Entries Tagged 'Railroads' ↓

Note to the Sioux Falls City Council

This compiled short history of Sioux Falls Railroads is for you. Why is this important? (DOC: Sioux Falls SD Railroad history compilations)

The City Council and people of Sioux Falls, SD must understand legal ramifications surrounding a resolution vote item#44 on the August 4, 2015 agenda.


We citizens have had the TOP SECRET rail yard document in front of us since Friday afternoon. The preliminary reading shows many holes in data and legal descriptions. The 82 page document being presented by the administration does not adequately cover many issues surrounding Railroad Relocation.

We have heard about a TOP SECRET railroad project for many years with no details attached. We citizens should be able to see what is being promised in our names. We have known from the beginning we were not supposed to be part of this TOP SECRET project. As sunlight shines on this TOP SECRET project we are seeing many problems.

The citizens of Sioux Falls should at least be able to weigh in on this TOP SECRET project. Why must we have so much secrecy, for such little gain to go with the massive hype? We have learned through the documents posted on Friday the City of Sioux Falls is receiving a Quit Claim Deed. Why a Quit Claim Deed when it should be at the very least a Warranty Deed giving future generations and developers full property rights? This is a very serious question. The City of Sioux Falls could be a partner in a land fraud or other issues we know nothing about. We are gambling our city future by taking the word of vested interests. The reconstruction of the full land history would establish the city ownership rights. The railroads entering the city of Sioux Falls had reversionary rights, why risk the legal issues? This land will not be used for transportation operations once abandoned. This is a very risky proposal. It is not difficult. Land title companies do these searches every day. The city hires consultants for everything else, why not this?

So we ask, what is the hurry to spend the money without proper oversight? We are getting ready for major budget demands, ready to put the city of Sioux Falls in more debt for playthings and special interests. Can we take a couple of weeks to really examine this contract with public hearings to get real commitments and answers?

Bruce Danielson


Railroaded in Sioux Falls (another gem from 2010)

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Looking for information on the railroads in Sioux Falls we found this jewel from November 8, 2010 City Council Informational.

When we listened to this talk it helped fill in several points in history but it also misses several others. Our town’s rail yard relocation project has missing details in this interesting talk. For some reason we are not allowed to see the entire set of details prior to the City Council meeting Resolution being voted on August 4, 2015.

There are a few issues not adding up to let us know why this is so important to jam down our collective throats so quickly before we can get all the data required. To start with land ownership issues not making sense. Plus there are still people thinking we are going to have less trains going through Sioux Falls when in fact will are getting ready to have more. If there is nothing to hide, what difference will it make to wait a couple of weeks so we can research the pieces not making sense.

This is similar to buying a house or any other building. We are not receiving clear title to this property. A Quit Claim Deed is not clear title. (Document resolution: Rail-Resolution)

The Council should not be voting to pass this resolution until a full list and audit of the parcels being transferred in this Quit Claim Deed is done. We need a list of the actual parcels with the history since first platting in the mid-1800’s. Why shouldn’t we know the actual ownership chain now, before money changes hands. Also, there are areas of the rail yard where service operations were done many years ago, where is the study showing these areas were tested? Are we getting another Pitts brownfield to deal with? There are Sioux Falls people who remember the contaminations of the past and wonder what was done to remediate them.

We already know how our city legal department deals with Quit Claim Deeds. Think about the subtle differences in 2 types of deeds (from Wikipedia):

“A warranty deed is a type of deed where the grantor (seller) guarantees that he or she holds clear title to a piece of real estate and has a right to sell it to the grantee (buyer). This is in contrast to a quitclaim deed, where the seller does not guarantee that he or she holds title to a piece of real estate.”

In a sense the attorneys for the city are giving the Council another Quit Claim deed property deal because the ownership of the property is actually in question. The Ellis & Eastern and BNFS railroads probably were given Quit Claim Deeds as the land transferred to them, so they could take over the property and use it after the several railroads went out of business. Do we have copies of these papers attached to this resolution? Of course not.

Even Governor Janklow in 1980 and after was not sure, so it was understood the state bought the Milwaukee Road track equipment and assumed the land easements during the abandonment process to be able to continue to operate on the rail beds. The rail right of ways were important to takeover in the early 1980’s to keep operational. Many researchers are still not clear as to what land is owned or just controlled by easement to this day. Reason? No one wants to actually see what is buried in the original papers or they would be attached.

Why shouldn’t we citizens get a warranty deed for this property before we waste any more time on it? Why is it when we see these proposals, some of us only see the things NOT making sense like who actually owns the land?

