Local News

Johnson among bipartisan group of lawmakers backing new 900 billion stimulus plan

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the senate and house, including South Dakota’s Dusty Johnson have come out with a compromise proposal for COVID-19 relief.  Republican senator Mitt Romney spoke at a press conference about the bill which proposes $908 billion in spending that would include an additional $228 billion into the paycheck protection program.  State and local governments would receive aid under this bill as well, but not included was direct stimulus checks to American citizens.  US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and House speaker Nancy Pelosi are scheduled to meet Tuesday.  The two have not negotiated on COVID-19 relief since before the Nov. 3rd election.    

Sobriety checkpoints announced for December

South Dakota’s Department of Public Safety has released the list of counties where sobriety checkpoints are planned to be held during December.


Monthly checkpoints are designed to discourage drivers from drinking and then driving. The checkpoints are funded by the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety and conducted by the South Dakota Highway Patrol with the help of local law enforcement.


Officials plan to hold 21 checkpoints in 16 different counties. The counties are: Beadle, Brown, Brule, Codington, Custer, Hutchinson, Jackson, Lake, Lawrence, Lincoln, Minnehaha, Meade, Pennington, Roberts, Stanley and Yankton.


Both the Office of Highway Safety and the Highway Patrol are part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

Remains found in Watertown cold case not that of missing person

Deuel county authorities say remains found at the bottom of a well at the center of a cold case were animal bones and not the bones of Pamela Dunn, a Watertown woman who went missing in December 2001.  Investigators excavated on an abandon farm near Clear Lake on Nov. 3rd following a tip Dunn’s body may have been dumped there.  Analysts have determined the remains belonged to an animal likely a deer or young calf.  Investigators say the search for Dunn will continue despite this setback. 

One person sentenced in case which sent Central into a lockdown

One person has been sentenced in connection to an incident which forced Aberdeen Central into a lockdown earlier this month.  18-year-old Carson M. Fridrich of Sioux Falls pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a bb gun on school premises.  He will serve 60 days in jail, 58 suspended with credit for two days served.  He was also ordered to pay $397.  Two other people have been charged in this incident. 

PUC approves new solar farm planned near New Underwood

 The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has approved a new 1,500 acre solar farm planned for near New Underwood South Dakota.  This is the first solar farm in South Dakota large enough to require a permit from the state.  PUC commissioner Chris Nelson says this is likely the first of many new green energy projects…



Gov. Noem names Tiffany Sanderson next Sec. of Education

Today, Governor Kristi Noem announced that she will appoint Tiffany Sanderson to be the next Secretary of Education. Sanderson currently serves as a senior policy advisor for Governor Noem. In that role, her portfolio includes K-12 education, higher education, and workforce development.

“Tiffany will be a great leader for the Department of Education, and a true champion for our students, educators, and schools,” said Governor Noem.


Sanderson’s career as an educator has focused on youth development; effective instruction, materials, and assessments; education policy; and workforce development. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office in 2019, Sanderson led South Dakota’s career and technical education system at the Department of Education, including the four technical colleges, and designed learning solutions for school systems and businesses across the country while working in the private sector. 


“I’m extremely thankful to the Governor for this opportunity, and I’m excited to partner with educators as we set out to help our students in South Dakota,” said Sanderson. “As a mom of a middle schooler, we can waste no time in strengthening our education system. It’s the most important work we can do for our kids and communities.”


Sanderson lives in Pierre with her husband and son. She graduated from Lemmon High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from South Dakota State University, and master’s degree in administration with an emphasis in human resource management from the University of South Dakota.

The Governor’s appointment of Sanderson is effective December 9, 2020. Sanderson will succeed Dr. Ben Jones, who has been named the new executive director of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Conde man identified in Spink county fatal crash

A 22-year-old Conde, S.D. man has been identified as the person who died early Wednesday morning in a one-vehicle crash southeast of Conde.


A 2002 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup was westbound on South Dakota Highway 20. The vehicle went into the north ditch, back across the roadway and into the south ditch where it rolled.


Dawson Smith, who was the driver, was thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt. He was the only occupant.


