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Further comments on the River Greenway Project in Sioux Falls

Image: Courtesy City of Sioux Falls

The Argus did a story on the expansion of the River Greenway project and got a couple of quotes from Detroit Lewis, while they are accurate, I would like to expand on what I was talking about;

“I’m all for a greenway project in there, but that pedestrian bridge is a gigantic waste of money,” said Scott Ehrisman, a Sioux Falls resident and frequent critic of City Hall. “A million for a pedestrian bridge is a little silly. I think you could do with a half-million and clean up that whole area and be done with it.”

I went on to say that I am all for fixing up the Greenway (bike path, foresty, vegetation, etc.) I just think that the pricetag is out of line. I also got into a discussion about the the amphitheater being planned at Fawick park and questioned the need for another one a couple of blocks north. It is also no secret that this bridge was planned when everyone thought there would be an Events Center next to Cherapa Place (which is still a possibility – see the faint drawing of it in the background of the above image?) but since that is no where in the future to be seen, I think we can hold off building the yellow brick road over the river. As I said to Tom in the interview;

“First off, what is the purpose of building an amphitheater if we are already building one at Fawick, which I believe is a better location, and secondly, why do we need to build a million dollar bridge at that location when you can walk a half a block in either direction and cross the river? Talk about waste.”

Of course, the spend happy city has an excuse for everything;

“I think it’s pretty reasonably priced, and people have to realize that this is being driven by the private sector,” Kearney said. “It’s their desire to develop the area, and we’re just coming along and implementing a plan that we’ve had on the shelf.”

If it is being driven by them, why not let them pay for it to? Will a million dollar pedestrian bridge at that location benefit the citizens or the developers? I think we know the answer to that question.

Critics say more needs to be done in the downtown core, including projects that enliven Phillips Avenue and engender more events at the Washington Pavilion.

“I just don’t see how putting in a pedestrian bridge is going to help downtown,” Ehrisman said. “I think there’s a lot better things to do downtown than building steps down to the river. I see so many better options.”

Like I mentioned above, I think improving trails in that area is a good idea, but I am not grasping how people would be attracted to Cherapa Place. I feel we must expand out from the core area (11th & Phillips) instead of all this spotty development, here and there. We were told over 5 years ago if we build Phillips to the Falls, “They will come.” Uh, we are still waiting. All we need to do is look and see how that boondoggle turned out to know that this is one to. Why do you think people continue to vote down rec centers, indoor pools and event centers? Because when the city plans something, it is always way to extravagant, and this project is further proof of it.

“I know people say, ‘Hey, they’re doing it all for Scherschligt,’ but our goal is the city’s goal. You can’t just quit your vision. This project’s been in the works for 10 to 20 years, before the economy went sour and well before the potholes.”

Well, if your goal is the city’s goal, pony up. I think if you want a million dollar bridge, pay for half. Prove your goals are the city’s goals with your wallet instead of your mouth. It is no secret that you have a contract with the city that was concocted long before you (tried) to blow up the ZIP feed mill, Quen Be De Knudson even admitted to it in an City council informational meeting. Munson, or someone at city hall, promised you everything but the kitchen sink. If I was the next mayor, the first thing I would do is rip that contract to shreds and re-plan a more economical greenway expansion, one that doesn’t include handouts to Mr. Scherschligt.

Who is calling the shots about the River Greenway project in Sioux Falls?

jms

Wanna improve the River Greenway? Bulldoze John Morrell’s.

I had an interesting conversation with a reporter yesterday about the River Greenway project, we compared notes and came to the same conclusion; the city doesn’t have a clue what they are doing yet. As you know, the city just recently took out bonds for several projects, one was for the River Greenway. The night the council voted on the appropriations they asked City Planning director Mike Cooper what the money will be spent on (over $5 million) he could only account for a pedestrian bridge and the demolition of an old RR bridge. When asked what the rest would be spent on he said, upgrades like park benches. $3 million dollars for park benches? Wow! In other words, Mr. Cooper doesn’t have a plan, or at least it hasn’t been handed to him yet . . .

