Entries Tagged 'Public Works' ↓

Ignore the crappy roads, they will always be crappy


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.

Tree Trim Talk

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Published on Jun 12, 2016

Cut them all down and we would never have to hear about them again. No more crimes against the state, city or God. Punish the trees and all who sit under them to cool off during a hot summer day! But then again, if we allow trees to grow our code enforcement officers have a way to control the unwashed masses who try to own property.

A bit extreme? Yea, but when you watch the masters of city control demand we trim nonexistent tree branches or face punishment by the fines we get a bit upset. The Sioux Falls and Brandon City Councils get together several times a year to learn from each other. On June 8, 2016 was another of those dinner meetings and Cameraman Bruce tagged along with you guessed it, his camera. No Rex-Tex Golfing there trying to break the camera, only a lively open discussion of several topics of interest.

Operation Trim is a poorly conceived and executed program designed to abuse citizens. It is a program designed to force the population of Sioux Falls to do the work the city should be doing. The trees in the street-side right of way are the property of the city of Sioux Falls, lock, stock and barrel. Through the years property owners are forced to buy, plant and nurture the trees to create the small town image. Granted we like the image but we have also learned a great deal about the downsides of right of way trees.

The city of Brandon has become very progressive and less regressive in the life of trees. Sioux Falls should stop and examine how stupid our Operation Trim is. This is our second time hearing about the program from Brandon Council members and maybe the city should consider their methods.

A tour of the Sioux Falls Water Reclamation Plant (Sewer treatment)

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We are always looking for open meetings to attend with our cameras. Sometimes we are assaulted verbally and sometimes criminally hit just because we show up and ask questions. So it was nice to show up and be greeted so warmly on June 8, 2016 at of all places the Sioux Falls Waste Management Plant (A.K.A. the sewer department).

Brandon and Sioux Falls Joint City Council meetings are always interesting. A trip to look at our waste management plant is right up there.

The Marks and Trent did a great job showing the six city council members just about everything they could at the plant. This video is being presented raw so everyone can see how polite and respectful Mark Cotter’s staff was even to Cameraman Bruce during the tour.

If our town’s chief marketing officer and the rest of his staff was as open and straightforward with us, we might actually consider what they tell us has some truth. As long as Tracy, Kendra and the others are allowed to throw crying sissy hissy fits as they run from the rooms when we show up, we will never believe anything they propose.

When the administration beats their points in with fancy PowerPoint propaganda or with wild tennis elbows we will never believe them or should you. Our new city council members are doing their research the right way, it is hard to do but with their efforts we may finally be getting some controls in place.

Detroit’s note; I was very impressed by the staff’s presentation. I learned a lot about how solid waste is toggled before it is released. I also found the ‘free fertilizer’ proposal useful. Stay tuned, Bruce and I will be visiting another facility the city has a partnership with later this month. I promise it won’t be about poop.

Sioux Falls City Councilors and Cameraman Bruce visit the water reclamation plant

We hope to have video up soon. Since this was a quorum of councilors the tour was open to the public, so Bruce tagged along.

Below: Councilors Selberg, Neitzert, Erickson, Stehly, Starr and plant manager.



Update on the origination of the 2nd Penny


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?

Let’s have a REAL discussion about Enterprise Funds


“I’m giving it all I got Captain, but I’m afraid the EC won’t be profitable this year.”

Here’s an idea I would like to pitch to DaCola readers; let’s expand the use of enterprise funds.

You are probably asking what the hell I am talking about?

Let’s look at the city’s argument behind using enterprise funds for water and sewer, they feel the ‘users’ should pay for these infrastructure upgrades instead of coming from the 2nd penny (what they are not telling you is that they want to also use the funds to build NEW infrastructure, like Foundation Park, that has little to do with normal maintenance, operations and upgrades.)

It’s not a bad concept, so why not apply it to other entities in Sioux Falls government? Why not pay to play at these facilities also;

• City Golf Courses

• Swimming Pools (especially the indoor pool)

• The Arena, Orpheum, Washington Pavilion and especially the Events Center.

Why not take the fees from users and put that money into a fund that helps pay for maintenance and even debt service? Not only does it make sense, the tax payers would truly see just how valuable our quality of life projects are to us.

In fact, I don’t think the city golf courses have ever lost money, maybe tie all the Parks Department entities that charge fees together (Golf, Swim and Great Bear).

Then at the end of each year, each of the funds could ‘borrow’ or be subsidized by the 2nd penny if they come up short. This would show us a true ‘balance sheet’ and go along with that whole ‘transparency in government’ thingy.

What do you think?


Water Rate Increases, scripted in the bathroom stall

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Who will replace Darrin Smith? Or will there be a replacement?

While studying the city management salary increases over the past five years, we came across some interesting title changes. People were hop-scotching back and forth between the public works department and engineering. Not sure if this had to do with pay adjustments or what. It kind of looked like an accounting game.

Either way, there seems to be a discussion going on similar in the community development office. Will Darrin Smith have to be replaced or will restructuring of the department eliminate a Czar of community development?

With the new council rolling in, and the change of rules when appointing department heads (council must also approve the mayoral appointment of the director, no matter the size of the department). Could be interesting to see what kind of extra duties some of the other directors may have to take on to avoid a mayoral appointment.

Of course this wouldn’t be the first time the mayor would be playing hard and fast with the rules.

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.