Let me scoop you on those secret meetings . . .

Okay, so this is the whole press conference of the mayor on the RR relocation, but if you (FF: 44:00 – sorry for all the background noise, it settles down a bit) you will get to hear him brag it up with Stu about all the secret meetings.

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We’ll be giving more thoughts on this weird land deal in the near future, like when the city finally lets us see it. Here is the Presser given in Sioux Falls City Hall Commission Chamber on July 22, 2015. It was the usual speeching by a master speecher.

Have you heard the expression “hot mic”? Apparently some people don’t know much about it. In our latest video we are given inside scoops on city hall inside scoops from mmm and his press secretary.

If you are going to talk insider stuff, don’t do it next to a hot mic…

Does the Railroad Relocation project have any value to Federal & City taxpayers?


The (forced) announcement today, where the mayor announced NO questions from NON press. I guess we can’t ask how you are spending our money.


The depot will remain under the poorly proposed plan

While nothing has been signed yet, the redline of the project was completed on Monday. The environmental study revealed that low levels of petroleum and lead were found at the site and 6” of brownfield will have to be removed before doing any development in the area. We will also have to put a security fence around the project while it is being prepared for development.

Where I see no value in the project is that two major RR lines will still remain downtown, which I assume will become even more busy. One of them crosses Cliff Avenue, and frankly is a pain in the ass as it is. I also don’t see the value in buying land to prepare an old RR yard for developers to buy. Then there is the relocation costs associated that we are basically giving to the RR. They are the ones moving, it shouldn’t be on the backs of taxpayers to help them with the move. While the developers will be required to do their own environmental study at the time of purchase, I still think all along this should have been a private matter between the RR and the developers. While the Feds did have to be involved, our city government should have kept its nose out a deal that is just going to cost us more money in the long run and not really solve the problems with train traffic downtown. According to the Mayor, it sounds like it is just going to be another park. Big whoop. How about cleaning up the park just 2 blocks away to the North?

The mayor, of course had to bring up the naysayers and how this project is bigger than the Events Center (thank God we are only building a fence and not siding a building). I find his ‘naysayer’ comment a bit hypocritical. I remember Huether being the biggest naysayer about this project when we were debating whether or not to build a Events Center downtown. I truly think that really put a hiccup in the process.

The city council will only approve this through a resolution on August 4th. No real discussion, no public input, no debate.

While I am happy that the tracks will be moved out of this area, this project is nothing more then another handout to the already super rich developers in our city AND it does nothing to end rail traffic downtown. Huether, Johnson, Daschle and Thune, thanks for nothing, but more federal debt. Ironic how Huether makes fun of Washington, but gladly takes money from them. He did it after the ice storm, and now with the RR relocation project.

Click to enlarge below graphic of press release;


Railroad Relocation project announcement Wednesday?

That’s the $40 million dollar question?

Officials are expected to announce the details of the deal between the city, federal regulators, BNSF Railway and the Ellis & Eastern Railroad. Under the terms of the deal, BNSF would receive millions of dollars for giving up the use of its rail yard.

The first thought that popped into my head is how or why would we be paying the railroad for land that is technically the Feds (ours) already. This explanation is going to be an interesting one. While the land that their buildings are on could technically be sold, I thought anything with tracks laying on it are Federal right-a-way and should go back to the Feds at NO charge.

My second thought was why was the Argus briefed about this before the city council (who will get briefed in executive session today after the informational, probably about the project). If the press conference is supposed to happen Wednesday, why is the administration waiting less then 24 hours to tell council? When I talked to council chair Kenny Anderson about this a few weeks ago, he said that the lawyers were mulling through the deal and it would be announced soon. Then bam, out of nowhere, without council knowledge, the Argus puts it out there. Seems the Mayor’s office has a mole with loose lips.


What do you know about ‘Reversion’ ?

Some of my South DaCola foot soldiers have been digging around about Railroads and Federal easements. I guess since the 1800’s Railroads are considered a public utilities like electric transmission lines, and since they are, they don’t actually ‘own’ the land they are operating on, they have an easement from the Federal Government. That being said, when they remove the tracks from that easement land and are no longer using it, the land goes into reversion, in which the Federal Government gives the land to the adjacent property owners.
Like I said, just started digging into this a little, and don’t know all of the details, but if this is true, it means the land that BNSF is trying to sell to the city shouldn’t even be for sale, and some adjacent property owners are about to get a late Christmas gift.
What do you know?


