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State, Pukwana talk about who will take grain elevators down

PUKWANA -- The old grain elevators in Pukwana need to come down, but the question revolves around who will pay for it to be done.

The South Dakota State Railroad Board took no action during a Tuesday meeting in Mitchell on a request to pay up to $17,000 for the removal of the buildings, which have not been used for decades.

Pukwana Town Board Chairman Larry McManus said Wednesday that the town's role in the matter is quite simple: They can't afford it.

"We don't have any money," McManus said of the town of 285 people in Brule County. "That's the truth. We have no funds to put into it."

The land where the elevators sit is owned by the state and was leased to the elevator owners, a commonplace practice during the Milwaukee Road days of the railroad. Even then, McManus said the elevators haven't been used in more than 40 years, and one could have been out of service as far back as the 1950s.

McManus said the town would like to see the elevators taken down because the buildings are currently a safety hazard.

"They're in a dilapidated state," he said. "It's really a health and welfare issue, and we just don't want somebody getting hurt if they're over in that area."

The state railroad board said it would like to see some commitment from the town.

"I guess I'm a little disappointed that the city is putting the whole thing upon us," said board chairman Todd Yeaton, of nearby Kimball. "I don't care if it's Pukwana or whatever, I struggle with us footing the bill for everything."

A less expensive option would to be to burn down the facility, then bury the remains on site. State Department of Transportation Railroad Project Manager Bruce Lindholm said that option would be about $7,500.

Lindholm said the state hasn't been able to contact the last owner of the elevators to get that person to take care of the properties. McManus said he doesn't know who owns the elevator structures.

"I won't let my guys go in these buildings and I wouldn't recommend anyone go in either of the buildings," Lindholm said. "They are very, very old."

Regardless, board member Sheldon Cotton, of Volga, said he wants to make sure the space gets landscaped and filled in.

There were no Pukwana town representatives at the meeting Tuesday. Lindholm said the state would try to contact the town and work on a solution or better understand the reasons for the costs.

Other business

• The board unanimously voted to assess a $20 per railcar surcharge to fund a $5.25 million, no-interest loan to rehab the state-owned Britton line in the northeast part of the state. Wheaton Dumont Co-Op has plans for a $34 million shuttle loader grain facility in Britton, if the line can be upgraded. Dakota Missouri Valley Railroad operates that line and will contribute the other half of the total $10.5 million cost. The board did not pass a plan that would have directly committed $5.25 million to the rehabilitation of the railroad. That vote was a 3-3 tie, failing the measure.

• The board rode the Mitchell-Rapid City railroad line from Liberty Grain near Kimball to Reliance and back Wednesday to get an idea for what upgrades would be needed in the rehabilitation of that line to Lyman County. Lindholm said the TIGER grant application is in to the federal government, and the state is awaiting word on the fate of that grant.