The top 19 in '19

Jill Meier • Jamie Hult
Brandon Valley High School students were excused from classes to help with sandbagging efforts along Redwood Boulevard following the Sept. 10 flood. File photos

Brandon Police Chief Joe Weir succeeded Dave Kull in April. 

Community empowerment, record flooding and road closures: What were the big headlines in the Brandon area in 2019?
From road closures and record flooding to Lynx championships and community empowerment, 2019 was a year for the books for the Brandon and Valley Springs area. As we take a look back over the last 52 weeks, we’ve compiled the top 19 local headlines from ’19, in no particular order.
1. One way out. Record flooding from torrential rainfalls in mid-September essentially stopped the flow of traffic in and out of Brandon in nearly every direction. By the end of the week, commuters were limited to a single option to come and go: the already heavily-impacted Interstate 90 route.
Already hindered by the Holly Boulevard construction, to add to commuters’ woes, routes south of Brandon – Highway 11, Madison Street and Maple/Park streets – were shut down, Aspen Boulevard and McHardy Road were closed due to rushing water over the roadways, and north of Corson, Highway 11 was also closed.
2. Year of the Lynx. The combined 2019 state AA boys and girls basketball tournaments was one for the local record books, as the Lynx boys and Lady Lynx brought home their respective championship hardware from Rapid City. Both teams were led by eight seniors and supported by a cast of skilled underclassmen. Along with the state hardware, 2019 seniors Danica Kocer and Evan Talcott were selected as their respective 2019 Class AA Spirit of Su recipients.
3. City says 'Dirt' post on radium is fake. A Facebook post reporting over-the-limit radium levels in Brandon’s drinking water led the city to call a press conference Aug. 14 to state the report was falsified.
In late July, the Facebook page “City of Brandon, SD The Dirt” posted an alleged factual report showing that the radium numbers from a June well water sample exceeded the EPA and state standards. 
Several residents who saw post contacted the state DENR to complain, and the South Dakota Public Health Laboratory launched an investigation into the The Dirt’s report, “as they did not appear to be similar to the results the public health laboratory had found,” said city administrator Bryan Read, who addressed the public, along with Mark Meyer with the SDDENR drinking water program.
4. Welcome, Chief Weir. Joe Weir joined the Brandon Police Department in April as the city’s new chief. He succeeded Dave Kull, who retired after four decades in law enforcement, the last 10 years with the Brandon force. 
5. Voters approve $17M school bond. A small majority of voters in the Brandon Valley School District said “Yes for Kids,” approving the $17 million bond Sept. 10 that will fund construction of a new K-4 elementary school and land purchase for a future intermediate school. Both parcels of land are in the Sioux Falls city limits near 41st Street and Sparta Avenue.
Of the district’s 14,787 eligible voters, a mere 1,214 or 8.2 percent, cast their ballot. The bond was overwhelmingly approved 1,085-129.
6. HOLLY-lujah! The community – and local commuters – breathed a collective sigh of relief when the north half of the Holly Boulevard crossing reopened Sept. 27 after being shut down five weeks for construction.
7. Sunshine, catering business sold to partners. The patriarch and matriarch of two longtime staples in Brandon – Sunshine Foods and Tony’s Catering – parted ways with the businesses they first started 43 years ago. In late August, Tony and Pam Bosch passed on ownership of the local grocery store and well-known catering business to a team of well-known partners. The new owners are Dan Roeman, Craig Bosch, Dee Millington, and Chad Padgett. The Bosches continue to work part-time for both endeavors.
8. Alderman violates council conduct code, resigns. The Brandon City Council found former alderman Tim Wakefield to be in violation of city council conduct code on April 15 for two separate statements he made in early 2019 on social media. Wakefield resigned from his ward 3 post the following month, and the council approved a $500 per-violation fine of Ordinance 589 on June 3. The vacancy was later filled by council appointment. Vickie David was chosen to fill the chair until the next city election.
9. Avera buys 3 acres at busy corner. Avera is coming to the corner of Splitrock and Aspen boulevards, though no one knows when – just yet.
Alliance Communications sold the 3.39-acre corner property to Avera in July.
10. Community gathering to empower Brandon. Brandon has embarked on a self-improvement plan. After months of planning, meetings with 660 residents and gathering ideas on more than 4,000 sticky notes, the Empower Brandon group hosted its first community meeting in April at the high school.
Empower Brandon is a strategic planning program that puts residents in charge of identifying areas for improvement in the community and working together to find solutions. The city has invested in Empower Brandon for two years, which is guided by staff from Dakota Resources.
11. It's Lundberg by a landslide. The April 9 city election kept interim Mayor Paul Lundberg in office and marked Brandon’s highest voter turnout in six years.
