By Brett Nachtigall
OELRICHS – At its regular monthly meeting in December 2017, the Town Board of Oelrichs voted to name the Fall River County Herald its official newspaper beginning in 2018. The town had previously utilized the Hot Springs Star as its official newspaper for the publishing of legal notices.
Recently, the City of Hot Springs had also named the Fall River County Herald its official newspaper as well, but due to a state codified law requiring municipalities to make their selection based on where a newspaper's postal permit originates, Mayor George Kotti had to veto the city's initial resolution and then re-appointed the Hot Springs Star as its official newspaper.
According to Oelrichs City Clerk Rachelle Christman, she said members of the Oelrichs Town Board chose a new publication to represent the town as an acknowledgment the Herald's proven desire to cover more county-wide news, including the community and school news of Oelrichs. She also said the more locally-based operation of the newspaper also played a role in their decision.
Because there is not another newspaper which publishes from the town of Oelrichs, the state law which prevents Hot Springs from going with the Herald does not apply, allowing the Oelrichs Town Board to make the selection of their choice.
With a 2016 population of 127, Oelrichs is considered one of 195 “Third Class” municipalities in the state of South Dakota, due to its population being under 500 total.
According to the South Dakota Municipal League website, there are three classes of municipalities based on population, beginning First Class municipalities which have a population of over 5,000 (there are 17 first class municipalities in the state), while Second Class municipalities have populations between 500 and 5,000 (there are 98 second class municipalities in the state).
Also due to its size, Oelrichs is one of 160 towns in the state which utilizes the Trustee Form of government, which by definition, is operated by a three to five member Board of Trustees who are elected at-large for three year terms and must be a legally qualified voter of the municipality. The trustees elect one their own members to serve as the president of the board for a one year term.
The three-member Oelrichs Town Board is led by President Joseph Messinio along with fellow trustees William O'Connell and Katie Merdanian, who replaced Brea Seger last year.
In addition to Christman who serves as the town clerk, other part-time employees of the town include Susan Hamilton as Treasurer/Finance Officer, Keith Hunt as Water Superintendent, and Roy Merdanian as Assistant Water Superintendent. Hamilton has served as the town's treasurer for more than 20 years.
The water department, headed by Hunt, serves 72 active clients and last year was given recognition by the South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems as the Water/Wastewater System of the Year after making several much-needed improvements and creating a detailed mapping of the entire system.
Oelrichs Town Board of Trustee meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month in the Oelrichs Community Center building.
The Fall River County communities of Hot Springs and Edgemont both operate under an Aldermanic Form and governed by a common council, which consists of a mayor who is elected at-large and two aldermen from each ward elected traditionally at two year terms. Hot Springs however also employs a city manager who is responsible for the administrative duties of the city. There are a total of 128 Aldermanic Municipalities in South Dakota.
Despite City of Hot Springs being unable to designate the Fall River County Herald as its official newspaper due to a state codified law preventing that because the newspaper's postal permit paperwork originates in Edgemont, the Herald is the official newspaper for many other governmental entities. The Herald is one of two official newspapers for the County of Fall River for the publishing of legal notices, and in addition to the Town of Oelrichs, it is the official newspaper for the City of Edgemont and the Edgemont School District. The Hot Springs and Oelrichs School Districts are required annually to designate an official newspaper in July.