South Dakota’s Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. All information released so far is only preliminary.


The Highway Patrol is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.


Unemployment numbers released for the week of Nov. 15th-21st

During the week of Nov. 15-21, a total of 681 initial weekly claims for state unemployment benefits were processed by the Department of Labor and Regulation. This is an increase of 168 claims from the prior week’s total of 513.


A total of $708,000 was paid out in state benefits, in addition to $378,000 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), $315,000 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and $205,000 in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits.


The Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund balance was $122.5 million on Nov. 22.


The latest number of continued state claims is 3,690 for the week ending Nov. 14, an increase of 210 from the prior week’s total of 3,480. This indicates the number of unemployed workers eligible for and receiving benefits after their initial claim.


Benefits paid since March 16:

  • Regular State = $88.9 million
  • FPUC = $209.3 million
  • PUA = $17.1 million
  • PEUC = $3.1 million


Total = Approximately $318.4 million

Religious group organizes temporary memorial for those who died from COVID-19 in South Dakota

In an effort to symbolize those we have lost in South Dakota due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group lead by a faith organization has created a temporary memorial at the state’s capital in Pierre. 


Stop the Spread SD, a group sponsored by the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, set up 849 empty chairs to symbolize all those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 within South Dakota. 


A woman named Ashley helped put the display on and talk about what the display means to her...





Ashley's husband Joseph addressed the crowed and livestream once the event started...




The group set up the memorial to try and raise further awareness this Thanksgiving holiday and remind South Dakotan’s to social distance, mask up and help try and stop the spread of the virus. 

SD Supreme Court upholds rape conviction of Snodgrass

(KCCR - Pierre, SD) The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a Pierre man sentenced to a combined 200 years in prison on multiple rape and sexual contact charges in a 2019 child rape case.  Brandon Snodgrass is serving a 100 year sentence with 100 years of concurrent time on eight counts of first degree child rape and four counts of sexual contact with a minor.  Former Hughes County States Attorney Roxanne Hammond says Snodgrass can continue appeals of the case…





Snodgrass appealed to South Dakota’s High Court on six different issues.  They include whether the grand jury indictment violated his due process rights; whether the Court abused its discretion in admitting some evidence, including internet searches and evidence found on electronic devices and if the sentence was not appropriate to the crimes.  Hammond says pleased with the High Court’s decision and what it means for the child victim in the case…




The South Dakota Supreme Court considered the legal challenges on August 24th and filed its opinion on the case November24th. 

One person killed in Spink county fatal crash

One man died early Wednesday morning in a one-vehicle crash southeast of Conde.


The name of the person involved is not yet being released pending notification of family members.


A 2002 Dodge Ram 2500 pick was westbound on South Dakota Highway 20. The vehicle went into the north ditch, back across the roadway and into the south ditch where it rolled.


The 22-year-old male driver was thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt.


South Dakota’s Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. All information released so far is only preliminary.


The Highway Patrol is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

Gov. Noem approves additional funds for distance learning

Governor Kristi Noem has approved a $468,850 grant from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to help the Northern State University Center for Statewide E-learning handle larger enrollments this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Currently, 2,400 high school students from 104 South Dakota school districts are served by the E-learning Center. That is an increase of about 22 percent over the entire 2019-20 school year, with spring semester registrations still coming in.


“The grant improves the work of NSU E-learning teachers because it updated the technological infrastructure we rely on to do our work,” said E-learning Principal Mary Cundy.


The grant has funded significant infrastructure upgrades, allowing for more seamless monitoring and support of high school courses that are delivered online. These improvements ensure a better overall product for students.


“This grant has had a tremendous impact on our E-learning Center and the high school students we serve across South Dakota,” said NSU President Dr. Tim Downs. “We are very grateful to Gov. Noem for providing this crucial funding.”


Last spring, Noem praised the efforts of the E-learning Center at a press conference, saying, “Northern’s E-learning Center and others have created greater capacity for supporting remote learning and educational opportunities throughout our state to get the kind of resources out to students that need it, and need to continue their education even though they can’t be in the building.”


