Entries Tagged 'Public Utilities' ↓

The Denty bonds have never been paid for with user fees

Remember former Mayor Bucktooth & Bowlcut’s mantra? Facilities/services should be paid for through user fees.

This has been the argument for raising sewer and water rates to pay the treatment plant bonds.

Yet, all of these facilities have NEVER been paid for through user fees;

Indoor Pool, Admin building, Huether Tennis Center and most famously the Denty.

The idea was certainly pitched that every ticket purchased at the Denty would have a fee attached to it to help pay down the $9 million a year mortgage. The former mayor responded something like this, “We will certainly look at it.”

While the Denty has done a good job covering operating expenses and management fees, it has contributed very little to capital improvement or paying the mortgage, both which come from the 2nd Penny (we all pay it when we purchase something in Sioux Falls).

A $5 ticket fee or more could easily be attached to the ticket price to help pay down the mortgage, other facilities across the nation do it, but SMG has said that artists and promoters set ticket prices and are opposed to it. Phooey!

Smart City or Big Brother?

I get a little nervous when government, especially local governments start suggesting video monitoring in public spaces outdoors;

It’s a reoccurring crime in Sioux Falls, vandals damaging art on the Sioux Falls SculptureWalk.

That’s why Sioux Falls’ IT manager says the city is looking at monitoring the area through video cameras.

“So if somebody is starting to climb onto a sculpture, that video technology can alert a staff member. Then somebody can go check it out,” IT Manager Jon Klemme said.

Trust me, not a fan of art vandals, but when you put expensive bronzes in public spaces, things can happen, that is why they are insured. Besides, I think the expense to taxpayers to protect art that is insured with video monitoring isn’t worth it. I also find it ironic that the city would consider video monitoring art when they said it is too expensive to store data for police to have body cameras? Let’s talk about priorities.

The city has also added several traffic signals that move cars more safely and quickly using artificial intelligence.

As I have told people, I haven’t noticed a difference on Minnesota Avenue with traffic flow, so not sure how well it is working. What they do need to fix is the light at 26th and Cliff that is timed goofy all the time, and while they are at it fix the roller coaster ride over the RR tracks in front of Avera on Cliff. Quite possibly one of the worst street repair jobs I have seen in the city.

How can we also forget the UNCONSITUTIONAL red light cameras that had to be taken down?

Think about all of the street lights in Sioux Falls. To save money and electricity, those lights could be turned off at night until technology senses movement nearby.

Now that is a good idea, I much prefer movement detectors over video monitoring.

Culbertson says people are often concerned when a city starts collecting more data, so city officials should make sure citizens are comfortable with the technology before it’s rolled out.

In reality, this should really be dictated by city ordinance and voted on by the citizens through the Charter Revision Commission and a city election. We must take government monitoring seriously. They already snoop in our yards and Bruce has even caught them digging around his junk pile during Project NICE. We pay city employees to SERVICE us, NOT SNOOP on us. If you are concerned about the well being of your private property that is the responsibility of the individual, NOT the city.

*You know what would be really fun, live web feed cameras installed in the City Center Admin building so we can watch city employees work 🙂

City Junk Truck sits in park for over 3 weeks

Funny, as a homeowner you are not allowed to have non-operable vehicles in front of your house or in your driveway, but apparently the city can just park them in a park (Frank Olson) for weeks at a time. Maybe someone should call code enforcement. Oh, that’s right, the city doesn’t have to follow it’s own rules.

Inside Town Hall, the water rate increase ‘The Fix is In’

How long did Sioux Falls Public Works know about the $260 Million dollar water plant expansion

Several city councilors have told me they have known little about the water reclamation expansion until after Former Mayor Bucktooth & Bowlcut left office. They have admitted that there was mention that the expansion WAS coming, but the price tag and water rate increases were NOT talked about.

The latest proposal is to increase our rates by 6% each year for the next 3 years and 3% every year after that. We will see how the council debates this proposal. My suggestion would be to bond $160 from the enterprise funds and $100 from the 2nd Penny to spread out the bond payment costs. In reality, the 2nd Penny should pay all of this since technically this is infrastructure/capital.

It is very curious that the pricetag was NOT talked about in the final months of the last administration’s term. Did he ask his Public Works director and finance department to embargo the information over the past year so he could justify bonding for the Administration building, parking ramp and $25 million dollar bond payment for Lewis & Clark? We can only imagine the answer to that question. I would suspect that the Public Works Department has known for at least the past two years this was coming AND it would be very expensive. Funny how this got dumped into TenHaken’s lap after Bucktooth did all his monument building. Go figure. Not to mention the $50 million dollar jail and $190 million School Bond.

If I was the city council I would grill Mr. Cotter on how long he knew about this expansion and the possible costs. Following orders to keep something a secret from Bucktooth is unacceptable.

City of Sioux Falls Water Treatment Plant Expansion; Lots of Questions

Before we go off the deep end and spend $260 million for an expansion of the water treatment plant, some major unknowns need to be answered;

The city says we are at 82% Capacity. How long did it take us to get there? How many more years before we are at capacity? How long will it take to build the expansion? Can we draw this expansion out over 5-10 years, doing incremental changes?

What percentage of treatment is used for nearby towns that contract Sioux Falls to treat their water? Can we increase their rates significantly?

What is our true population growth? And how does that breakdown? How many newborns? Retirees, immigrants, new people/families? How many from neighboring towns that already use our treatment plant?

