Hearing that a large gathering is to take place at two racetracks (Raceway Park and Park Jefferson Speedway) this weekend, the Union County Board of County Commissioners looked for legal ways to stop the event. However, according to Union County State’s Attorney Jerry Miller, there is no authoritative power the commissioners can use to stop the event; they can only urge the owners to reconsider and follow current guidelines.

The commissioners were made aware that this event could be a possibility two weeks ago when commissioner Rich Headid said he had heard rumors about the tracks maybe opening. At that time it was determined that the commission didn’t wish to become involved or held liable for shutting down a business. Almost two weeks later, the track owners announced they would be selling a limited number of tickets and allowing fans in the stands with certain restrictions.

At their meeting Tuesday morning, April 21, the commissioners listened to the concerns of one voice from the public – Jeremy Harkness. Harkness stated that the owners were creating a hot spot for transmission and were bringing in people from all over and out-of-state and further exposing Union County residents (who voted for the commissioners) to COVID-19, when a majority of them are opposing the event. Harkness said that even if the owners attempt to follow CDC guidelines of social distancing, washing or sanitizing stations, they are still breaking one of their biggest guidelines – urging people to keep gatherings under 10 people. He wanted to know what the commissioners could do about preventing the event.

“In the same resolution [the emergency order limiting public access to the courthouse and following South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s executive order], the commissioners also advised the same that the governor did,” Miller said. “That there should be social distancing and no more than 10 people at a gathering... The order does say ‘shall,’ but there’s no provision in there in which the state or law enforcement can go and say, ‘I’m placing you under arrest for violation of the governor’s executive order,’ because that’s not how a law is created.”

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.