The Norstar Federal Credit Union opened the doors of its new former location and will provide more office space, a conference building last week. The new facility is located just north of the room, additional storage, and two drive-up lanes.
Courthouse Debate Top Story
Plans for the new construction and/or remodeling of the current Marshall County Courthouse continue to be a hot topic among residents and county commissioners, and that story ranks as the Britton Journal’s top story for 2019.
Discussion has been ongoing for several years on what should be done with the over 100-year-old facility built in 1908, and in January of this year the County Commission passed a resolution to recommend construction of a new building on the same site as the existing courthouse, citing that it would be the most financially responsible. The county is in danger of losing its jail and 911 services without a new or remodeled facility due to state regulations.
A small group that had been assembled to look at different options for a new law enforcement center had agreed that it was more feasible and a much better option to build an entirely new courthouse than it would be to build a separate law enforcement center and renovate the current courthouse. But since that time the discussion has taken a number of twists and turns and still has not been resolved.
In February a petition was circulated in the county against tearing down the current courthouse. Six meetings were held around the county in April to discuss plans and get public input on a proposed $13.1 million facility that would replace the existing courthouse.
Based on public input received at those meetings, architects presented four separate plans to county commissioners in July, ranging from a scaleddown version of the original $13.1 million plan to $10.6 million and a $3.1 million plan that remodeled the first floor of the current courthouse for a jail and included building a separate building for offices.
In August Don Schumaker of Britton threw another idea into the mix. He proposed using the building that formerly housed Schumaker Home Furnishings located on the west edge of Britton for county office space.
A twist in the ongoing debate came up in September when Century Link, which was named to handle the county’s 911 system, said it would not install its system at the Courthouse unless the county would build an enclosed space to protect its equipment from bats. Dealing with the flying creatures has been an ongoing challenge for county workers for a number of years despite past efforts by exterminators to fix the problem.
The latest action by the commission at its first December meeting was designating $2 million in funding to be used for courthouse and jail purposes. It also asked architects to come up with some additional cost-saving measures on the $10.6 million revision of the original plan talked about at public meetings. The board said it plans to have a public vote on a bond issue for its eventual plan during the June primary election.
His community and the entire state has rallied around Britton-Hecla junior quarterback and linebacker Trevor Zuehlke following a severe head injury suffered late in the final regular season football game.
Zuehlke continues to recover at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, NE.
Following the injury Zuehlke has received overwhelming support from many other schools and teams around the state, area residents, and from people all around the country, including Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Numerous fundraisers have been held to support Trevor and his family, including an event held at the Britton Event Center that raised nearly $90,000.
In late November a number of farmers from Northeast South Dakota banded together on a Facebook prompt from Denver Nickeson. Soon 16 semis, six combines, and four grain carts harvested 600 acres of corn over two days. The group was “Pickin’ for #10” and made sure that the Zuehlke family had one less thing they had to worry about.
“That’s just what rural America is about,” said Laura Peterson, who helped organize the effort. “It truly shows that the small town is one big family.”
Farmers faced a challenging year from the get-go in 2019.
It began when the area received 94 inches of snow last winter with the final storm hitting in mid-April, followed by weeks of rain and cold that put farmers behind the eight ball in getting seed into the ground. Large numbers of acres went unplanted.
Chad Voss of Agtegra in Langford said it was the worst he had seen.
“In the 27 years I’ve done this, we’ve had various challenges and similar situations, but nothing quite like this.”
Crops that did get planted showed promise midway through the growing season, but additional challenges awaited. Due to regular rains, some fields flooded out, and those fields remained wet into the harvest season, making it difficult to get into fields.
Due to late planting and the lack of dry, warm weather, crops also did not dry out as they normally do. Few farmers were able to harvest corn below 20 percent moisture with some in the 30 percent range.
Corn still remains unharvested in some fields due to the lingering wet conditions. Farmers also fear that they may see more of the same next spring with soil already saturated. Water continues to run over White Lake and Hickman Dams and will likely run most of the winter.