The only thing missing from this Presser is an apple tree and sombrero

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There are times we send out our video machine to hopefully record something positive for our great city. This isn’t one of them. During the Mayor’s presser December 23, 2014 we learned nothing new and don’t dare ask for more than we are willing to tell you.

It reminded us of a Texas politician doing the side step. Now you see me now you don’t. We really don’t every get to see anything new but we do get an interesting demonstration of how to bust a move. When you are done, the movers feel like you need to bow your head and hide.

Instead of a run-off election, they should have had a dance-off.

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UPDATE: Choo! Choo!


Trust me, I would cry if I could

The (non) Big announcement will be made today at 2 PM at City Hall about the RR Relocation. I don’t expect any fireworks.

UPDATE: The appraisals have been finished, and shared with BNSF and Santa FE Railroads, but cannot be shared with the public (due to some obscure Federal law). The mayor said they are in ‘beginning stages’ of negoitiating a purchase (yeah right).

The mayor refuses to answer questions about the appraisal AND doesn’t mention that the MOU ends on Dec 31 (which will pretty much force the process to start over).

In other words, as I predicted NOTHING has been accomplished, and NOTHING is being said about that failure to cut a deal with the Railroads. It is time for the city to cut ties with this deal, it’s a waste of tax dollars and city employee resources.

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UPDATE: What’s going on with the RR Relocation Project?

UPDATE: Well, I heard a few things from a reliable source tonight that I (we all) have suspected. Basically, BNSF is asking for an atrocious price for the land, I won’t say the amount, but let’s just say it is laughable.

You have to remember, this has been a switching yard for over 120 years, the amount of pollution on that plot of land is probably enormous, on top of the fact it will cost a lot to clean it up. I would compare it to buying a home with a bad roof and broken foundation, you would ask the seller to come down in price, way down.

The kicker though, and I am speculating here, is the first appraisal came in way, way, way lower then the asking price, and I hear the second one wasn’t much better.

Without saying too much I will put it in perspective. Let’s just say the appraisal isn’t matching up with the asking price, by a long shot.

This is probably why the negotiations are taking this long. It would be like you getting a $250 credit limit credit card with $190 dollars in fees on it when you receive it in the mail . . .

I have a feeling the FEDS are probably going to refuse to purchase the land for what BNSF is asking, or already have.

I know, I know, I have asked this question a couple (100) times over the past, I don’t know, 8 years? But the mayor mentioned at his Shut Up & Listen session last Saturday that it is still proceeding, and it has been one of the most challenging projects he has ever worked on (yeah, hoodwinking the Feds isn’t as easy as hoodwinking passive South Dakotans).

Now we have a local developer, and River Greenway welfare queen, Jeff ‘Government Handout’ Cherapa saying this;

Jeff Scherschlight, CEO of Howalt McDowell in Cherapa Place and managing partner of Cherapa, detailed the parameters of the potential changes.

“Basically, they’re going to leave the tracks that are furthest east will still exist,” Scherschlight said. “There’ll be two tracks, and everything from there coming west will be removed. And that is the railroad switchyard, which they’re going to relocate in smaller towns around Sioux Falls, and do their switching there, which is the big advantage that we gain this extra land downtown for downtown development.”

Scherschlight could see his building, Cherapa Place, expand to include a second building, should the current railway switch yard site become transformed into parking. Only two railroad tracks would remain, while the switchyard would be relocated away from downtown.

What I find interesting about this ‘edited’ story is that the original text that was posted last night on StormLand’s website has disappeared (I should have copied it) there was a mention in the original post that said “. . . an announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday” about the progress of the project.

UPDATE: It is in the video though if you listen closely. Wonder why the city didn’t want to do an on camera interview? And what does Jeff Cherapa know? If anything?

Little details and NO inked deal with Feds, but hey, we’re getting a kiosk!

There has been little to no talk about the Rail Relocation project over the past 6 months. I have even pulled the ear of a couple of local reporters to see if they have heard anything. Nope. There was a mention in the 2015 budget of a fence. But that is about it. Now comes a Kiosk for the project in the consent agenda today at the council meeting.

Rail Relocation/Railroad Interpretive Kiosk; Confluence $ 5,100

So what has been going on? Are the Feds ready to ink a deal with the city and the railroads? How much has it been appraised for? What are we paying for it? How much money are the Feds going to give us? It’s nice we are blowing tax dollars on a Kiosk for a project that hasn’t been inked yet with the Feds.

What is going on? Is there a Federal investigation going on? It certainly would not be uncommon for the Feds to audit the process before handing over $30 million dollars, in fact it would be expected of them to do so. So who would do this investigation? The IRS? The FBI? The months of silence on this project is eerie.