This is where the story gets interesting, remember a few years back when the Chief Misleader, King Dave Munson had a closed door meeting with Cherapa Place developer Jeff Shisterschnitzel(sp)? Well, supposedly during that meeting a contract was drawn up, some things in that contract are well known;

          Jeff received over $50,000 from the city for an option to buy land next to Cherapa for a new Event Center

          Jeff received a $400,000 interest free loan from the city for help with developing Cherapa

          Tipping fees were waived at the city dump for waste from the ZIP feed demolition

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Boom! The sound of taxpayer’s heads make when they find out how much money the city is giving away to a private developer in the disguise of quality of life project.

But there is also some things in the contract that we don’t know about but have some suspicions;

          Did Jeff request the $750,000 pedestrian suspension bridge to be built over the river? Suspiciously being built right next to Cherapa?

          Is Jeff calling the shots on the other improvements of the Greenway and that is why Director Cooper could not answer the simple question?

Of course the last two are speculation, but wouldn’t it be great to see that contract and what was promised to a private developer? Gawd only knows.

Steps into the River, Huge Fail

I understand we are having massive flooding, so this post isn’t really about the flooding, but about why this project was way over the top. You can READ HERE all my posts going back to the beginning of the project 9 years ago and how something modest turned into a monster overnight due to a greedy developer making legal threats over a contract signed in the middle of the night with Mayor Munson.

That all aside, I did fight to keep the project modest, speaking at city council meetings and talking to councilors (Kermit was the only one that agreed). One of the options discussed, which would have been very reasonable and would have prevented any long term damage like the current situation we have was redoing the trail extra wide (like they did) and landscaping the entire area with natural rock and natural flowers and plants lining the river. Not only would have it been beautiful, it would have been very low maintenance. Instead we wasted millions on high maintenance infrastructure, as you can see above. And now we want to put a $2 million dollar effigy to egos on top of it all.

When a city decides to do projects like this, they really need to look at the long term costs of building such structures. I don’t even want to know what it will cost to repair all the damage from this latest flood. If we would have went with plan B, as I suggested, cleanup would have been a couple of people with rakes and some re-seeding, but instead we have Bread & Circus.

No more steps in the River

So I guess the city council is about to debate expanding the River Greenway. The steps into the River came up again. Please, we don’t need this expensive, Roman like structure to continue along the river. This stupid design was cooked up by Jeff S. Cherapa and Mayor Munson in some middle of the night, backroom deal in which Smilin’ Dave promised all kinds of stuff to Jeff (in which he got – because he threatened to sue if he didn’t).

But let’s face it, the steps into the river are not only expensive, they look ridiculous, are not environmentally friendly, are unsafe and do NOTHING to clean up the river.

Trust me, this wasn’t the first time I have brought this up, when they were being originally proposed I said it was stupid.

Why?

Well not only would you save millions, it would look better and help with runoff if you designed it differently. My idea then, and now has not changed. You line the banks with natural/native, organic flowers and plants that help the runoff. You widen the bike trail, and you put in multiple mini-parks with benches and more natural landscaping. Not only would it look a 1oox better, it is environmentally friendly and saves millions in concrete expenses. On top of that the flowers along the banks act as a natural barrier to the very toxic waters, which helps safety.

The geese also need to be driven away using air cannons to force them to nest elsewhere. I have often thought spending over $10 million on a river greenway that is covered in goose sh*t really misses the mark. From Falls Park all the way to Cliff Avenue the geese nest and cover the trail in crap. The noise from the air cannons annoys them and gets them to move without killing them or hurting them.

