Commission agrees 6-1 on security fence around South Dakota governor’s mansion

Capitol News Bureau

Photo by Bob Mercer.

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The panel that oversees the appearance of South Dakota’s Capitol and other state government buildings and grounds went along Friday with Governor Kristi Noem’s plan to build a security fence around the governor’s mansion as soon as possible.

The nay in the 6-1 vote by the state Capitol Complex Restoration and Beautification Commission came from former First Lady Jean Rounds.

Her husband, now U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, raised money to build the larger residence during the mid-2000s while he was governor. They were the first family to live in the new house.

“Sorry, no,” she said when her turn came during the roll-call vote.

Mike and Jean Rounds now live in Fort Pierre. Jean told KELOLAND News after the meeting that the fundraising committee didn’t want a fence around the house and her vote reflected that.

During the meeting, she asked how the fence would work along Capitol Lake, which sits between the house and the Capitol.

State Commissioner of Administration Scott Bollinger said a strip 30 to 40 feet wide would remain open between the shore and fence, so that the public could continue to walk around the lake.

Bollinger didn’t have a specific drawing to show the commission, but he said the fence would be 8 feet tall and black wrought iron, similar to what’s in place at the Hyde Stadium baseball field on the south end of Capitol Lake.

There will be motorized security gates for vehicles and a walk-out gate in the back, so the family can reach the lake, he said.

The cost wasn’t mentioned. A $400,000 plan started forward in 2019 during Noem’s first year as governor but then stopped after a Rapid City architect had performed some work. Bollinger said the goal is to finish the installation “as soon as possible” this fall.

State Public Safety Secretary Craig Price, a former head of the South Dakota Highway Patrol that provides security for the governor, told the commission the fence would be the next step in gradually increasing protection in and around the Capitol.

Security cameras are now inside and outside the building, and visitors must use the north entrance and go through a metal detector. There also are bollards and a fence around the back half of the Capitol, with the front to be finished before snow arrives this winter. The Capitol’s public hours also have been reduced.

Price said three of the 50 states don’t have protective barriers around their governor residences. “It’s always a priority, and more so now,” he said about safety. “The fence at the governor’s residence is needed.”

Another commission member, former First Lady Pat Miller, asked how people would be prevented from crawling over the fence. Price declined to explain how, but said, “There certainly are other things that are done in the overall security scheme.”

Bollinger said invitations to bid on the project were sent to newspapers last week and any interested companies are scheduled to submit their documents next week.

Tim Engel, a Pierre lawyer who chairs the commission, said the security fence would be an extension of what the group had already approved around the Capitol.

Another commission member, state Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson, said the Highway Patrol had “expertly” provided security for the justices for many years on days when the court is in session.

“I think you can’t have too much protection,” Gilbertson said, adding that what South Dakota provides is “woefully inadequate” to what he’s seen in his travels to other states.

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