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Local Politics Continue: Belle Fourche Chamber Leaves Cramped Digs

We had some grim fun last fall discussing Belle Fourche's self-destructive attitude toward its Chamber of Commerce. In October, the city council manufactured concerns about financial transparency, threatened to kick the Chamber out of the Center of the Nation visitor center the Chamber helped build, and pressure the Chamber into firing its effective and ambitious director Teresa Schanzenbach. On achieving that ouster, Belle Fourche made nice with the Chamber.

Or so it seemed. In February, the city agreed to let the Chamber remain in the Visitor Center for free... but the Chamber had to submit to new occupancy requirements:

Those conditions, which were proposed by the city of Belle Fourche and accepted by the chamber in February 2014, allowed the chamber to stay in the building rent-free and utilize the 10- by 8-foot Roundup office. The deal stated that the chamber could no longer use the counter space they had once employed for Black Hills Roundup Rodeo ticket sales, but afforded them some storage space above the stairs and use of the conference room along with the Tri-State Museum, Center of the Nation Visitor Center, and various other organizations [Kaylee Tschetter, "Chamber to Move Locations after 20 Years," Black Hills Pioneer, 2014.04.11].

Long-time Belle Fourche doctor Melvin Marousek writes that the city also imposed parking restrictions on Chamber personnel at the visitor center.

As various powers that be in South Dakota will attest, I'm no great fan of cliquey crony Chambers of Commerce. But even I recognize that if you're going to have a Chamber of Commerce to represent local industry and talk turkey when money comes to town, you don't deny them visible counter space to do their best fundraising and hide them in a utility closet barely big enough for an afternoon quickie.

The Belle Fourche Chamber keeps trying to make lemonade. They're abandoning the Visitor Center and moving to the "more spacious and comfortable surroundings" of the former Black Hills Power building at 620 State Street. We'll see if a couple blocks south moves the Chamber far enough out of the city council's way, or if Belle Fourche will push one of its key booster organizations further to the sidelines.


  1. larry kurtz 2014.04.15

    Belle could be something if the train didn't hold up traffic on the only artery connecting the world to the Bakken. Expect yet another shoe to drop.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2014.04.15

    Is this one of benefits of local control?

  3. Wayne Pauli 2014.04.16

    I have not been there in years...I have no reason or desire to, although I do like the wine from the Belle winery that I buy when we visit Deadwood. This story is strange can it be as one sided as it appears? Northern Hills soap opera.

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