So far this year, there has been a steady stream of short-term student absences for quarantines and short-term school closures as a result of the pandemic. When these absences occur, students join their classes from home via a live stream of the class during the scheduled class times or watch recordings of the classes.


“We have about 500 students studying from home long-term. These students are able to interact with their teachers and classmates in real time via their laptops. The quality of their classroom experience is the same, whether they are in classes on site or studying from home,” Cundy said.


About the Center for Statewide E-learning


Established in 2001, the NSU E-learning Center delivers distance education across South Dakota. Master teachers utilize 24 E-learning studios, including nine on the Northern campus and 15 located in teachers’ homes in the following communities: Bridgewater, Claremont, Crooks, Harrisburg, Huron, Ipswich, Letcher, Milbank, Northville, Pierre (two), Rapid City, Vermillion and Webster (two). To learn more, visit the NSU Center for Statewide E-Learning webpage.

Former Rapid City Catholic priest pleads not guilty to child pornography charges

A former Rapid City priest has pleaded not guilty to child pornography and child sexual abuse charges.  42-year-old Marcine Garbacz was just sentenced in another case to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from local Catholic churches.  During that investigation, authorities uncovered child pornography on a thumb drive owned by Garbacz and has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 18 in 2011 and May 2019. 

State fire marshal encourages fire safety during Thanksgiving cooking

South Dakota’s Fire Marshal encourages people to remember the importance of fire safety this Thanksgiving holiday.


Nationwide, Thanksgiving day is the peak day for home cooking fires. Fire Marshal Paul Merriman says that makes home fire safety even more important.


“Many people love to cook for this holiday or use candles, fireplaces and other heating sources to create that festive atmosphere in their homes,” he said. “But it is also easy to forget about fire safety and that could prove to be dangerous.”


Merriman says it is important, at all times of the year, to have working smoke alarms on each level of the home. Specific fire safety tips for Thanksgiving can be found here:


The South Dakota Fire Marshal’s Office is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

Jeopardy! to return with guest hosts for a time

Jeopardy! will be returning following the loss of longtime host Alex Trebek who passed away Nov. 8th and will feature for a time guests hosts.  Production will resume later this month and former contestant and champion Ken Jennings will serve as the first guest host. 


Trebek died Nov. 8th after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.  He hosted Jeopardy! for more than 30 years.  

South Dakotan's for Better Marijuana Laws response to Amendment A lawsuit

South Dakotan's For Better Marijuana Laws, a local grassroots organization partially responsible for IM-26 and Amendment A, has responded to the lawsuit filed challenging Amendment A's passage. 


Amendment A legalizes recreational marijuana usage for adults 21 years or older.  The lawsuit has been filed in Hughes county by Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Col. Rick Miller.  


The amendment passed Nov. 3rd by 54 percent of the vote.  The statement reads as follows: 


"We are prepared to defend Amendment A against the lawsuit filed by Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and Superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol Colonel Rick Miller. Amendment A was carefully drafted, fully vetted, and approved by a strong majority of South Dakota voters this year.


This coming week, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws will be filing to intervene in the case so that we can defend Amendment A against the lawsuit.


Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and Superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol Colonel Rick Miller are trying to invalidate Amendment A and overturn the will of the voters on the basis of two incorrect legal theories.


And this lawsuit was filed incorrectly under South Dakota law, as a “contest” to an election. However, the complaint has nothing to do with the manner in which the election was conducted and only relates to the text of Amendment A.


The first theory claims that Amendment A is not limited to a single subject. But anyone who reads Amendment A can see that every word relates to the cannabis plant. Furthermore, Amendment A follows the interpretation of the single subject rule used by the legislature. South Dakotans have a constitutional right to a ballot initiative process and it's clear that Amendment A meets the single subject standard.


The second theory claims that Amendment A was improperly enacted because it created a new article in the constitution as opposed to adding a section to an existing article. This manufactured distinction is unsupported in the law and is utterly insufficient as a basis for overturning a constitutional amendment approved by voters."

Aberdeen City Council fails to pass mask mandate at regular meeting

The Aberdeen City council failed to pass a mask mandate at its regular meeting Monday night.  The mandate would have required all residents over the age of 11 to wear a mask while in public, however there was no penalty for not complying. 