Lundberg received 1,161 votes to defeat alderman Tim Wakefield, who received 290 votes. 
Turnout for the mayoral race reached 20.2 percent, with 1,451 out of 7,170 registered voters coming to the polls.
12. Commuters face daily delays, frustrations and fears on I-90. It was a madhouse on Interstate 90, especially during the peak morning and afternoon commute times this past year. Backed up traffic on I-90 at the Brandon exit – 406 – made for dangerous driving conditions, and limited routes to and from Sioux Falls, making for one of the biggest challenges daily commuters faced.
I-90 sees the majority of commuters. For those leaving Brandon in the morning, exit 406 provides a gateway to the interstate. However, it can be a slow and frustrating process.
The Exit 406 bridge is set to be replaced starting in 2023, a pre-warning to commuters.
13. City plugs $1.6M for pool in 2020. The residents have spoken, and the city council listened. Next year, improvements will start on Brandon’s Community Swimming Pool.
The project was bumped up a year, thanks in part to Mayor Paul Lundberg.
The city council took a first look at the $35.14 million budget for 2020 at its Sept. 3 meeting. One of the big-ticket items in the 2020 budget is $1.6 million for pool improvements.
“That’s one I’ve tried real hard to get some action on,” Lundberg said. “I think it’s very evident that the citizens of Brandon want improvements to the pool.”
14. Brandon 90 Plaza to add $50M-plus tax base. Fifty acres of land in a flood plain along Interstate 90 will be transformed into 26.7 acres of commercial development, along with 17 acres that will be dedicated to a public use lake.
In November, Sioux Falls developer Darrel Viereck announced Brandon Plaza 90 LLC closed on the 50-acre property two weeks earlier and next spring plans to begin groundwork preparations.
Viereck said discussions are taking place to bring an upscale six- to eight-screen movie theatre and arcade, fast food restaurant(s), a bank, hotel, convenience store(s), grocery store and possible community/event center to the development. Stay tuned to this one as plans continue to formalize.
15. BV whiz kid advances to Jeopardy! finals. A $6,701 wager on Salem, Mass., paid off for Ryan Presler. 
And with just a few days left in the Jeopardy! Teen Challenge, the Brandon whiz quiz kid was still in the game. 
Presler, 14, made his Jeopardy! debut June 17, the first day of the two-week teen tourney. 
The eighth-grader appeared on the show again June 25 as a wildcard semifinalist before making it into the finals, where he placed second.
16. Alliance breaks ground on new quarters. The landscape of Brandon’s newest commercial development at the corner of Splitrock and Aspen boulevards continues to take shape. 
Dirt was first moved in preparation for construction of Alliance Plaza, which will house Alliance Communications’ Brandon staff. 
Alliance is an estimated two weeks away from moving into their new building, which pairs well with the newly constructed Brandon Post Office.
17. Bound for Brookings: Lynx determined to defend 11AAA title. When the Lynx football team started their 2019 season, the plan was to win one game at a time to be one of the final four standing.
And the goal was achieved when the Lynx met up with the O’Gorman Knights on the turf at the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium on the grounds of South Dakota State. With the DakotaDome on the campus of The University of South Dakota in Vermillion under construction, the game was moved outdoors this year.
This year’s title run was the first for the BV program since the 1997 and 1998 seasons when the Lynx earned the right to play for the hardware on back-to-back seasons. Due to a late-game penalty against BV, the Lynx fell short in their quest to repeat the feat.
18. Valley Springs eyes $3.38M in water, sewer upgrades. Valley Springs is facing a hefty water infrastructure project that will likely lead to future higher water and sewer bills for residents. 
The city is looking at a $3.38 million project to replace water and sewer mains along Cliff Avenue, Valley and Dunham drives.
However, the project isn’t anticipated to start until 2021, and how much water and sewer rates increase, will depend on how much funding Valley Springs receives from the state.
This fall, Valley Springs city leaders applied for $3.38 million through the Board of Water and Natural Resources. 
The city will be notified of its funding request in late March.
19. Major street work set for city's core in 2020. The city of Brandon is gearing up for perhaps its most extensive and expensive street project to date.
Work will begin in the summer of 2020 on the first phase of a 218-square-acre project to reconstruct streets, upgrade water and sewer lines and add storm sewer lines and replace curb and gutter throughout the city’s oldest district. Also included in the plans is the removal of a large number of trees to make way for sidewalks.
The total project area encompasses all streets between Sioux and Splitrock boulevards and Aspen and Holly boulevards. 
“I don’t think the city of Brandon has seen anything that can compare to what we’re looking at,” said Bryan Read, city administrator.






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