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Over Conservative Opposition, Custer Developer Buys STAR Academy for Sustainable Industry Complex

The state’s former juvenile prison south of Custer sold yesterday for $2.34 million. Custer developer Jared Carson and some unnamed associates put up the minimum bid for the STAR Academy yesterday at the second public auction.

Interestingly, a handful of Republican legislators tried to obstruct the sale. SDPB’s Lee Strubinger reported that Rep. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-30/Rapid City) attended the auction and asked bidders to hold off. Her seatmate Rep. Tim Goodwin (R-30/Rapid City) asked for a ten-minute break after Carson placed his bid to give other bidders time to consider.

Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City) joined his fellow arch-conservatives in the audience:

Jensen was among legislators who joined Senator Neal Tapio (R-5/Watertown) last fall in protesting the sale of the STAR Academy.

I find it amusing that a bunch of arch-conservative legislators would stand in the way of privatization and the free market. Senator Tapio registered to bid but did not raise his card.

Carson plans to build something he’s calling “Sustainable Light Industrial Complex and Energy“:

This will be a low impact, highly sustainable, light industrial complex that makes use of cutting-edge technology to introduce new industries to our area, while also providing much-needed space for commercial and light industrial concerns in the community. This latter phase will be flexible enough to encompass everything from start-ups to established craftsmen.

I thank you for understanding the need for confidentiality in this age of highly competitive, global business; especially in areas of new technologies [Jared Carson, press release, 2018.01.04].

I suppose I can forgive Carson his incorrect semicolon usage if he can really bring to Custer some economic development based on new sustainable technologies. But maybe that prospect of green tech in the Black Hills is what really got Tapio and his Trumpist friends seeing red.


  1. Nick Nemec 2018-01-05

    I wish Mr. Carson well. Maybe some new technological development will come of this.

    If a group of state legislators from the party that has held power for over 40 years attends an auction and tells bidders “you might want to hold off on bidding” is it fair to make Marlin Brando comparisons?

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-05

    Bunch of legislators walk in, including one like Neal Tapio with a mysteriously large checkbook, and tell you not to do something? Yes, let those Brando comparisons fly!

  3. Jenny 2018-01-05

    I wouldn’t trust Pierre on doing something positive with the building.

    They are trying to act like it’s just horrible that it was sold privately. If the State had wanted that building they would have jumped on it last year.

  4. Rorschach 2018-01-05

    That room looks chock full of unhappy people.

    The legislators in the room wanted the STAR Academy for a legislative branch retreat, similar to “Valhalla” that Mike Rounds used as his own private resort when he was governor. I believe that Daugaard opened Valhalla to others, but I haven’t heard anything about it lately. The legislature would have had hosted ALEC conventions and Republican caucuses there.

  5. Laurisa 2018-01-05

    Well, conservatives are all for “privatization and the free market” the way that they are all for “state’s rights”, that is, they’re all for them until and unless they disagree with the privatization or with whatever the state is doing.

    btw, I just had a lot of fun with NOem’s survey and really let her have it in the “what did we leave out” section. The questions were so incredibly leading, with such twisted wording, and the question of “where do you lean politically” only included variations of conservative or libertarian, as if those state citizens who do not fall into those categories don’t exist and aren’t important and she doesn’t represent them. Well, actually, that’s how she truly feels and acts, so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise.

  6. grudznick 2018-01-05

    Ms. Laurisa, please confine your comments to the conservatives you are really blogging about. Otherwise, I might write “All libbies are unable to accurately describe their hatred.” And I would be as right as you.

  7. Donald Pay 2018-01-06

    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about what Jared Carson intends to do with this property. It could be all fine and dandy. On the other hand, when you say stuff like this, “I thank you for understanding the need for confidentiality in this age of highly competitive, global business; especially in areas of new technologies,” it creates little bit of suspicion in my mind. I’ve heard that before during the sewage ash scam. I think Rounds’ “gorilla project” had a similar beginning statement.

    Still, there might be a bit of a tip off in that statement. “Highly competitive, global business” in “the area of new technologies” could imply there is a foreign corporation coming in. Foxconn? Probably not. This Trump-con are takers of immense public payoffs, and South Dakota could not afford it. A wind blade or solar panel operation? Maybe.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-06

    Donald, I agree that Carson’s talk of confidentiality inspires no confidence. But then neither do the legislators who tried to stop the sale.

  9. Jivin Knute 2018-01-06

    Wanting to add my 2 cents here even tho it is now “water under the bridge”. At a legislative cracker barrel held in Rapid City last winter, the question was raised about turning the STAR academy into a West River mental health center-a logical idea given RCRH had just turned its back on people in mental health crisis stemming from dementia,Alzheimer’s, and autism. The legislators present said it simply couldn’t be done-simply too cost prohibitive. The legislature had endorsed the sale of the academy and the governor had given his blessing. Ironically, a few of the same people have now had second thoughts about this sale. Hmm..too little forethought coming too late. The problems with the lack of mental health care in South Dakota have not gone away and a viable location to place needed services is gone. What a shame!

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