Entries Tagged 'Public Utilities' ↓

Copper Lounge Collapse, lots of questions little answers

Here are some leading questions after the collapse;

• Will Downtown businesses be reimbursed for lost business by the construction company’s insurance? Most of these businesses are family owned, they don’t have a lot of buffer like national franchises especially during one of the busiest shopping times of the year.

• Will the city be reimbursed for the enormous cost of the rescue and security efforts? While most would argue this is part of paying taxes, sometimes those costs go above and beyond.

• If the city was aware of construction issues with Hultgren, why wasn’t the Lewis project monitored more carefully, especially after complaints?

• What is the signifigance of the meeting on Monday between the city, OSHA, Hultgren and the families affected? Will they be talking about a private settlement?

• Since Legacy Development was one of the companies to bid on the future parking ramp, were they chosen? And if so, will the city pull the contract? Will the public ever be told? Do we have a right to know?

Who are the private investors in Legacy Development?

One of the biggest questions that has been boiling to the top all week – did any of the city councilors, county commissioners or even the Mayor have investments with Legacy, Hultgren or with the PAVE or Lewis project? And if so, isn’t this a conflict of interest, especially since the construction company has gotten quite a few ‘passes’ from the city’s planning/building services office? This speculation comes from the city’s decision to launch NO investigation of their own and a desire to not press charges unless OSHA finds serious fault. Think about it, Cameraman Bruce was arrested and taken to court over a stack of shingles and the possibility of a couple of mice, something the city called a health/public nuisance. Doesn’t it seem silly the city is worried about a couple of mice, but not that a man died in a construction accident? It just doesn’t add up.

I will tell you folks, this goes deeper, and I think some people with some serious connections are involved. Notice the rancor coming from the city lately about the media stirring the pot, they are trying to squelch the message and kill the messenger.

It will be interesting to see who is holding the bag when the smoke clears . . . it may just be one of the biggest scandals this city has ever seen, it will make the secret million dollar settlement on the EC look like vandalism under the 10th Street bridge.

Bump Out Mania! Phillips to What?

Another meeting the city of Sioux Falls should have covered but they forgot their Handicam at the office. The town is going to spend over $1,000,000 per block rebuilding Phillips Avenue in downtown and a couple of people show up at the Public Library on November 29, 2016.

A few things to note in this presentation are the continuation of the bump-out and trees but to where and why.  Those of us in the audience didn’t disagree in principle with the plan but so few showed up to talk about it. This is one of those needed updates to the underground infrastructure but the frosting on top still leaves long stretches of parking lots to prevent long walks between possible shops.

Notice the expensive Saddam Arch of Questionable Dreams gets a fancy approach on 7th Street. Will Raven feel like giving up some of their property to allow it?

The planners actually would like your feedback. Overall it will improve the stretch of roadway above and below ground. Let’s all join the moderator of the event in scratching our heads over it a bit.

 

Cotter Clutter

“Mark, I don’t like this one.” Huh? Why would a mayor and moderator of the Sioux Falls City Council meeting get in the middle of the deliberations (October 11, 2016)? In our video you get to see out of protocol the mayor was.

To question a city department director when the mayor was part of the decision to bring the proposal to the Council for consideration is laying blame in the wrong spot. This is why the council needs to start setting the agenda with proposed legislation and not the mayor’s office.

CityLink tries to one up Cameraman Bruce

Here is their tour of the Water Reclamation Plant.

Here is ours (several months ago);

Ignore the crappy roads, they will always be crappy

road01

At the Sioux Falls city council informational meeting yesterday we had a presentation about the conditions of our roads in Sioux Falls from a consultant who studied them last year. They put in a rating system on the roads.

After Councilor Stehly asked why we will not be putting more focus on the worst of the worst streets, Mark Cotter explained that we must focus on the fair streets more to keep them resurfaced before they get bad. Which I am in partial agreement. He concluded that it cost 8x more to replace a bad street then to just resurface. Stehly argued that we should be doing more to fix the bad streets.

Of course the naysayers came out in full force. First they complained the money wasn’t there, than in classic ‘make stuff up Michelle’, Erpenbach basically claimed we were driving on streets of gold.

I will agree with her partially. Anybody visiting our community will see our arterials and main routes are in very good shape, our residential streets in Sioux Falls central and proper, not so much.

I encourage anyone to either drive, or better yet take a bike ride starting at Nick’s Gyros on 41st street and zig zag through the neighborhoods towards 14th and Minnesota. Some of the roads are in such bad shape there are weeds growing in the center cracks. They are so bad, you can tell they are not only in need of replacement, but full curb and gutter, sidewalks, drainage and probably pipe upgrades, that is why the city is scared the death of opening that can of worms. They are willing to let the central part of our community suffer (where they are building a brand new swimming pool) in the name of urban sprawl.

Erpenbach goes on to say that roads become an issue in the Spring because of potholes, but no one talks about it any other time. Huey. This coming from a councilor who hasn’t talked to a constituent since she was elected. People complain about our roads 24/7, 365 days out of the year. It’s not just during campaign season.

So how can we fix the really bad roads while maintaining our urban sprawl? I have suggested a 1-2 year moratorium on quality of life projects, (façade) maintenance on entertainment facilities, flat line the parks budget, subsidizing non-essential non-profits, etc. I bet we could easily squeeze out an extra $20-30 million dollars for streets (you know, the original intention of the CIP to begin with).

This would of course take planning and courage, something that is in short supply at city hall these days.

