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PIERRE—South Dakota saw a record number of tourists in 2017. Optimism is surrounding the state once again this year to welcome expected tourists. "All of the signs we have are really positive," said state tourism director Jim Hagen, who expects the number to climb from last year's record of 13.9 million visitors. The reason he's optimistic is that requests for state visitor guides are up 104 percent from last year, visits to the tourism website are up 22 percent and requests for the state's tourism newsletter show an increase of 42 percent.
KIMBALL—With increased interest in school safety after this past winter's deadly shooting at a Florida high school, a few more South Dakota districts are looking more seriously into the school sentinel program that is in its fifth year in the state and was the first of its kind in the nation. Kimball can be added to the list of schools considering adding the sentinel program. "In these times that we are in, we want to make sure our kids and staff are safe," said Kimball Supt. Tim Mayclin.
When a parent or patient walks into Dr. Christine Arnold's pediatric office building at Sanford Health in Mitchell, it doesn't take long to find out one of her top priorities. All three of the staff at the front desk were wearing T-shirts that said, "Do not wait. Vaccinate." And when talking to the nurses or the doctor herself, their passion of trying to keep children healthy is obvious. It's thus no wonder Arnold was named one of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2018 "Child Immunization Champions."
TRIPP—What a difference a mile can make. Two years ago, Caleb Finck, of Tripp, ran in the primary for the South Dakota state Senate in District 19. He lost to state Sen. Stace Nelson, but he's back again this year for another run at the state Legislature. The only difference is that he moved across the road about a mile away and is now in District 21. What the 25-year-old farmer and South Dakota State University graduate did was move from his parents' farm where he grew up to his grandparents' farm just down the road where he moved in his own modular home.
VERMILLION, S.D. -- One of four candidates will be named the new president of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion on Tuesday, May 1. The new president will replace Jim Abbott, who has led the university of 10,621 students and 400 faculty for the past 21 years.
WASHINGTON—Although neighboring U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would like to see legislation to protect special prosecutor Robert Mueller from being fired, Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota doesn't think it's needed. Not only does Rounds think Trump won't fire Mueller, he also believes that there are some legal issues involved in trying to tell the president what to do in the executive branch where he has prosecutorial powers to fire a special counsel.
ABERDEEN, S.D. -- A 42-year-old northeast South Dakota man, who also has been living in Texas, was found guilty by a federal jury in Aberdeen last week of sexually abusing a 14-year-old victim. Ira Alan Arias, who address is listed as Sisseton and also Fort Worth, Texas, was found guilty of three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years or up to life in prison and could also be put on probation for life.
RAPID CITY, S.D.—An 83-year-old South Dakota man who was the ringleader of a group that marketed and sold fraudulent medical devices to mostly elderly people will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Robert "Larry" Lytle of Rapid City organized the fraud scheme involving the sale of light-emitting medical devices to patients as a cure-all for all types of diseases including cancer, emphysema, diabetes, autism, HIV, and heart disease. They marketed it as a device that they could use in their own homes.
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D, is concerned about two major issues that can affect farmers and ranchers this year. One is the farm bill that faces an uncertain future as it's set to expire in September. The other is waivers that some small U.S. refineries have been receiving from the Environmental Protection Agency to not produce ethanol. As for the five-year farm bill, Rounds said he has many concerns as the Senate works to possibly pass its version of a farm bill after the House completed its work without Democratic support.
FARGO—A 12-member delegation from Sanford Health is making a journey to Vatican City this week for a major healthcare conference that is emphasizing cutting-edge technology as researchers from around the world close in on new treatments and possible cures for a number of diseases and health issues.