Importance of local papers on full display

It’s been a long time since the Custer County Chronicle was at the center of a controversy (and more importantly, one that wasn’t in some way its own doing), but such is the case right now, as the Custer County Commission and Custer City Council wrestle with an 11th-hour pitch by a group of county residents to stop relocation of the city’s wastewater treatment effluent discharge.
The cliffs notes version of the controversy goes like this: For a few years, the city has planned to move its effluent discharge to French Creek from Flynn Creek as it upgrades its wastewater treatment system. The change is driven by both cheaper costs and less force main maintenance, because the line will be shorter than it is to Flynn Creek. The city and state say the new discharge area will meet all required cleanliness standards. There is belief that chemicals will be used in the process, but Trent Bruce of DGR Engineering said the raw wastewater will be treated through biological processes and that there are no chemical additives. The final step will be an ultraviolet disinfection process by rerunning the treated water through a series of ultraviolet lights.
However, some people who live below the proposed discharge area found out about the plans when one in the group attended a city council meeting for a completely different reason, and that set into motion the chain of events that have the group imploring the city to keep the discharge at Flynn Creek, saying it has concerns about how the creek would be affected. The county is considering whether to support the group in its efforts to keep the discharge location the same.
At the crux of the issue is how informed, or not informed, the group was regarding the project and its intentions. Group members have said they didn’t know about the project, because the city and its engineering partners did not notify them, although the city has followed all required laws by advertising public hearings, etc., in the Chronicle. That has prompted the group to point out its members don’t read the newspaper, and only a fraction of Custer County residents do.
But, what if they did read the paper?
This newspaper has written about the wastewater plant plans since they were first mentioned in 2017. Over the course of the next five years, and in particular over the last three years, the topic has been written about conservatively probably 30 times, each time the story rehashing the plan, how it originated, and where it was going. Ninety-nine percent of those stories, if not all, were on the front page of the newspaper. We thought the project was common knowledge.
The group members are right in that the number of people who read the paper compared to those who live in the county is relatively small. We’re working on that. Our subscriptions are up 100 in the past year—that’s unheard of in our industry right now. It’s something we’re very proud of and attribute to the quality of the paper.
Having said that, we aren’t naive enough to think everybody in the county is going to read the newspaper. Some people just don’t care to read the newspaper, or don’t care what is going on in the county. That’s certainly their prerogative. However, if you want to be informed about the community and want to know what’s going on at city hall, the county commission, the schools, etc., there is literally nowhere else to turn. You’re looking at the one source. Us.
It was mentioned at one of the meetings that people get their news from other sources. Fair enough—in some instances. Social media, online news sites, etc., are fine for watching videos of dogs that can ride a tricycle, obtaining national news and Rapid City news. But for Custer County news? No. Rarely does Custer make national news. Once in a while, a Rapid City news station or the Rapid City Journal will venture down here to cover a story. But if you want meat and potatoes coverage of your local government, elected leaders and all things Custer County, we are your source. And, we feel we do it pretty darn well.
What is happening with the wastewater discharge issue is all the proof you need to know that eventually, something is going to happen in your home area that you need to know about it. Chances are, if you read this newspaper, you’re going to read about it long before the train is already barreling down the tracks.
Be informed on the community. Subscribe. It’s our job to keep you informed, and it’s a job we take seriously. We’ll bring it right to your mailbox. It’s hard to be informed if you have no source to inform you. Give us a chance.  You’ll be glad you did.

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