SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota’s Department of Corrections Secretary Kellie Wasko will not be meeting Thursday with a group of Lincoln County landowners and residents concerned about the site chosen by the state for a proposed men’s prison in the county.

Sam Eiesland, who lives near the proposed site between Harrisburg and Canton and is a board member of the group NOPE, tells KELOLAND News the group had invited Wasko and Ryan Brunner with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s office to a public forum to discuss the prison site. The forum was set for Thursday night, but Eiesland says Wasko and Brunner declined the invitation.

NOPE stands for “neighbors opposing prison expansion.”

According to a Tuesday letter from DOC general counsel Addyson Aguirre, the state had invited NOPE to meet with Wasko as well as department staff at a separate location before a lawsuit was filed against the state, DOC and Wasko. Aguirre writes in the letter that “after reviewing the filed Complaint, an informational meeting is no longer possible.”

“Why can’t they come talk to us?” Eiesland asked KELOLAND News over the phone on Wednesday.

NOPE’s lawyer Arvid Swanson says in a Wednesday letter to Aguirre regarding the forum that he “can assure you that there will be a seat at the table for Secretary Wasko, as well as other local officials, including County Board members and legislators.” Swanson also says in the letter that if Wasko is not there “I further suspect that her absence will speak much louder than mere words ever could.”

The prison would be located roughly five miles south of Harrisburg and eight miles northwest of Canton; it would replace the majority of the existing prison in Sioux Falls that was built in 1881. A study and prison officials have said that the facility is out-of-date and beyond repair.