A pair of local sports teams were on the state-wide stage this past year.
The Britton-Hecla football team put together backto-back perfect regular season records and advanced to the Class 9A state championship game against defending champion Canistota-Freeman.CF rallied in the second half to stop the Braves 46-34, but in a season that presented a myriad of challenges the local gridders were winners in the hearts of B-H fans. Long-time head football coach Pat Renner also announced his retirement.
The Claremont-Britton junior legion baseball team brought home a Class B state crown in August, and the way they did it had all the makings of a blockbuster movie script. The state champions were in the underdog role, won a pair of one-run decisions in the semifinal and championship matchups, and their head coach, Mike Frey, was in a hospital bed helping coach those final two games via cell phone.
In December of 2018 Marshall County Sheriff Dale Elsen had his law enforcement certification revoked by the SD Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission for conduct “unbecoming of a law enforcement officer.”
That story ranked number five a year ago and remains in that same position for 2019 because the situation has yet to be resolved.
In April Judge Tony L. Portra of Aberdeen ruled that the state commission should consider lesser sanctions for Elsen short of revocation of his law enforcement certification.
“Before we subvert the will of the people and effectively end the career of someone who has served as a law officer for 41 years, all the alternatives need to be considered,” ordered Judge Portra.
Despite that ruling, the law enforcement oversight board again decided unanimously to revoke Elsen’s certification in September. Elsen once again filed a stay and notice of appeal and the long-time sheriff continues to serve the county at this time.
“I would like to thank everyone who has supported and stood by me throughout this process,” said Elsen. “Due process continues.”
The Britton area continues to see growth through construction of new facilities to serve area residents.
A new clubhouse at the Britton Country Club opened for business in May. The new structure replaced a clubhouse built in the 1930’s and features a full commercial kitchen with lunch and dinner menus continuing during the offseason.
The Norstar Federal Credit Union also announced plans for a new building last spring and opened for business last week in its new location just north of the old building at 515 Vander Horck. The 4,800 square foot building provides much needed office space with eight offices and four inside teller stations. There will be more storage space, a conference room for board meetings, and a two-lane drive-through service.
Another first for the community happened in March when the first concert was held at the Britton Area Event Center. ZZ-3, a well-known ZZ Top tribute band, entertained area residents.
Demolition of a long-time Britton landmark is also expected to eventually lead to new construction. The City of Britton purchased the land occupied by Britton Livestock Auction on the south edge of the city, and the building was demolished in April. The city plans to make the land available for economic development.
Dream Coming True
Britton area residents have played a leading role in helping a dream come true in Zambia, Africa.
Last year Britton native Lana Lynn issued a challenge to her home town to raise funds to help build a badlyneeded community library in Susu Village in Zambia, and area residents responded. With funds received the land was purchased for the library, along with all required legal land title transfers and government registration.
Lynn stressed that the project is so much more than just a library for the Susu Village community.
“It’s really all about hope for a better life for their kids and community,” said Lynn, “and thanks in part to the generosity of Britton area residents that hope is alive and well. It’s difficult for any of us to imagine a place where adults, and especially school children, do not have access to books or toys of any kind.”
The total cost to construct the new library will be about $20,000, and additional funds are still needed. Anyone wishing to contribute may send donations to Elizabeth’s Library, PO Box 51335, Pacific Grove, CA 93950. Attach a note that the money should go to the Susu Village Library Project.
Relay For Life
The Marshall County Relay For Life marked its 20th anniversary in 2019, and during that time the event has raised nearly $1.5 million to help battle cancer and fund research for a cure.
Here are a few numbers that point to why the annual Relay For Life is ranked among the Journal’s top 10 stories every year: for the 14th time in its history and for the 13th straight year the event went over the $70,000 mark in funds raised; from the second year of its existence the Relay has ranked among the top 10 in the nation in funds raised per capita among communities of 10,000 people or less; and for eight straight years the Marshall County Relay For Life has been the top event per capita in the state and twice the number one event in the nation.