I have also said that signs about the toxicity of the river need to be put up at Falls Park and spots where people might want to take a dip along the greenway. A bright yellow or red sign with a skull and crossbones poison symbol would do the trick. I have often thought if you made people aware of the high levels of E-Coli in the river, they would not go in there. People, it is like swimming in your toilet after you dropped one. Stop doing it!

So please. Let’s use fiscal smarts, environmental smarts and safety knowledge to expand the River Greenway and not steps into a river a couple of clowns cooked up in the basement of city hall.

UPDATE: Is Sioux Steel Development looking for a ‘Massive’ Record Breaking TIF?

UPDATE: Big Thanks to Snevelicious for following up on this story!

So this is taking place next Thursday, April 11 (City Council Meeting Calendar)

4 PM Architecture Ideas and Presentations

Held at the receiving building of Sioux Steel Company, 196 1/2 E. 6th St.

Please park on the west side of the Sioux Steel Building or in The Market

5 PM Heavy appetizers and drinks at The Market, 196 E. 6th St

The Sioux Steel Development folks have already mentioned they want to build a 900 stall parking ramp (or around that size) they have also mentioned using TIF. What they haven’t said is how much. I believe the largest TIF ever given out in Sioux Falls was for the Sanford Sports Complex (I can’t remember the actual dollar amount, but I think it was $9 million and I believe 20 years). The rumor going around is that the Sioux Steel will be asking for a TIF in the amount to cover the construction costs of the parking ramp a number that could range between $20-30 Million dollars. The largest TIF ever given out in the history of the city. It also seems the event next week is away to smooze the city council into this.

Some would look at this as an ‘opportunity’ for the city to get out of paying for a parking ramp like we did Downtown already, but as I look at it, we shouldn’t be contributing anything. TIFs are the largest form of corporate welfare. We should be focusing tax incentives on rebuilding our neighborhoods.

Oh, but it gets even better. Another developer is rumored to be offering the city to buy some of the RR redevelopment land. He said he doesn’t want any TIFs or tax reductions, but he is only willing to pay HALF of the appraised value. They always have to have something. This developer has already raked the city over the coals for other DT developments along the river greenway.

I think it is ironic that all these FREE market, ant-socialist Republican developers in town are the biggest socialists of them all. Maybe we should rename the area ‘Karl Marx Greenway’.

John Michael’s Forum • Jan 2019

Former Mayor Munson

LISTEN HERE

• Dave gives all the credit to Jeff ‘Cherapa Place’ S. for making the River Greenway successful. He failed to mention the behind closed door negotiations, the threats of lawsuits and the millions taxpayers have spent subsidizing the bulk head for Cherapa. Yeah, I will give credit to, credit for being successful of bilking the taxpayers of Sioux Falls.

• When John brings up the extremely polluted Sioux River, Dave changes the subject and says the scenery is beautiful though if you take a canoe ride.

• Dave thinks having problems from fast growth is a good thing.

• And in his last laughable comments, he thinks Sioux Falls city government elected officials have good ethics. Yeah, since you and Bowlcut & Bucktooth have left. This was hilarious coming from a guy who SHOULD HAVE been charged with violating city ordinance with Phillips to the Falls.

Sioux Falls Central District Councilor Curt Soehl

LISTEN HERE

• Curt seems to be under the impression that Sioux Falls has few problems. I guess low wages, very little affordable housing and our drug crime epidemic are not real PROBLEMS.

• Curt makes an interesting point that while Sioux Falls attracts a lot of Doctors and White Collar jobs, he says, “Nobody comes here for a $15 per hour jobs.” John points out you can’t make a house payment in SF for those kind of wages.

• John also makes an interesting comment that the buses in Sioux Falls should be on a 24 hour route to all the Walmarts. Yeah, John, just what Walmart needs, more subsidies from government. We already subsidize their employees in welfare, medicade and SNAP. And subsidize them again with all the SNAP recipients. So now you want the public to subsidize transporting people to their store. HELL NO! Walmart should be paying for our public transit system through a local transportation tax.

