication from the state about the planned purchase of the state-owned public trust land in the county.
Poppens said he is “disappointed with the process” and would have liked the state to be more transparent with the county.
“It wouldn’t have made a difference if they told me three weeks ago or three days ago,” Arends said.
Both Arends and Poppens said the county does not have authority to regulate state projects.
The timing of communication doesn’t change that the county cannot regulate state owned projects, Arends said.
“Here’s how I look at it. The state just came out with an announcement about a big project. We’re in the fact-finding mode now,” Arends said.
Arends said he’s confident the state will listen to concerns and facts from the Lincoln County just as it did when property owners near Spring Creek golf course did not want the land used for a state-owned campground. The state backed away from the camping plan, Arends said.
Burdell Meyer, a superintendent with the Dayton Township board, also criticized communication on the prison location.
“I’m really disappointed in the state,” Meyer said.
One of the main roads, 278th Street, near the planned prison is a gravel township road. Meyer said he’s uncertain of a plan for that road, which will likely see increased traffic.
Another nearby road, 477th, is also a gravel township road, he said.
Winder said in his email that roads could be built at the state’s expense.
Meyer is also concerned about emergency response to the prison.
“A lot of these fire departments are volunteer fire departments,” Meyer said. They wouldn’t be equipped to handle a fire at a prison, he said. Where would the ambulance response come from, Meyer said is another one of his questions.
Arends too, has questions about emergency response.
“This is a small community popping up in the middle of now where,” Arends said.
The county sheriff’s office would be the emergency law enforcement response to the prison, he said.
The county needs to know how many times the Sioux Falls Police are called to assist and respond at the prison.
He would not be in favor of it if the required emergency response for fire, ambulance or law enforcement options cost the county taxpayers more money, Arends said.
Public comments at the Oct. 10 commissioners meeting indicate many of the county residents who spoke were not aware of the state’s plan to locate a prison in Lincoln County until they learned it in the media.
“All were disappointed in the process, those that spoke (Oct. 10),” Poppens said.
Residents in the area of the proposal “had no idea something like this would happen…,” Arends said. They will have questions and concerns, he said.
Poppens said the county has not projected growth in that prison area for at least several years. Poppens hopes the state uses the county officials, especially planning and zoning, as it plans for the prison in the county.
As one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S., Lincoln County has experience in dealing with changes in land use, Poppens said. The county has considered noise pollution, light pollution, transportation impact and other issues that accompany growth and new projects, he said.
“These are things we deal with. I believe we could add a lot of valuable insight,” Poppens said.
Winder said in his email the state selected land this fall to allow for survey and soil sampling to be done before winter. “The design will still take an additional year, and construction is estimated to be completed in 2028,” Winder said.
The prison in Lincoln County would replace the existing prison in Sioux Falls built in 1881. A study and prison officials have said the facility is out-of-state and beyond repair.