Entries Tagged 'Public Works' ↓

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?

Sioux Falls City Council needs to reform Project TRIM, ASAP!

The Emerald Ash Bore will soon be chomping down on trees all over Sioux Falls, it’s inevitable. Some of those trees are in city parks and in the city owned parking strips (boulevards) throughout the city.

In the above video, City of Sioux Falls Parks Director Kearney explains that the city will ultimately have to eliminate most of those Ash trees. The city seems to be taking a proactive approach to the problem.

This would be a perfect opportunity for the city council to tackle Project TRIM reform. During the last municipal campaign, Janet Brekke recommended that Project TRIM gets tied in with other city cleanup projects like KEEP & NICE (Brekke created these programs when she was city attorney). Not only could the city take over Project TRIM and take care of the trees they own in the Boulevard they could tie it in with the elimination of Ash trees in the boulevard.

I think the Parks and Rec and the Forestry divisions of Sioux Falls should come up with a 5 year plan to not only eliminate these trees before they are attacked by the bore, but also trim the other trees in the boulevard. It will be costly up front, but once the city goes through a second 5 year cycle it will get less expensive.

Maybe our Health Care Mega-Plexes should partner with Paratransit instead?

While it’s nice that Sanford has money for liquor licenses, suite’s at the Denty, Sports Bars, Basketball arenas and now a tourist trolley, shouldn’t Sanford & Avera be looking at a private/public partnership with Paratransit?

“We’re always proud to support services in our communities,” said Paul Hanson, Sanford Health executive vice president. “We know how much visitors love the Sioux Falls trolley service and couldn’t be happier to support it.”

While that’s great, I just wish our health systems would focus on ‘health’. I think a partnership with the hospitals and paratransit could be inked. Besides, I think the Trolley should be paid for out of the CVB’s BID Tax, but I guess they refuse. Well at least Sanford is fulfilling one empty promise from the former mayor and the CVB;

The trolleys also will be available as a shuttle service between downtown and the Denny Sanford Premier Center for major events throughout the year.

Premier Center entertainment district here we come!

Is it okay for city employees to talk on cell phones while driving city vehicles?

We’ve all seen it. A city employee driving a city vehicle and talking on their cell phone (I have even seen them running a snowplow and smoking while talking on a cell phone – now that’s talent!)

While I haven’t given it much thought, because I talk on my phone while driving, even though I try not to, I wondered what the city policy on this is. I would think that it would be OK if they were conducting city business, I guess it is NOT permitted unless it is an emergency situation.

According to city policy;

    1. Mobile phones or any other electronic device, City-owned and personal, shall not be used (including calls, text messages, email, social media, and any Internet usage) while operating vehicles or equipment while on City business, except for communications by Police and Fire personnel when it is not practical to stop the vehicle due to performance of their duties and Public Works/other City employees involved in snow removal operations.

And;

The use of tobacco products by City employees and customers, contractors, or others doing City business is prohibited in all City-owned and City-shared buildings, facilities, vehicles, parking lots, equipment, worksites, and walkways leading into City facilities.

I want the city council to think about this the next time they want to put more regulations on us.

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.

Does the City of Sioux Falls spend too much on consultants?

Yes. Yes, and Yes.

I’ve been bitching about this since Munson was mayor. I have often felt with all the 6-figure a year professionals the city already has working for them, it is ludicrous that we have to hire so many consultants. It all comes down to accountability and responsibility. It’s like none of the city directors/managers want to be accountable for the decisions they make, so they hire a consultant.

While NO one has an exact accounting of what the city spends on consultants (the finance department has conveniently separated those costs within each department, and like the infamous NO MOW list, there doesn’t seem to be a spreadsheet anywhere that gives an exact amount) some estimate it is around $10-12 million a year.

But here is where you really should start scratching your head;

“$850,000 over a two year period seems like it’s just over the top,” Councilwoman Theresa Stehly said.

The wastewater consulting company logged 5,000 hours. Let’s put that into perspective. Five-Thousand hours over 2 years equals the work of 1.3 FTE’s. If you assume the average pay and benefits of a city manager is $65,000 a year, that $850K equals the pay of 13 Full time city managers in one year. Like I said, why not depend on the expertise of the city employee professionals we already have working for us, instead of a consultant that charges us a ridiculous amount?

Because it is easier to not be accountable when things go wrong.

UPDATE: Where’s the Snowgate? (Feb 20, 2018) GP – Bruce

To plow is one thing but being able to see snowgates is what we voted for.

Sioux Falls voted to have graders with snowgates clearing all the streets. in the wee hours of Tuesday, February 20, 2018 we had some more white stuff called snow. The stuff snowgates were made to keep from filling our driveways.

It has finally been added to the books;

96.127  SNOW GATES.

The City of Sioux Falls shall use snow gates or other devices to prevent snow, in an amount that prevents usual access, from being plowed or placed into driveways or their openings to public streets from and after November 1, 2013.  This section shall cover City employees and contract employees.  Snow gates are discretionary upon the declaration of a snow emergency on routes that have been declared snow emergency routes.

(Ord. IM01-14, approved by the voters on 4-8-2014)

It might seem petty but some of us worked hard a few years ago to see snowgates keeping the white stuff out of our driveways.

