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South Dakota State to host first state high school esports tourney this weekend

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South Dakota State to host first state high school esports tourney this weekend


Jeff Evenson didn’t know much about esports when he first heard that the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) was considering sanctioning it. 

“I kind of thought it was just a bunch of kids playing video games, and I was thinking, ‘Come on, get outside and go do something,’” he said. 

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But when Evenson began to learn more about esports through his job as a sales and marketing manager at Northern Valley Communications/James Valley Telecommunications and through his son’s interest in video games, his opinion started to change. 

“I learned quickly it was about connecting kids who have like interests,” he said. “It’s learning teamwork and communicating with each other on a team in pursuit of a common end goal. To me, that is a life skill you will need in the workforce someday.” 

That future workforce includes NVC/JVT and other SDN Communications member companies in the telecommunications industry across South Dakota. Several of the companies, including NVC/JVT, are contributing money and behind-the-scenes support to schools in their coverage area. 

For NVC/JVT, that means a one-time donation of $2,000 for Aberdeen Central, Northwestern and Warner high schools for the 2023-24 pilot season as well as a commitment to other schools that might sign up when the sport is sanctioned by the SDHSAA in the fall. The funds can be used for whatever the schools want, as long as it’s connected to their esports program. Aberdeen used the funds to help pay for professional coaching, while Northwestern and Warner are using it to offset students’ entry fees, Evenson said.  

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“We knew we wanted to be a part of it,” Evenson said. “This is not a traditional sport, but it is a sport that is near and dear to our hearts and our industry. These might be our customers and our employees someday, so we are embracing it.” 

‘What we do complements what esports is doing’ 

SDN Communications, a business connectivity provider in South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota, is owned by 17 telecommunications member companies. Those companies cover more than 80% of the state and hundreds of communities. 

Several members are supporting their local schools’ esports program as the SDHSAA prepares to sanction the sport for the 2024-25 school year. More than a dozen schools will compete in the pilot season’s state tournament March 22-23 at South Dakota State University in Brookings, and many of them are being supported by SDN member companies. 

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Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative (ITC), based in Clear Lake, provides Internet and TV service to more than 10 eastern South Dakota counties. It’s supporting Deuel’s esports team and will contribute to other schools if they sign on. 

ITC gave $3,000 to Deuel’s team, which includes player jerseys with ITC’s logo. Since Deuel already had an established program and equipment, the team used the funds for trophies, end-of-year awards, a pizza party and game-specific training, coach Michael Gohring said. 

The partnership was a natural fit, ITC CEO Tracy Bandemer said.  

“You need a good internet connection for esports, and you aren’t going to find anything better than the fiber internet we offer,” she said. “What we do complements what esports is doing. And then who knows? They might be our next employees. We are looking out in the future — that is just a good place to be.” 

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Deuel has been participating in esports for five years; Gohring said the school was one of the first in the state to start a program. Students built the team’s computers, teaching them valuable tech skills in addition to their participation. 

“It’s nice to have (ITC’s) support,” Gohring said. “They are a pillar in our community – literally a block away from our school.” 

SDN member companies all in on esports 

Like ITC and NVC/JVT, Midstate Communications reached out to all its schools in its coverage area to offer up a partnership, General Manager and CEO Chad Mutziger said. 

Midstate, which is based in Kimball, will contribute $3,000 over three years to schools that start an esports team. Mutziger said five have signed up to start a program, including Platte-Geddes, which received a $5,000 grant, including $500 from Midstate, to help kickstart its team. 

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Mutziger cited the workforce development aspect as well as the fiber internet connection as to why Midstate is getting involved, but he also said the company is happy to support a program that offers an extracurricular activity to some students who sometimes get overlooked. 

“Esports might reach out to kids who maybe weren’t involved in other extracurricular activities in the schools,” Mutziger said. “And it gives them an opportunity to be part of a team or be a part of their school.” 

At NVC/JVT, Evenson said they reached out to nine schools in their coverage area to offer support for an esports program. Meanwhile, the three schools that are participating in the pilot season are doing so in different ways. Aberdeen Central has a state-of-the art computer lab, while Warner’s team is competing and practicing from home. Northwestern has a combination of at-home and in-school practices. 

SDN member companies have connected South Dakota communities with the world for decades. Now they’re helping connect students in schools through esports. 

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“This sport is flexible for schools,” Evenson said. “It’s going to help connect kids. … It’s absolutely paramount and crucial that (SDN member companies) are involved in this. These are our kids that are in these schools, and this is part of why it has been so important for all of us to get fiber to these rural communities. Not just for gaming, but you are not going to have a successful esports team if you don’t have fast, reliable broadband.” 