Councilwoman Tiffany Langer says this is about helping out our stressed healthcare system…






Voting for the measure was councilmembers Langer, Rob Ronayne, Clint Rux and Mark Remily.  Voting against the measure was councilmen Dave Lunzman, Alan Johnson, Josh Rife, Josh Reinbold and mayor Travis Schaunaman. 


A resolution strongly encouraging residents to wear masks whil in public remains on the books, passed by the council weeks ago.  


Councilman Josh Rife claims a mask mandate would alienate people who do not want to wear masks, causing them to feel shame.  He would prefer a partnership with the chamber of commerce to continue residents to wear masks and make a decision made by them... 





Councilman Clint Rux says it makes sense to mandate mask usage at this time becasue the council is in agreement they work at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and could save lives... 





Aberdeen mayor Travis Schaunaman pointed out several places he felt the ordinance was unenforceable and too harsh.  However, he was also unwilling to compromise as those in favor of the ordinance sought in the end... 


General Service Administration begins formal transition to Biden administration

Days after Georgia certified its vote and affirmed challenger Joe Biden had defeated president Donald Trump, Michigan did the same Monday ending any narrow path the president had in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election.  That comes after dozens of legal challenges filed by his campaign have been thrown out by judges and the claims of widespread voter fraud continue to be unsubstantiated.  With the Michigan announcement the General Service Administration, the office in charge of the formal transition of power, has acknowledged Biden’s victory and begun the formal process of transitioning to a new administration. 

Aberdeen city council to discuss mask mandate at Monday's meeting

The Aberdeen City council will formally discuss mask mandate at its regular meeting tonight.  This will be the first reading of this ordinance which would require all persons over the age of 11 to wear face coverings while in a public accommodation unless otherwise permitted.    The city council has already passed a resolution encouraging residents to wear masks while in public.  According to the ordinance there is no penalty for those who do not adhere to the ordinance. 

Lawsuit filed challenging Amendment A

A lawsuit has been filed in state court challenging Amendment A, passed by voters in early November, which legalizes recreational marijuana. The amendment passed Nov. 3rd with 54.18 percent of the vote.


The lawsuit has been filed in Hughes County and the plaintiffs in this case are Pennington county sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Col. Rick Miller. According to Thom the lawsuit covers two issues, alleging it violates the state's one-subject rule which voters approved two years ago, while the second issue claims the amendment itself does not in fact amend the constitution.   


“I’ve dedicated my life to defending and upholding the rule of law,” said Sheriff Thom. “The South Dakota Constitution is the foundation for our government and any attempt to modify it should not be taken lightly. I respect the voice of the voters in South Dakota, however In this case I believe the process was flawed and done improperly, due to no fault of the voters.”


“Our constitutional amendment procedure is very straightforward,” said Col. Rick Miller. “In this case, the group bringing Amendment A unconstitutionally abused the initiative process. We’re confident that the courts will safeguard the South Dakota Constitution and the rule of law.”


The lawsuit intial comment was signed by Judge Christian Klinger who was appointed by Gov. Kristi Noem in February 2019.  It was filed by attorney Robert Morris of Belle Fourche and attorney Matt McCaulley of Sioux Falls.  McCaulley led the Noem transition team in 2018 and is often reported as one of the governor's most trusted advisors according to South Dakota Public Broadcasting.


Governor Noem has released the following statement on the lawsuit: “In South Dakota, we respect our Constitution. I look forward to the court addressing the serious constitutional concerns laid out in this lawsuit.”


Department of Health announces first flu death of the season

Today, South Dakota reported the first influenza death of the 2020-2021 season. The death was reported in Potter County, and the individual was in the 80 to 89-year age group. To protect patient confidentiality, additional information about the deceased is not being released.


“Our sympathy is with the family. Their loss serves as a reminder to us all that influenza can be a very serious illness,” said Dr. Joshua Clayton, state epidemiologist for the department. “It is not too late to get vaccinated for this flu season, and if you haven’t yet received your annual flu vaccination, the time to do so is now.”


Clayton noted that flu activity in communities across South Dakota is classified as sporadic. In addition to one death, the state is reporting 4 lab-confirmed cases of flu and 2 flu-related hospitalizations.


Each year, an average of 48 South Dakotan deaths are reported to the Department of Health following influenza infections. To protect against flu complications, annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older. Groups like pregnant women, children younger than 5 years, people over 65 years, and people with chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization, and death. Healthcare workers and household contacts of high-risk populations, such as those with young infants, should also be vaccinated.


Influenza is a viral infection spread by respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Common signs and symptoms of the flu include fever of 100 degrees or greater, cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue, body or muscle aches, and runny or stuffy nose.


In addition to vaccination, to prevent the spread of the flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel;
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; and,
  • Stay home if you are sick.

Learn more at  

One person killed in Brookings county fatal crash

One man has died of injuries sustained in a two-vehicle crash Friday night south of Aurora.


Names of the six people involved are not yet being released pending notification of family members.


A 2010 Ford Taurus was westbound on South Dakota Highway 324 when it hit a deer that had entered the roadway. That collision sent the deer into the windshield of an eastbound 2014 Chevrolet pickup. The pickup went into the south ditch.


The 35-year-old male driver of the pickup received serious life-threatening injuries. He was transported to the Brookings hospital and then airlifted to a Sioux Falls hospital. He died there Saturday.


None of the four other occupants of the pickup or the 17-year-old driver of the Taurus were injured. Everyone involved were wearing seat belts.


South Dakota’s Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. All information released so far is only preliminary.


The Highway Patrol is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

One person killed in I-29 crash near Watertown

One man died Wednesday night in a two-vehicle crash north of Watertown.


Names of the two people involved are not yet being released pending notification to family members.


Both vehicles were northbound on Interstate 29. A 1969 Ford Mustang was rear-ended by a 2011 Chevrolet 2500 pickup. The Mustang went into the east ditch and rolled. The 58-year-old male driver, who was wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene.


The 18-year-old male driver of the pickup was not injured. He was wearing a seat belt.


South Dakota’s Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. All information released so far is only preliminary.


The Highway Patrol is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

Groton clinic to temporarily close, Ellendale to limit hours

As the region continues to see an increase in patients with COVID-19, Avera St. Luke’s is taking additional measures in its surge plan. This includes temporarily closing the Avera Clinic of Ellendale and having limited hours at Avera Medical Group Groton as of Monday, November 23.


Temporarily closing the Groton clinic and moving to limited hours in Ellendale allows Avera to redeploy the clinics’ staff to areas of greater need, which includes Avera St. Luke’s in Aberdeen.


“We believe having access to rural health care is incredibly important, and we are committed to continuing to serve these towns in the future,” said Todd Forkel, President and CEO of Avera St. Luke’s Hospital.


Patients of these facilities and community residents should still seek medical care when necessary. Our clinics in Aberdeen are open and safe to visit. Avera also continues to offer virtual care.

The public can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and lessen the surge of patients by practicing good hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has affirmed that wearing masks can help communities slow the spread of COVID-19 when worn consistently and correctly by a majority of people in public settings. Masks are most effective when used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting.

Rapid City considers citywide mask mandate

(KOTA - Rapid City, SD) After three hours of discussion at last night’s special meeting, residents have learned it will take at one more meeting for the Rapid City Council to decide the fate of a potential masking ordinance.


The vote was in the hands of Mayor Steve Allender, who cast in favor of the masking ordinance, breaking the 5-5 tie, and making the argument this situation is once-in-a-lifetime.





Allender added there won’t be an increased police presence to crack down on masking if the ordinance were to pass.







The mask mandate received Yes votes from Ritchie Nordstrom, Bill Evans, Greg Strommen, as well as Laura Armstong and Darla Drew. Those who voted no were Ron Wifenbach, Jason (Salomon) Salamun, Pat Jones, John Roberts, and Lance Lehman.


One no-voting council member, Jason (Salomon) Salamun, conceded the disease requires precaution, but continued advocating for individual compliance.






The mandate still needs a second reading at a city council meeting before it becomes official.