Former Mayor Rick Knobe

LISTEN HERE

• When John asks Knobe what he thinks of TenHaken’s job performance so far, Rick says he doesn’t feel like Paul was prepared for it after running a small internet marketing firm. He thinks he struggles with working with Directors, Councilors and the Public and Public input. I would agree 100%.

• Rick feels the city needs to implement strategic planning.

• In one of the more stranger ideas, Rick felt people should only be able to use E-Bikes on the bike trail if they have a special disabled sticker they got from their doctor. Yeah, besides feeling depressed because they don’t have the physical ability to ride a regular bike on the trail, why not shame them with a sticker. Whatever. I guess even old people rip on old people.

UPDATE: The Council Meeting tonight got a little emotional

First, the council decided it was good idea to deny a sponsor of legislation (Brekke’s public input ordinance) from withdrawing her own legislation. It was extremely disrespectful, and to tell you the truth, I have never seen anything like it. I’m still baffled by it, and I think Janet was shell shocked. They essentially passed legislation she sponsored after she asked them to withdraw it so they could make it clearer. Than (Stehly and Starr) asked for it to be deferred and they denied that also (Brekke, Stehly and Starr tried to withdraw and defer) it failed a 5-3 vote.

The problem was that the new city attorney started a rumor that public input at first readings may be against the law. WOW! Really!? Then during the meeting he tried to deny he was being ‘political’. Uh, ok.

I basically told the council in the almost 17 years I have been addressing city council there has been extreme deterioration of public input, especially over the past two years.

In fact, the city dodged a gigantic 1st Amendment suit a couple of months ago, that I have said I will not discuss (I was also NOT involved) but am well aware of. I warned the city that if they ever want to go down that path, it will cost a lot of money and will be a huge embarrassment. The council is just a few nails shy of closing that casket.

UPDATE: Apparently some of the 5 who chose to move forward with the passage of this ordinance feel like they were making public input better, and the 3 (who actually fought for this to begin with) were against public input.

Oh the hypocrisy.

Quite the opposite. Brekke just wanted to make sure it was a solid ordinance before there would be any other entanglements. 

I find it ludicrous and laughable that the 5 who voted against Brekke’s polite wishes think they were making public input better. Those 5 were the very rat finks who took away the 5 minutes for 2nd reading to begin with, they also took away power points and limited public input at the beginning to 3 minutes per person and a total of only 30 minutes. Brekke was attempting to fix what they wiped away. If they think they are some kind of public input champions by voting against Brekke’s wishes, they apparently have gone stark raving mad or have dimentia, especially after the hatchet job they did on open government this past summer.

SEWER RATES

For the first time ever I saw Director Cotter get emotional over something, he started to cry, and reassured us that planning for the new sewer plant has been going on for years by his team. While I believe him, I made the point earlier that while that might have been happening, the public was not aware. Cotter did say it was in the capital plan.

That is probably also true.

When I testified about this, my intention was not directed at city personnel, though it may have came off that way. My point was we had a certain person in charge who tried to keep this as quiet as possible. So while it may have been on the books, according to councilor Brekke since the 90’s, it certainly wasn’t talked about very openly, and here is my greater point;

• We had NO IDEA of the final cost until all the consultant reports were in.

• We were never told about this potentially very expensive project when we were discussing the river greenway, millions in TIF rebates, an Events Center, an Indoor Pool and an administration building. Not a peep.

I also commend Cotter’s work on this, it took years and was difficult, he also gets paid very well to do that job. But whether Mark volunteered his time or got paid for it doesn’t matter. We know why this wasn’t in the public eye, and that’s not on Mark, that is on the past mayor, and I made a point in my testimony to say he was the architect of keeping this project on the lowdown, not Cotter or any other city employee who assisted with this. Because if we would have known this major of a project was on the horizon, I think we all would have questioned those other expenses.

