Grain company gets state’s second OK for Presho elevator

Dakota Mill and Grain began moving dirt recently at its site for a grain elevator the Rapid City firm has proposed at Presho. Meanwhile state government’s Aeronautics Commission gave its approval Tuesday for the elevator tower at the site.

The commission, meeting in Pierre, approved permits for a structure that could be 173 feet tall, as company officials prefer, or 153 feet as the company’s fallback position. Both permits are pending before the Federal Aviation Administration for a decision about whether either height meets the no-hazard standard.

The elevator site is 0.85 miles northeast from the Presho public airport.

State government’s Railroad Board gave the green light to Dakota Mill and Grain earlier this year to build a facility at Presho. The siding would be on state-owned property along the state-owned Mitchell-Rapid City rail line.

Jerry Cope of Rapid City serves on the railroad panel. Dakota Mill and Grain employs him. Cope abstained from the rail board’s discussion and approval of the Presho project.

“They’re in a hurry to put this facility up,” Colton Stahl, an employee in the state office of air, rail and transit, told Aeronautics Commission members Tuesday.

Commission member Arlen Hauge of Sioux Falls initially said he’d prefer to wait for the FAA’s decision regarding whether the elevator would be a hazard for an airplane.

“It just looks to me it would be a crazy place to put a structure,” Hauge said. He described a situation for a plane departing Presho airport.

Bob Huggins of Sioux Falls, the new commissioner whom Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed earlier this month, didn’t agree with Hauge.

“It’s a grain elevator in South Dakota,” said Huggins, who worked twelve years as air traffic controller at the Sioux Falls public airport before recently retiring.

Huggins added, “I think it’s one of the least objectionable buildings I’ve seen.”

Eric Odenback of Eureka, the commission’s chairman, said the state commission’s decision wouldn’t matter if the FAA doesn’t approve the elevator. Hauge withdrew his substitute motion and voted for allowing the structure at either height.