Everyone has been impacted by cancer in some way, and the event has become a local focal point for residents and families to remember, to celebrate, and to fight for a cure.
The fact that Marshall County schools continue to buck the trend of declining enrollments in rural schools around the state is a positive for the region and continues to make the Journal’s Top 10 list.
Both Britton-Hecla and Langford Area Schools reported modest increases when the 2019-20 school year began.
Britton-Hecla had a twostudent increase, boosting its total enrollment in grades K-12 and Sunset and Westwood Colonies to 417. B-H has 360 students attending in Britton with 182 in grades K-5, 87 students in Middle School (grades 6-8), and 91 in high school. A good sign of potential growth for the school is that there are 28 more students in the first four grades of K-3 than there are in 9-12.
Langford Area held its own, gaining one student over last year with a total of 212 in grades K-12 and Newport Colony. However, LA is the opposite of Britton-Hecla when it comes to comparing class sizes. The school has 50 students in the first four grades and 65 in high school.
A large number of area organizations, teams and individuals received special recognition during the past year.
Clyde Fredrickson of Britton was named to the South Dakota Hall of Fame as an inventor; Veblen native and South Dakota’s first threestar admiral Lyle Bien was named to the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame; longtime Hecla teacher and coach Terry Ulmer was named to the South Dakota Cross Country and Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame; National Farmers Union recognized Amherst farmer Paul Symens with the organization’s highest honor of Meritorious Service to Farmers Union and American Agriculture; and Mike Kraft of Britton was named to the South Dakota 4-H Shooting Sports Volunteer Hall of Fame.
Recognized as annual Heart of Dakota Award winners were Lori Amerman of Britton, Sharon Tisher of Amherst, and Richard and Jill Johnson of Brampton, ND, Community Involvement; Virginia Anderson of Britton, People’s Choice; and Jeani Amacher and Kelsi Heer of Dizzy Blondz in Britton, Customer Service.
Kyler Meyer of Britton-Hecla wrapped up a stellar prep career by surpassing the 1,000-point mark and being named a finalist for the prestigious South Dakota Mr. Basketball award. Alan Heer and Dani Dahme were named the Britton Bowling Association’s Bowlers of the Year.
Vonda Storley was named Britton-Hecla’s Teacher of the Year. Regan Ringkob of Britton-Hecla earned two top superior medals at the South Dakota State Oral Interpretation Festival. Five Britton-Hecla gridders – Wyatt Bray, Cole Fosness, Stanley Haskins, Jr., Nick Nelson, and Trevor Zuehlke – were named to the Class 9A All-State Football Team. Langford Area’s Hayden Reints was named to the Class 9B All-State Football Team. B-H grad Dallas Goedert continued to be a key contributor to the Philadelphia Eagles in his second year in the NFL. Britton-Hecla/Langford Trapshooting Team placed 50th in first national meet.
Stanley Haskins, Jr. and Emma Storley were named Britton-Hecla’s homecoming royalty. Jeremiah Hurst and Ady Dwight were crowned Langford Area’s homecoming king and queen. Langford Area’s Ady Dwight recorded her 1,000th career kill for the volleyball squad. Marshall County’s BB Gun Team placed third in the national tournament. Britton native and SDSU grad Alexandra Farber received the National Best Presenter Award at the National Student Advertising Competition. Zion Reformed Church of Amherst celebrated their 100th anniversary. Melissa Hunt of Wheatcrest Hills in Britton received South Dakota Healthcare Association’s Millie E. Olson Award.
Chesney Olson was crowned Miss Langford and Laney Widener the 2020 Junior Snow Queen at the Langford Area Snow Queen Contest. Jaden Jenkins was the Britton Area Snow Queen and Cassidy Biel the Junior Snow Queen. The Allen Siefkes family of Hecla was honored with a 125-year continuous farm ownership award. Kermit Pearson of Britton was presented with the East River Electric Power Cooperative’s 30-year award for his time on the board. Fort Sisseton celebrated its 60th anniversary of becoming a state park and former Britton resident Bob Perry was recognized for his key role in accomplishing the feat.