I heard the plow drive quickly past my house so I knew it was not the usual grader pair with a snowgate, so I sent the following email to Councilor Theresa Stehly:

Theresa,

I love snow gates. We worked hard to get them and I have been very happy with their use. The city employees have been very cooperative and friendly in helping the property owners. The work we did to promote them has paid off well for the entire town, until this week.

On Monday, February 20, 2018 at 7:01 am, a Sioux Falls snowplow truck drove through my west 9th street neighborhood between Valley View and LaMesa at about 30mph clearing the street. When I went out to get in my truck, there was chucks of ice and snow in the grill. Thrown there by the force combination of speed and the lack of snow gates. My truck’s headlights could have been broken with the way this truck zoomed past throwing up the debris mixed with ice and snow.

I have problems with this week’s street cleaning,

  1. the lack of snow gate use,
  2. the speed of the truck sent to clean our street,
  3. the fact my truck was pelted with street crap.

How do I know this truck was used and the speed? I have the video. The photo I have enclosed is from the video.

*********

I sent a photo and then decided to post this video do to the size and story.

While I’m at it, there is another issue I’d like addressed. Why are certain streets in Sioux Falls which never get snowgate service in the southeast section of town. How come? – Bruce

Dacola Note: While we are on the pissy parade, I will say this about the snowgate use; certain operators are picking and choosing when to use them. For example I hear from people in the SE part of town that ‘sometimes they are used, and sometimes they are not’. I live in central by Avera on a straight street, and that was the case last winter. This winter they have never missed, and in fact, have left next to nothing in my driveway. I think it is certain operators that choose not to use them.

I have liked Stehly’s idea of having a large display number on the back of snowplows so you can report drivers who are skirting their duties.

While I’m at it I have a personal message I would like to send to the maintenance crew at Avera (along Cliff Ave) and Lincoln HS. STOP THROWING SNOW INTO THE STREET! ESPECIALLY WHEN PEOPLE ARE DRIVING BY! YOU DIRT FOOLS! Not only is it against ordinance to throw it into a plowed street, you almost caused me to ram into the back of someone this morning because the city had the genius idea to put a crosswalk light at the bottom of a steep hill – you know – for the safety of the children.

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.

 

UPDATE: Spot the Jesus Snowplow on Saturday!

UPDATE: No Jesus Snowplows! I repeat NO Jesus Snowplows! At least the ones that were on display did not have any reference to Jesus. One of the Catholic schools had their logo on it, that is kind of a sacred heart in a flower, but that was about as close as it got. Even the Lutheran School refrained. They had the message ‘Choose Joy’ on their plow, which I thought was kind of cool. The big theme this year was Van Gogh. One of the plows was a combination of Starry Night with a silhouette of the Statue of David. I’m sure this probably stems from the killer movie coming out which is entirely made from animated paintings;

Now becoming a yearly holiday tradition for DaCola, see if you can find the unconstitutional snow plows;

The Eighth Annual Paint the Plows event will display 22 plows painted by area students this Saturday, October 21, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The plows will be on exhibit at the Empire Mall in the JCPenney east parking lot.

But, hey, when you want to go against constitutional law, all you need is a disclaimer;

The City of Sioux Falls does not censor the content or any viewpoints on the artwork. Any messages or views expressed are not those of the City or endorsed by the City.

It’s NOT censorship when it’s unconstitutional. But the mayor isn’t going to let some blogger tell him how to practice his fake Christianity.

If I don’t find any Jesus Snowplows this year, I think I will present the Mayor and City Council with a ‘Constitutional Achievement Merit Award’.

Actually, the Jesus snowplows actually got me in hot water at work when one of the cry baby candidates in the last municipal election called our sales manager and complained about my blog post about his relationship with the topic. Doubt he will run for office again anyway after he got his ass handed to him.

Mayor throws councilor Stehly under the bus at water summit

If he is not flat out lying, he sure knows how to twist a story to make himself look good. (FF:57:20). During the Mayor’s water summit (in which he talks 90% of the time) they were talking about investing in water and sewer infrastructure and it’s importance. Hey, who wouldn’t agree? Then he proceeds to say a councilor the night before (It was Stehly) chastised him for raising water rates. Oh the tangled web you weave Mike just to get your jollies. Stehly as well as myself during public input were voicing our concerns that our water rates were hiked NOT because we were upgrading CURRENT infrastructure but that the city used the additional funds to build up a $36 million dollar reserve fund (savings account). Stehly was concerned we are building up large reserves in the enterprise funds instead of actually SPENDING the money on it’s intent; upgrading infrastructure.

The man takes no shame in using Stehly to sell his snakeoil. What a loser.

Huether went on to say he was proud of the council to allow him to raise rates (taxes). He felt those rate increases were needed for upgrades. Not true. If mayor Huether was really fiscally responsible he would have spent our CIP money on infrastructure upgrades instead of mortgage debt for playthings.

He finished the forum by ripping on the ‘loud minority voices’ and how the media gives them a platform. It’s funny, because these ‘loud minority voices’ actually have quite a few of followers. 6,500 of them signed a petition against the City Administration Building (the $25 million dollar bond was implemented by a super minority, the mayor). Oh, and that other minority that approved snow gates by over 70% of the vote. But please, don’t listen to them.