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Noem dodges CNN questions on abortion exceptions and election certification • South Dakota Searchlight

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Noem dodges CNN questions on abortion exceptions and election certification • South Dakota Searchlight


Gov. Kristi Noem appeared Sunday on CNN and declined to say whether she supports additional abortion-ban exceptions or whether she would have certified the results of the 2020 election.

The only exception in South Dakota’s abortion ban is for the “life of the pregnant female.” CNN “State of the Union” co-host Dana Bash asked if there should be exceptions for victims of rape and incest.

Noem did not give a definitive answer but said, “I just don’t believe a tragedy should perpetuate another tragedy,” and added that she will focus on “walking alongside” prospective mothers in crisis situations.

Noem doesn’t address exceptions but calls Trump’s abortion statement ‘exactly right’

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“I’ll continue to do that and love mothers and families through these situations,” she said.

Noem also said “every state’s going to look different,” echoing recent comments by former President Donald Trump, who is considering Noem as a running mate in the 2024 presidential race. Earlier this month, Trump declined to support a national abortion ban and said the issue should be left to the states.

Trump also said he supports exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.

On CNN, Noem said South Dakota’s abortion ban “was passed decades before I ever became governor.” In fact, lawmakers passed South Dakota’s trigger ban in 2005, 13 years before Noem became governor and two years before her time as a legislator. The ban immediately took effect in 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a prior precedent establishing a constitutional right to an abortion.

Regarding the 2020 election, Bash asked Noem if she would have certified the results as then-Vice President Mike Pence did on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters violently attempted to stop the certification.

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Noem gave a lengthy response but never answered the question.

“Talking in hypotheticals is not something that I do,” Noem said, in part. “I deal with the reality of what I’m dealing with today and every single day. And what I’m going to do from now until we get to November is continue to go across this country and talk to people about Donald Trump.”

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Public forum highlights potential property tax political storm • South Dakota Searchlight

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Public forum highlights potential property tax political storm • South Dakota Searchlight


RAPID CITY — Some frustrated taxpayers attended a public forum Saturday to tell state officials they’re taking the wrong approach to taxation.

Several of the roughly 100 attendees said legislators and Gov. Kristi Noem should raise the sales tax rate instead of reducing it, and use the money to replace some of the local government revenue currently supplied by property taxes.

“I don’t think there’s any other way around getting our property taxes taken care of unless we raise the sales tax,” said audience member Beth Paulson, of Custer. 

Rapid rise in South Dakota home prices is ‘not sustainable,’ economist says

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One of the panelists, Donald Olstad, a Hot Springs businessman and former school board member, estimated that a several-percentage-point increase in the sales tax rate could wholly replace property taxes.

“And that would be a great debate,” Olstad said.

But elected officials and some political activists are moving in the opposite direction. 

Gov. Kristi Noem started a push for lower sales taxes during her reelection campaign in 2022, when she promised to exempt groceries from the state sales tax.

Legislators rejected that proposal in 2023 and instead adopted their own proposal to reduce the state sales tax rate from 4.5% to 4.2%. The reduction is scheduled to expire in 2027, unless legislators make it permanent.

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Meanwhile, a Democratic-led citizen group is circulating petitions to put a measure on the Nov. 4 general election ballot that would remove state sales taxes from grocery purchases.

Sales, tourism taxes discussed

Some forum attendees suggested increasing the state tourism tax. That’s a 1.5% tax on hotels, campgrounds and some other tourism-related activities. 

Beyond the state sales tax and tourism tax, cities can impose up to an additional 2% sales tax, plus another 1% entertainment tax on items such as alcohol, restaurants, hotels and events. 

Sales tax revenue goes to cities and the state. Property taxes go primarily to counties and schools.

State Rep. Trish Ladner, R-Hot Springs, is trying to convince her fellow legislators to do something about rising property taxes. She introduced property tax relief bills each of the last two legislative sessions in Pierre, with limited success.

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She also organized the forum Saturday in a lecture hall on the South Dakota Mines university campus. When discussion turned to raising the sales tax rate in order to reduce or stabilize property taxes, Ladner said it’s an idea worth considering.

“The thing about sales tax, too, is that the tourists would help pay for it. I like that,” Ladner said. “I’m just saying we need to be open to alternative methods.”

Ladner and Olstad were panelists at the forum. Other panelists were Matt Krogman, a Brookings real estate agent and lobbyist for the South Dakota Association of Realtors; Rep. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City; Rep. Dennis Krull, R-Hill City; and Pennington County Commissioner Ron Rossknecht. The moderator was Garth Wadsworth, of the Elevate Rapid City economic development group.

