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Senate Rejects Bill To Retain State Ownership Of Former STAR Academy Campus

SD Legislative Research Council

An effort to retain state ownership of the shuttered STAR Academy near Custer has failed. 

State Sen. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, introduced a bill requiring the governor to draft a plan for repurposing the campus. The state operated it as a juvenile detention and treatment center until closing it in 2016. 

The state sold the campus for $2.3 million in 2018, but the buyer missed scheduled payments and the state repossessed the campus last year. 

Russell said there is still a need for a state-owned juvenile justice center. Other senators said it’s better to work with private providers to house and treat children in smaller facilities closer to their homes. 

Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, said the campus is a drain on the state’s finances. 

“This is a facility that was getting old, getting tired and getting aged, and frankly not going in the direction of even being able to move forward with it,” Partridge said. “The folks that were working there when we toured it when it was still open said this thing is really hard to stay up with code and to stay current.” 

The state spent $550,000 to maintain the multiple buildings on the 173-acre campus last year, according to testimony offered during the Senate debate. 

Russell’s bill was rejected 20-14 by the Senate. A previous law passed by the Legislature authorizes the governor to sell the campus, and that law still stands. The governor’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to SDPB questions about the future of the campus. 

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