I get it, and I feel sorry for city directors, they follow the boss’s orders, good or bad. But unfortunately at the end of the day, when we have an administrator who gags our public employees the citizens are left holding the bag. And tonight that bag just happened be full of something and it wasn’t free tickets to nine Garth Brooks concerts.

Sioux Falls City Council Agenda, July 17, 2018

Informational Meeting – 4 PM

Mike Cooper will do a presentation about ‘WHAT’ the Planning Department does. Let me simplify it for you . . . wait for Sanford or Lloyd Companies to call.

We will get a presentation on what is going in at the RR redevelopment area. Just for the record, I do know that it will NOT be a Dave & Busters.

Regular Council Meeting – 7 PM

Item #1, Approval of Contracts,

Even though we may be running the city on fumes, we seem to have plenty of money to move a head with Phase III of the River Greenway project.

Apparently Stone Group Architects buy the old Fire Station from us, than we give them $54,000 back for a façade. What a deal!

We are replacing a Water Main at Great Bear and it is coming out of the Parks budget? Huh? I thought water pipe replacement is supposed to come out of the enterprise funds? It just goes to show that we can take money out of the CIP for the Water treatment expansion if we want to and NOT raise water rates.

We need to hire a private attorney at $10K to tell us how to fill out a purchase agreement.

We are building a bunch of (un)affordable houses that we will never make our money back on.

Item #2, Change orders, apparently we need another $62K for the Brown bear exhibit.

Item #27, 2nd Reading, Lifescape requesting to tear down affordable housing to build more parking WITHOUT a feasibility study finished. This will be an interesting one to watch. Our ramrod, pass the flaming football planning commission pushed this off to the council.

Item #28/42, 2nd Reading, Funding for USD Discovery Center and Falls Park platforms. I expect some debate on this item. Councilors Stehly and Starr have requested an actual study before moving forward with capital expenses.

Item #29, 2nd Reading, Paramedics Plus gets their automatic fee rate increases, including $21 a mile fuel charge. Not sure who they are getting their fuel from, but that’s steep.

Item #43, Resolution, Gifting some junk signs to the Stockyard experience folks.

Item #47, Resolution, Insurance coverage agreement amendment with Levitt. Not sure what this means, “Liquor liability insurance”, but apparently we will be able to get our drink on at the events. Woot! Woot!

Item #48, Resolution, Appointment to Boards, I see the most wonderful, Sandra Callies is getting appointed to the Visual Arts Commission. Woot! Woot! Woot!

Item #50-51, Motion to approve travel for either 3 OR 4 Councilors to the National League of Cities. I guess they have to debate on how many people get to go. Silly. I have often felt that councilors attending these conferences is much more valuable than hiring consultants. They bring back great ideas from other cities to help form legislation. We pay consultants to tell us what we want to hear.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City Council Agenda, April 3, 2018

Mayor’s State of the City address, 2:30 PM

Not sure what will be said, but I’m sure it will be chucked full of positivity and back pats.

City Council Informational Meeting, 4 PM

8th Street Bridge Rehabilitation. This should be interesting considering it ties into all the work with the River Greenway.

Regular City Council Meeting, 7 PM

UPDATE: Councilors Starr and Stehly have added Item#77, a resolution to release ALL Falls Park Safety Reports since 2008.

Item#1, Approval of Contracts,

It seems we are spending big bucks on the Railroad Redevelopment Project;

Over $300K for utility work & over $800K for something with NO description to Runge, a company in Sioux Falls that does excavation.

You would think that we would have kept a little of the $27 million for these upgrades instead of handing the whole amount over to Warren Buffet.

Items #21-22, is one of the strangest liquor license transfers I have ever seen. As we know, there are not many NEW licenses available, so businesses that want one have to transfer from existing businesses that close. So, for some weird reason, the Sanford Foundation House needs a liquor license, I’m sure this isn’t for ‘public events’ but more as a private club. Will’s Training Table is transferring their license to the foundation house and then transferring the closed Beef O’ Brady’s license to Will’s. I wonder what small fortune Sanford paid for the license.