Participating in a public forum on property taxes April 20, 2024, at South Dakota Mines in Rapid City were, from left, moderator Garth Wadsworth of Elevate Rapid City, Brookings real estate agent and lobbyist Matt Krogman, state Rep. Trish Ladner, R-Hot Springs, state Rep. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City, Hot Springs businessman Donald Olstad, state Rep. Dennis Krull, R-Hill City, and Pennington County Commissioner Ron Rossknecht. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)

Homeowner taxes up 47% since ’17

Though the two-hour event was civil, many audience members vented their displeasure with property taxes. Statistics from the state Department of Revenue show the property tax burden has fallen increasingly on homeowners and commercial property owners in recent years.

The trend was exacerbated after 2017. Since then, property tax payments have gone up 47% for owner-occupied homes and 36% for commercial property, while rising 3% for agricultural property.

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One factor in the trends was a change from market to productivity-based valuations for agricultural land. The implementation period for the change concluded in 2019, after the Legislature adopted it in 2009. At the time, lawmakers were concerned that surging prices for farm and ranch land were unfairly inflating tax valuations.

Another factor was the COVID-19 pandemic, when South Dakota experienced an influx of remote workers and other homebuyers fleeing pandemic restrictions in other states. According to research by the Dakota Institute, high demand for houses helped push the average list price in the state 36% higher from 2020 to 2023, even after accounting for inflation.

Because tax valuations for houses are tied to the market, some South Dakota homeowners have experienced several years of double-digit valuation increases. And those steep valuation increases have driven their property taxes higher.

Olstad said Gov. Noem’s focus on attracting new residents to the state has been a factor in that.

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“This probably doesn’t sound right, but I think we should ‘close the gate,’” Olstad said. “I’m not in favor of the governor inviting everybody.”

Other ideas for property tax relief

Raising the sales tax or tourism tax rate wasn’t the only idea floated during the forum. 

Multiple attendees encouraged Ladner to reintroduce a failed bill she sponsored during the last legislative session.

The bill would revert property valuations back to their 2020 levels for single-family, owner-occupied homes purchased before then. Excess taxes paid in the intervening years would not be refunded, but future tax increases would be capped at 3%.

One person suggested repealing some of the dozens of sales tax exemptions in state law and capturing the extra revenue for property tax relief. 

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Some sales tax exemptions are broad, such as the one for items purchased to be resold. Those include packaging for products and items that will become an ingredient or component of another product.

Other exemptions are narrow, such as an exemption for services performed by rodeo promoters, stock contractors, announcers, judges and clowns.

Rep. Derby encouraged greater participation in existing property tax relief programs, which he said are underutilized. Those include help for disabled veterans, senior citizens and people with paraplegia. Applications are available from county directors of equalization or county treasurers.

There was broad agreement at the forum among panelists and attendees that a failure to rein in property tax increases for homeowners could have negative economic consequences for the state.

Krogman, the real estate agent and lobbyist, cited examples of three properties in Brookings that he said experienced year-over-year tax valuation increases from $343,000 to $473,000, from $333,000 to $445,000, and from $322,000 to $432,000.     

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“I’m just afraid if we can’t figure something out, the opportunity of owning a house is going to become more and more difficult,” he said.

Matt Krogman, a Brookings real estate agent and lobbyist, speaks during a public forum April 20, 2024, at South Dakota Mines in Rapid City alongside state Rep. Trish Ladner, R-Hot Springs. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)
Matt Krogman, a Brookings real estate agent and lobbyist, speaks during a public forum April 20, 2024, at South Dakota Mines in Rapid City alongside state Rep. Trish Ladner, R-Hot Springs. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)

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Indiana State Police arrest South Dakota woman after vehicle pursuit

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Indiana State Police arrest South Dakota woman after vehicle pursuit


LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana State Police troopers on Friday arrested a South Dakota woman after a vehicle pursuit in Tippecanoe County.

Just after 11:30 p.m. Friday, the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call reporting a possible reckless driver on State Road 26 eastbound toward Lafayette.

Troopers responded to the area and located a 2015 GMC Yukon matching the description provided. the driver was later identified as Dawn Goodroad, 38, of South Dakota. Troopers attempted to stop the GMC for a traffic violation on State Road 26 near Frontage Road. The GMC failed to stop and fled northbound on Interstate 65 from State Road 26.

Troopers continued the pursuit northbound on Interstate 65 until the 178-mile marker, where deputies from the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office joined in. The GMC eventually came to a stop at the 179-mile marker. Goodroad was apprehended without incident.

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During the investigation, troopers were able to gather evidence leading to the belief that Goodroad was under the influence. Goodroad was later transported to the Tippecanoe County Jail.

Goodroad was preliminarily charged with resisting law enforcement with a vehicle and two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.



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