 

Busted! City’s intermingling of CIP and Enterprise fund money

Remember only a few short months ago before the city election when the Public Works department and Mayor’s office were in maximum B.S. mode? I know, hard to keep track.

We were essentially told that water rates had to increase because they were a separate ‘enterprise fund’ and the fees you pay towards water and sewer went directly towards fixing water and sewer. They also told us in that same breath that ‘they could’ use CIP money (2nd penny) for upgrades to water and sewer, but didn’t because of the enterprise fund.

Now comes along Item #55 in the Sioux Falls City council agenda for Tuesday night (click on item then click on the PDF in the upper right corner). Seems the Water department and the Streets department are having a regular old poker game with our money, and chips are going all over the place. So how is it we can give road money to the Water department and Water money to the roads? I thought they came out of separate funds?

Once again more hyperbole fed to us before an election. At least we didn’t end up with another $180 million dollar white elephant this time.

Update on the origination of the 2nd Penny

lh

After digging around through some news articles, it seems the 2nd penny (and zoned snow removal) came to fruition in 1983 due to the efforts of the first female elected city commissioner Loila Hunking, who was in charge of public works. The 2nd penny was supposed to be ‘temporary’.

While Hunking was re-elected in 1986 to the commission, she was defeated in 1989, and in that short 6 years, the 2nd penny already became permanent, and one of it’s first projects that wasn’t dedicated to streets was cleaning up Falls Park.

I have not seen Loila in years. I first met her in 1992 while working for late state legislator Pat Pilcher at her print shop downtown in the former Lewis Drug.

Loila is an amazing person. Many of my political opinions about abortion and women’s fair pay were shaped around listening to Pat and Loila chew the fat.

Maybe someone needs to hook up a DaCola interview with her?

Water Rate Increases, scripted in the bathroom stall

Water conservation = Lower Rates. I jest.

The Argus Leader ED board has a brilliant suggestion;

We believe the water system should pay for itself, through the users, and that pricing for those services needs to help drive conservation.

If we feel our water bills are too high, maybe we can start by using less water?

Uh, yes, what a freaking concept. This poor stupid hippie in me has all of sudden forgotten about ‘conservation’. Except the fact of the glaring irony of your statement (so bold and finger pointing). Water rates did not go up for decades because the city was selling water at an all time high. In fact, during the Hanson administration, the water plant almost blew up. Really, it almost did. Or was it Munson? I forget.

So then we had exploding sewer pipes, etc. The city said, ‘Goddammit we are going to conserve!’ Bravo! They started handing out toilet rebates like candy and fancy low flow shower heads and garden hose thingies.

We were on our way to catching up with modern society, because once we conserve, our water rates would go down. I jest.

Quite the opposite. We started conserving, even at a record amount, then came that pesky Events Center and Jason Aldean concerts. How to pay for them? Well, it is quite simple. We start making water users, even the ones that conserve like a camel in a dessert, pay for pipes that orginally came from the 2nd penny infrastructure funds.

Oh, and what about all this urban sprawl, Foundation Park and the 22 Walmarts we need to build in the middle of cornfields? We gotta pay for pipes to them to. It’s all about those high paying jobs, you know.

So what has all this brilliant conservation gotten us? Well we got this awesome $80 million dollar pipeline that really only helped our Iowa neighbors get cheaper water that we only use about 10% of the time (because we are mandated to).

So if we really want to talk conservation and lower rates, let’s have this seventh grade math problem conversation. Those who truly conserve should pay on a sliding scale with those who don’t (and I mean a real one). In other words, if the average single family household uses less then that amount each month, they should get a substantial discount, if they don’t they should get a hefty ‘service charge’ for not conserving.

Isn’t that the enduring concept behind ‘conservation’? The less you use, the less you pay? Because the last I checked when I opened up my water bill this last month, there wasn’t a free pair of tickets to see Paul McCartney.

What was that Cotter? 70% on roads?

As a South DaCola foot soldier points out, Public Works director Mark Cotter may have ‘Mispoke’ recently on the Belfrage Show when he said “70% of the 2nd penny is spent on roads. As ‘Warren’ points out, not so fast;

I was also wondering where cotter got that 70% figure for second penny money for streets. Seemed high considering our debt service for playthings.

From page 8 2015 budget.

Street. 47.6%
Debt service. 28.1%
Culture/Rec. 14.3%
Police/Fire. 5.4%
Info/Tech (indoctrination) 2.2%
And a couple more percent split amongst several other departments

From page 8 2016 budget

Street. 51%
Debt service 26.8%
Culture/Rec. 11.2%
Police /Fire. 4.4%
Info/ Tech. 2%

The city has two reserve funds. The general fund is the city’s primary operating fund. This cover department wages, services, day to day functions. Main sources of revenue are the 1st penny tax and property tax.

The CIP is a plan, by department, that list capital projects related to infrastructure costs. The second penny funds this. Does the above look like the intent of the second penny?

Another note. The water reclamation enterprise fund (piggy bank, courtesy of the bills we pay) has 62.4 million in it. The water department has 39 million.

As Stehly has pointed out correctly, we ARE NOT spending enough of the 2nd penny on roads and infrastructure, and our enterprise funds really are turning into a ‘slush fund’ due to the enormous rate increases. Maybe Mark and Finance Director Tracy Turbak need to have a meeting a get on the same page before blasting councilors elect Stehly and Neitzert for pointing out the truth. One of these days the current administration will figure out that that lying thing will eventually bite you in the ass.