Items #33-34, West Mall is applying for their Beer and Wine licenses.

Planning Commission Meeting, 6 PM, April 4

Item #8 addresses the RE-ZONE of the Sioux Steel Property from Heavy Industrial to Downtown PUD.

Item#12, Another Freaking Casino by the usual suspects.

Item#13, NEW Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant

Item #16, another sports bar.

Item#19, Decrease landscaping standards for parking lots of motor vehicle sales. As if we don’t have enough of these in town already.

The City of Sioux Falls should build a modern new skate park

Sioux Falls Parks worker polishing a turd.

I can hear the hypocrisy calls already. I know, I know, I’m not a fan of spending tax dollars on special interest projects, but when you compare the popularity of skate boarding with the minimal cost it would be to build a new skate park, you will see my argument.

Skate boarding isn’t some ‘new’ trendy sport kids are getting into. In fact skate boarding has been popular since the 60’s (or earlier). My brother had a skate board in the late 70’s and one of my past work managers was featured in THRASHER magazine in the early 80’s. This isn’t something that is a trend, skate boarding is here to stay.

Also compare the millions we spend each year on Great Bear, swimming, bike trails, football, soccer, tennis and pickle ball (yes, pickle ball!).

Just take that last one for instance, did you know that since Huether has been mayor there have been several new outdoor tennis court complexes built throughout the city. I know it’s hard to tell when driving by them because besides McKennan Park YOU NEVER SEE ANYONE PLAYING AT THEM! Someone I know lives across the street from one of these new complexes and he has told me he doesn’t understand why it was built because he has NEVER seen anyone playing at it.

I live within blocks of the current crappy skate park, it is always busy. I even have seen kids skating there in November and February!

Another factor is that it wouldn’t cost much to build a new park. My guess is you could probably build a decent one for a million and really nice one for 2 million. Private donors are prepared to donate $500K to the project (you know, the same amount we gave to the mayor’s private indoor tennis complex).

One of the last arguments for the new skate park is that it should already be done. You can blame all the rat finks that still have sour grapes over the Drake Springs outdoor pool. It’s been over 10 years, and they still want to punish the entire neighborhood and city because Stehly did a petition drive. A little clarity for all the haters;

We are lucky we didn’t build an indoor pool at Nelson Park due to groundwater issues it would have been a maintenance nightmare, that’s not coming from me, that is coming from our consultant we hired to study pools in our city.

We were promised a much larger pool at Nelson Park than what we got (not sure where the money went? Maybe it was part of the secret siding settlement?), we were also promised a flower garden comparable to Mckennan Park in the old location of the pool which could be spectacular with all the natural springs in the area. And guess what else was promised? A new and improved skate park.

The skate park community also likes the Nelson Park site (Northeast corner) because of the natural slopes it would create a really cool skate park. Since the space is currently open, owned by the city, and has such great natural sloping it would also be the most economical area for the park. It is also truly ‘centrally located’ unlike Spellerberg Park, and much more accessible to kids. I think the city should just drop a cool $5 million, build a new skate park, floral garden and expanded parking in the old skate park location and turn Nelson Park into the city’s finest park. Drake Springs pool is already the most popular outdoor pool in the city (something the city doesn’t like to admit).

Though money is going to be tight over the next couple of years, a new skate park is one of the most economical upgrades to our parks system considering the millions we have spent on the river greenway which is just a landscaping handout to certain downtown businesses.

Besides the Bike Trail which is the true gem of our city and FREE, a new skate park would be the cherry on the top and used a lot more than all the empty tennis courts in this town.

I just suggest the skating community wait until after the Spring 2018 Municipal election before starting the REAL discussion. Besides Huether, many of his directors may be looking for new employment also. Might as well start fresh.