Eureka has long been known for its cleanliness and neatness. Those qualities slipped a bit as houses became abandoned and neglected. It would have been easy to continue to ignore those eyesores, but that has not happened.
In May, 1999, Milbert Schick wrote a challenge letter as a guest editorial in the Northwest Blade. If people were seeing what he was seeing, he asked them to step forward with comments, money, labor---whatever they could offer to remedy the situation. By July 1, a group of volunteers had formed the Eureka Community Beautification Company under the auspices of the Eureka Community Development Company. Money had been donated to get the project off the ground, abandoned or neglected properties were identified, and the cleanup effort was underway.
The first house was removed the following month, and to date, 20 properties have been restored. Spruce Up South Dakota and the City of Eureka did demolition and clean-up work on 27 properties in 2002. Those efforts added to ECBC's ongoing work having pushed the total well over the goal of 40 that the group had set when the project began. Because unkempt properties still remain, ECBC is continuing the clean-up efforts.
In order to be renovated by the ECBC forces, the property is deeded to ECBC, a nonprofit organization. Houses, outbuildings, trees, overgrowth and debris are removed. Some buildings have been demolished, then hauled to the rubble site; others have been loaded on house-moving equipment and taken to the rubble site intact. Basements and wells are filled with sand and dirt, and plumbing and water lines are handled according to city codes. It is the intent of ECBC to resell the properties and keep them on the tax rolls. Many of those renovated have been resold, while others still belong to ECBC.
Another phase of the beautification project has been implemented. Anyone in the town with outbuildings (other than houses) that need to be removed can take advantage of ECBC's services. ECBC has an organized group of volunteers ready to clear out the unused, worthless buildings, thus beautifying property where people are living. Anyone needing help in the outbuilding removal project can contact David Roggenkamp at (605) 284-2683 (work) or (605) 284-2055 (home). There is no set charge for the service, but contributions to ECBC will be accepted so additional work can continue. Renovation of complete lots is also continuing.
In 2008, the group resumed clean-up efforts following a lull when the obtainable properties had been completed. Cooperative efforts involving ECBC, City of Eureka and McPherson County have been successful in the renewed beautification efforts. At that time Thrivent Financial for Lutherans spearheaded a fund drive for the Eureka Community Beautification Company and added supplemental funds to those donated by the community.
Members of the volunteer board of trustees are Milbert Schick, chairman; David Roggenkamp, vice-chairman; Wanda Jundt, Secretary/Treasurer; Howard Mettler; Nancy Krein; Arlo Mehlhaff; Arnold Lapp; and Don Kallenberger. With sadness: On September 20, 2002, Arnold Lapp lost his battle with cancer. Howard Mettler retired from the board in 2008. After code enforcement officer for the City of Eureka, Paul Jundt, began work as that official in 2001 he began attending all ECBC meetings and worked closely with both groups until his retirement in 2004.
Although much of the labor in cleaning the properties is volunteer, there are still quite extensive costs involved in demolition, transportation of the rubble, and restoration of the lots. Only about half of the project costs are retrieved through property sales, so each property cleanup means that the bank account shrinks. All money used in the project is contributed---no tax money is used. Individuals and organizations have contributed money to the cause assuring that the project can continue.
In 2012 the board of Trustees reorganized as: David Roggenkamp, Chairman; Nancy Krein, Vice-Chairman; Wanda Jundt, Secretary/Treasurer; Don Kallenberger; Milbertk Shick; Scott Warzecha, and the city code enforcement Officer is Guy Boschee.
Anyone wishing to contribute can drop off the money at the Eureka Community Development Co 207 J Ave. Suite 1C, give it to any of the board members, or mail it to the Eureka Community Beautification Company, P.O. Box 134, Eureka, SD 57437. Those interested in turning property over to ECBC can contact any board member for further information.