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Lower Brule facelift

LOWER BRULE, S.D. - The Lower Brule Sioux Reservation is in the midst of a building boom with three large public facilities projects under construction.

Two of them, a new $6.5 million administration building and a $3.5 million community center, were funded under a $12 million bond issue secured after the tribe received compensation money and established an infrastructure trust fund as a part of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Infrastructure Development Trust Fund Act more than three years ago.

The third, a rural water building, was funded with Bureau of Reclamation money.

The new administration building is on a hilltop site between West Lower Brule and Lower Brule, overlooking Lower Brule.

The location was chosen to give tribal residents more convenient access to tribal and BIA offices as well as consolidate a patchwork of offices throughout the area, Infrastructure Manager Cy Maus said.

Another element was the scenic site itself with a view of the Missouri River Valley.

"It was the prettiest place we could find. It will give the people we serve greater access," Maus said.

Consolidation of offices in one area will allow better communication for tribal administrative offices and tribal members trying to access services. "We want to improve communication and have everything in one place where they can come," he said.

The 46,000 square-foot administration building and the community center were designed by Architect Dennis Sun Rhodes at AmerIndian Architecture Inc. of St. Paul, Minn. Rhodes is an American Indian noted for distinctive designs.

In choosing an architect for the two projects, tribal officials were interested in hiring an American Indian firm, specifically Rhodes' because of his innovative design work.

Rhodes designed a building with the council chambers in the shape of a tipi and oriented to the summer solstice, Maus said.

The administration building will house than 45 different tribal offices including planning, public relations, financial management, personnel, social services, Healthy Start, mental health services and the tribal environmental program along with BIA offices.

A sewer project, funded through a match under an Indian Health Services regional program, will include addition of the sewer lines from the new building, repairs to the main line and the improvement of treatment facilities, he said.

The community center, under construction on the site of an indoor swimming pool, will include a more comprehensive facility offering weight rooms, a gymnasium, a large kitchen along with offices for the veteran's services and the diabetes program, Maus said.

The tribe renovated the pool, which had been covered with a tent-like structure, which was built without equipment to regulate the humidity levels. Humidity became so extreme, Maus said, condensation caused fog and rain inside the structure, hindering the work of lifeguards at the pool.

"It was dangerous. The lifeguards couldn't see the kids in the pool."

The new building will have the necessary controls. The facility will provide the area with a building for physical fitness programs including aerobics, basketball and volleyball, swimming clubs and space for other activities.

Programs under consideration are the Boys and Girls clubs, which haven't been established in the tribal community.

The rural water building along the Missouri River is part of a project to upgrade the water supply to the Lower Brule area.

Further development plans include widening a two-lane road from Lower Brule to West Lower Brule to three lanes. Maus said he hopes this will make the stretch of highway safer for travelers.

A bicycle trail along the road is being considered for funding under the tribe's infrastructure trust budget for next year. Maus said he hopes that will improve safety for children who frequently push their bicycles up a hill along the road.

However, the project is just one of more than two dozen funding requests totaling $3.7 million or nearly two-thirds more than the $1.36 million available to fund the wish list next year. Line items - with proposed cuts - are being discussed to bring the requests within budget.