PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A majority of the Legislature’s Executive Board decided to open the checkbook for $60,000 Tuesday and cover a study of state government’s current and long-range needs for offices in South Dakota’s capital community of Pierre and Fort Pierre.

The co-chairmen of the Appropriations Committee, Representative Chris Karr and Senator John Wiik, said the panel had approved a letter of intent May 27 calling for the state Bureau of Administration to put the analysis together.

The bureau received responses from nine firms and commissioner Scott Bollinger contracted on August 24 with CO-OP Architecture. Its principal architect, Tom Hurlbert of Sioux Falls, is a member of the State Historical Society board of trustees.

Karr, a Sioux Falls Republican, and Wiik, a Big Stone City Republican, asked the Executive Board to tap the Legislature’s priority account. The board’s chairman, Senator Brock Greenfield, a Clark Republican, said the account balance was more than $1 million. After a lengthy discussion, the board voted 9-5 to take the $60,000 from there.

Voting yes were Senate Republican leader Kris Langer of Dell Rapids; Republican senators Greenfield, Jim Bolin of Canton, Jim Stalzer of Sioux Falls and Jim White of Huron; House Speaker Steve Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican; and House Republicans Spencer Gosch of Glenham, Chris Johnson of Rapid City and John Mills of Volga.

“The best of bad options is to pay this and move on,” Bolin said. Haugaard said it’s all state funds — “Ultimately it’s just which pocket does this come out of.” — and suggested there be clarification in future letters. “This is a lesson learned,” Greenfield said, adding, “We have to be clear what our real expectations are.” 

Nos came from Senator Bob Ewing, a Spearfish Republican; Senate Democrat leader Troy Heinert of Mission; House Republicans Randy Gross of Elkton and Sue Peterson of Sioux Falls; and House Democratic leader Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls.

Heinert asked why the $60,000 wasn’t in the budget that the appropriators approved in March. “I just don’t see why it’s in front of us now,” he said. “I’m having big trouble reconciling why BOA’s budget wasn’t increased during that time.”

Karr and Wiik said it wouldn’t happen again.

Appropriators decided to have the study done after they visited the building that houses the state Department of Tribal Relations, a one-story brick structure at 302 E. Dakota Avenue in Pierre. They saw sub-par conditions including broken furniture, according to Wiik. “We’re just trying to create fairness among state employees,” he said.

 Said Karr, “I think there’s some lessons to be learned here.” Funding expectations need to be clearly communicated going forward, he said: “We’re going to receive a report in a couple of weeks and we need to pay for this – somebody needs to pay for this.”