Why are we using the enterprise funds for capital improvements? Shouldn’t this be for operations and maintenance? Why not use 2nd penny funds to pay down bonds of new plant?

As you can see, we have a lot of big questions that need answers before we decide to move forward with the new plant.

Water Rates going up? That’s news to me.

Apparently Councilor Rick Kiley has a crystal ball, because he is predicting our water and sewer rates are going up;

“They foresee a possible increase of about $2 per month for a family of five,” city councilor Rick Kiley said.

Kiley says the city knew this day was coming.

“You never want to raise rates, but in a situation like this where we are at 82% capacity today, we have a community that’s growing by 5,000 people every year and we are bringing on regional customers in addition to that it’s the prudent thing to do now is to expand our existing facilities,” Kiley said.

The city council will be voting on the funding this project when it passes the city budget in October.

While I agree we need to fix up a 1980’s water treatment plant, if we didn’t switch the rates over to enterprise funds we could easily pay the bonds with 2nd penny CIP revenue without raising fees. But see, former mayor Bucktooth & Bowlcut wanted to free up the 2nd penny from paying for silly old water pipes, and use it for paying down bonds for monument building.

So now our taxes are going up for a new jail, and Minnehaha county admitted at their Tuesday meeting (Commissioner Barth) that there will likely be another opt out, put that on top of a 25 year around $300 million dollar new school bond and our already existing $300 million city debt, and things are going to get a lot more expensive in Sioux Falls, including taking a dump.

Better strap down the load next time

A South DaCola foot soldier sent me this today and said, “Isn’t it city ordinance to strap down your load?” I guess a city truck lost this new traffic light out the back of their truck while trying to make a yellow light. Oh the irony. I also heard a rumor today that directors have been telling the new mayor that their departments are ‘broke’ and don’t have any money for new projects. Maybe RC would like to borrow us $130 million?

City rejects public works bid as non-responsive bidder

Watch last night’s Sioux Falls City Council meeting and listen to why the city rejected a bidder. Their reasoning was;

A new company was formed from an old company in 2014, and the old company did bad work for the city between 2001-2008 (apparently it took the city 7 years to figure out they were a bad contractor).

They weren’t paying subcontractors on time or at all

Bonding company had to bail them out on several occasions

Old company had to break up because of multiple judgments against them.

Listening to this, and assuming we trust what the city attorney’s office was saying, it would be safe to assume they had good reasons to reject the bidder.

But read the list again. Does this sound like another contractor/developer the city is currently in cahoots with to build a $20 million dollar parking ramp? Makes you wonder what criteria was used to pick Legacy doesn’t it? Apparently NOT the same to pick contractors that do sewer work for our city. Just sayin’.

*On a side note, at the public input portion of the meeting I mentioned that the new city council needs to work on policies to bring more transparency to city government, especially with communication between the council and mayor’s office.

Before the consent agenda discussion, Erpenbach took the opportunity to chide me and say that while she served on the council they worked on transparency like getting the consent agenda published on SIRE. While this is true, I found her statement a bit ironic. As I recall it, it was Councilor Vernon Brown who spearheaded the idea with the help of than City Clerk Debra Owen, the very person Erpenbach helped push to be terminated, and did it while violating open meetings laws. Erpenbach’s ‘transparency’ hypocrisy will be her legacy.

Mayor justifies $25 million dollar admin building by overcharging us on water rates

Boy, the man can spin.

Recently the city re-financed the Lewis & Clark bonds with a supposed $25 million in interest savings. But how this was accomplished was under the guise we were paying higher water/sewer rates for infrastructure upgrades.

We have been told over the past 7-10 years that we had to increase these rates and turn them into their own fund (enterprise) so we could upgrade our aging water & sewer infrastructure.

Sounds reasonable . . . if the city was telling the truth.

They actually have been putting the money in a savings account, $25 million to be exact. In order to save the $25 million in interest for the L & C bonds we had to make a $25 million principal payment. That money came from the ‘savings’ account.

During the Listening and Learning session the mayor justifies the $25 million dollar admin building because we saved $25 million on the L & C bonds. What a stretch.

Okay, let’s break down his illogical argument;

• We never needed the $80 million dollar hookup to L & C. In fact we only get about 10% of our water from the pipe (contract requirement) while we continue to buy land for more wells. I believe all along that we bailed out L & C and if they would not have gotten the $80 million from us they would have struggled to stay afloat. How was that the responsibility of Sioux Falls taxpayers? Our genius DC reps should have stepped up, I guess they were busy trying to get $27 million for Warren Buffet.

• We were lied to about increasing water rates. We were told this was for fixing infrastructure. It was never mentioned to us at ANY TIME over past 7 years that this money was going into a savings account, let alone a savings account to pay for an administration building.

• We didn’t need an administration building. In fact it would be more fiscally responsible to continue to lease property instead of adding more capital that we have to pay off and maintain. We essentially traded a $100K a year lease payment for $1 million dollar a year mortgage payment. There is nothing in the charter that says the city needs to own it’s own office space for employees. Even our finance director said over 2 years ago it made more sense to lease. The city should also concentrate on using more technology to reduce the number of city employees. They should also work on home work spaces.

Like paying for the indoor pool with a Federal levee bond repayment the mayor has justified an unneeded city building by overcharging us on water rates.

Always on the spin cycle.