Akron Chamber members plan SD Highway 48 reopening celebration

Posted October 11, 2019 at 3:20 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

The closure of S.D. Highway 48 and Big Sioux River Road due to flooding has affected businesses tremendously, said Akron Area Chamber of Commerce President Jennie Roed. “I think every single business in this town — big or small — has felt the effects — anywhere from 30 to 40 percent decreases in their revenue.”

“Small towns are a lot like big cities — a one-stop shop, she said. “You have a farmer who brings their grain to town or comes to get grain, they are going to stop and get groceries and gas, eat lunch. With (S.D. Hwy 48) being closed, that farmer doesn’t come to town, they go to Alcester, Beresford, Elk Point or Vermillion to do their business.”

We are used to the Big Sioux River’s spring flooding that comes and goes in a few days “but not having our highway closed for almost seven months,” said Akron Mayor Sharon Frerichs. “Now that it’s been this many months, it’s serious business.”

“It’s imperative that we get that road open before harvest,” said Roed, who manages her family’s century-old pharmacy and gift store. “The farmers will come here if that road is open — do their banking, get their farm equipment parts and groceries.”

“It’s a ripple effect,” said Roed. “As people quit coming into Akron, it’s less revenue for our businesses.”

“It’s less Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) dollars for the community,” said Frerichs, noting the city had extra expenses for keeping Big Sioux River Road repaired that took time away from other projects. Also, the Akron Fire-Rescue Department worked many extra hours, including around-the-clock, to rescue people and/or keep people safe from the floodwaters.

It’s also impacted Akron-Westfield Community School District — South Dakota families have had tough choices in trying to get into Akron as the Big Sioux River rose and fell this past several months. Parents had to decide if it was safe to let their teenage children drive the longer distances after dark or find ways to bring them to practices or activities. A few chose not to attend annual awards events last spring because it was hard to determine which roads were open or closed on a daily, if not hourly, basis. School officials also have dealt with transporting students to and from South Dakota’s former Greater Hoyt School District.

“I’m just delighted to have pressure taken off some of the families we serve because this has put stress on them that will now be alleviated,” said A-W Grades 7-12 Principal Derek Briggs.

“It’s usually 50 to 60 minutes for many families to commute to school and that was doubled with the road closed,” said A-W Transportation Director Rick Dirks, noting the school’s transportation costs were increased due to the longer routes both in payroll pay and equipment fuel and maintenance.

Celebrate 48 Reopening

“We’ve planned a celebration for the road reopening,” said Roed. “We welcome our South Dakota residents back to Akron. We want them to know how much we’ve missed them.”

“We’re thankful to the South Dakota residents who did make the extra effort to find a way into Akron, especially when several highways from Sioux Falls to Sioux City were under water,” said Roed. “We also appreciate the Iowa residents who continually support us.”

The Akron Area Chamber of Commerce has set Wednesday, Oct. 16 as the date for their “Celebrate 48” event.

From 5:00 to 7:30 p.m., the Chamber is hosting a supper at the Britton business complex parking lot, 351 Hwy 12. There will also be games to play and enjoy. The supper is sponsored by Akron Care Center, Peoples Bank, Postrock Brokerage, Premier Communications and Security National Bank.

“We’re also giving a special thank you to the first 75 vehicles with South Dakota license plates that come into Akron during that time,” said Roed. “We are showing our appreciation for your support of Akron.”

Several Chamber-member businesses will stay open that evening, and the Chamber is also sponsoring a “Cruise the Loop” through Akron’s downtown business district.

“We’re so excited to have this opportunity to reconnect with our South Dakota customers,” said Roed.

S.D. Highway 48 reopened at 2 p.m., Monday, Oct. 7 – just a week shy of being closed for seven months!

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