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Rapid City reconsiders $1 million EPA grant to reduce pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a $1 million grant for pollution reduction efforts in Rapid City. However, Mayor Jason Salamun wants the newly elected council to take a second look at the plan.

The grant was awarded earlier in this year, before municipal elections, and discussed at the most recent legal and finance committee meeting.

Jamie Toennies, manager of the city grants division, explained the mayor’s concerns.

“We’ve got a lot of new members on Council who never got a chance to learn about this opportunity and vet this particular grant," Toennies said. "Then the mayor has shared some concerns tied to the elements of ensuring we aren’t being tied down to any unforeseen obligations with this funding.”

While Mayor Salamun was at the meeting, he declined to speak on the matter.

There was pushback over the idea of leaving a seven- figure grant out of the budget. Heidi Sieverding, a professor in the South Dakota Mines civil and environmental department, spoke at the meeting.

“It’s really a little bit worrisome that we’re considering saying no to this opportunity," Sieverding said. "This is just a planning grant. This is them giving us money to look at what our options are. Given the tourism importance – particularly in Western South Dakota and the growth of eco-tourism – addressing what can help us improve those sustainability metrics is, I think, to our long-term benefit.”

Alderman Bill Evans was on the council before elections. He’s familiar with the grant and said there is no reason to leave this money on the table.

“We’ve already paid for it once, because it was paid for through your federal taxes," Evans said. "So, I would rather not have to pay for it twice with local citizens money when the federal government says in a year or two ‘we just passed a new law, you better have this in place.’ As far as I’m concerned, it would be ridiculous to turn this down.”

The motion was tabled, effectively ending discussion on the matter. Unless a council member outlines concerns at the next council meeting, the city will receive the grant dollars.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture