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Being prepared will pay off with infrastructure projects The selection process for infrastructure projects eligible to receive federal stimulus money is in progress, and one of the chief criteria is "ready to go." If one of the goals of the massi...

Being prepared will pay off with infrastructure projects

The selection process for infrastructure projects eligible to receive federal stimulus money is in progress, and one of the chief criteria is "ready to go."

If one of the goals of the massive spending bill is to put unemployed people back to work, the projects can't still be in the idea stage, or design stage, or any other place that would require months or years to get going.

In South Dakota, the state Transportation Commission approved this week a list of projects to meet a 120-day deadline to commit at least half of the $189 million South Dakota is to receive for roads from the stimulus package.

State highway engineers said the first-phase list approved on Thursday will cover 240 miles of paving and work on 33 bridges and could cost $100 million.

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Being prepared will pay off for any state and its infrastructure projects. Those who aren't ready and don't meet the deadline may need to send some money back.

The Lewis & Clark water project is another example of being ready. The design is done, most cities have prepaid all their financial obligations and construction is under way. But the federal government's share has been coming in slowly, delaying construction. Stimulus money will be used right away.

Being ready is probably a good lesson for the rest of us, even if we aren't involved in government. The recession will end someday, and new opportunities will arise. We should be ready for them.

Whether that planning involves starting a new small business, expanding a farm or creating new opportunities for the next generation, we should start preparing now to take advantage when the time is right.

Madison Daily Leader

Pay-to-play for activities an idea whose time has come

The idea of schools charging students a "pay-to-play" type fee for sports and other activities doesn't sit well with many people, but times are tough, and some sort of change needs to be made for schools across the state to meet budgets and accomplish educational goals.

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A bill in the South Dakota Legislature would give schools the option of charging students to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. Republican Rep. Mark Kirkeby of Rapid City says his bill would give school districts a chance to spend more of their money in the classroom. The bill does not set guidelines for how much the fees would cost.

The state Education Department says activities are an extension of the classroom, that taxpayers already pay for them and there should be no extra fees.

Money is tight. Districts say they need more academic resources. Teachers want more pay. Students and parents want more activities.

Now is not the time for "more." Now is the time for "less."

In the spirit of participation, we would love to see all public school students have the choice to participate in any activity they want, free of charge. Unfortunately, budget shortfalls such as we now find ourselves embroiled make this scenario a tough sell.

Schools will need to make a choice: Either keep activities free for students and significantly cut back the number of activities or sports offered, or keep all the current offerings and institute a fee to participate.

Either option could create an exclusionary environment. A fee-for-service might create scenarios in which parents demand their student get equal playing time even if the player's skill level doesn't merit it.

But such choices are never easy and the times demand innovative solutions to keep the truly important programs and activities from falling by the wayside. We would suggest that the pay-to-play process may be a solution whose time has come.

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Aberdeen American News

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