SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The search for a new men’s prison site in South Dakota took 15 months, a state official told KELOLAND News in an email.
Michael Winder of the South Dakota Department of Corrections said in an email the state “conducted a 15-month search that included a public request for information for land sites near Sioux Falls.”
State officials had said the new prison needed to be near the existing and future workforce which is why a site near Sioux Falls was important.
The new site in Dayton Township in Lincoln County southwest of Harrisburg is about 18 miles from the existing prison. The site is to the immediate west of the intersection of 477th Avenue and 278th Street. It is about four miles from Harrisburg and about eight miles north of Canton.
“Over 2,000 people live less than half a mile from the current prison – that number is in the single digits for the new land. Nearly 100,000 people live within a four-mile radius of the current facility,” Michael Winder of the SD DOC said in an email to KELOLAND News. Winder pointed out that four miles equals the distance from the new prison location to the nearest town which is Harrisburg.
The state will buy about 300 acres of land in the school and public trust fund for an appraised value of about $8 million. The DOC announced its intent on Oct. 6 about two hours after the South Dakota Board of Appraisal set the appraised value.
The state of Nebraska also plans to build a new 1,512-bed prison also on about 300 acres. But, the state moved the site from its original announced location.
In mid-August, the state of Nebraska had announced a site about a mile outside Lincoln’s city limits in mid-August. By Aug. 30, the state and city of Lincoln announced a new site on city-owned property seven miles away.
The agreed-upon site is north of I-80 adjacent to 70th Street, according to a Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) news release. As part of the agreement, the state relinquished property it had announced in mid-August as the site of the new prison at 112th and Adams.
Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said the property at 112th and Adams was better for future planning, the NDCS news release said.
Media had reported after the mid-August announcement some city officials and nearby residents were pushing back against the announced site.
Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen said the 1-80 and 70th Street site was a better location for the prison.
“This is the site we need, and this was the site initially identified by the state for building the new facility,” Pillen said in the NDSC news release.
“I knew the property at I-80 and 70th Street was the better option, especially in terms of location,” said Pillen said in the NDSC release. “When it was obvious the city was not interested in having the prison in Lincoln, I felt we needed to move forward with our next best option.”
Pillen said the prior Governor’s administration had evaluated at least 70 properties as a possible prison site.
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken had publicly stated he did not want a new men’s prison to be located in the city limits.
Winder said about the site in his email “This land is near several communities without being too close to any one city or town.”
In Nebraska, the city of Lincoln agreed to supply water, sewer and electrical service to the site, according to the state. The city will also take down a wind turbine and other structures on the site.
So far, in South Dakota, the mayor of Harrisburg said the city is not interested in expanding the city’s sewer system for a new prison.
“This site can have utilities developed at a reasonable cost for infrastructure and roads to be built at the state’s expense,” Winder said in his email.
Several residents and/or property owners expressed concerns about the Lincoln County location at the Oct. 10 county board meeting and concerns were shared in an Oct. 9 KELOLAND News story. Two county officials and township officials shared questions and concerns on topics such a law enforcement and ambulance services, roads, and others in an Oct. 9 KELOLAND News story.
The existing prison in Sioux Falls is on about 30 acres. It was built in 1881. State officials and a 2021 study have cited overcrowding and an outdated facility that is beyond repair as reasons for building a new men’s prison.