What Happens Next with the 6th Street Bunker Bridge?

The Sioux Falls City Council plans to meet Monday February 5th. They are meeting early due to Municipal Day in Pierre on the 6th.

At least one Councilor, Sarah Cole, has expressed to the media that she may vote to reconsider at the next meeting. She is allowed to do so since she was in the affirmative when it it passed. Any councilor may 2nd the motion (which I am sure Neitzert or Starr would). The problem is ‘do they have the votes’. I don’t think they do. They would have to get Merkouris and Barranco to also vote for it to attain the 5 votes to avoid a tie-breaker. TenHaken would likely vote against the bid denial.

What makes this more interesting is how councilors were mislead and even lied to about the urgency of the project. Even if the council swallows this (I strongly urge them NOT to) they could easily file ethics complaints towards the mayor, city attorney, finance director and public works director and any employees under them that participated in this hoodwink. It would likely require a councilor(s) to file the complaint.

Let’s have a public ethics hearing and find out what happened?

All that aside and the $21 million dollar bridge that we are getting whether we like it or not (reminds you of a certain parking ramp) many engineers have reached out to me, councilors and other reporters, and when we all match up notes, we are wondering how the winning bidder was allowed to submit ONE bid for the entire project when they were required to get at least 3 bids from subcontractors (SOP)? Enquiring engineers would like to know.

Sioux Falls may never see JazzFest again

I was proud to be a part of the marketing team for several years and designing the 2006 & 2007 logos.

Even though JF did kind of end a few years ago there was still some hope it would return in some kind of form. With the SFJB Society disbanding this week, we may never see JazzFest again.

It bums me out because it was always a Sioux Falls tradition I kept (often landing on my birthday) and a great mid-summer party with close Sioux Falls friends.

Maybe someday Levitt can bring this great event back!

Sioux Falls School Board election in May

I believe Cynthia Mickelson’s seat is the only one. Not sure if she will run again or not? This may be the last time they hold a stand alone school board election if the legislature makes some changes this year to terms and elections when it comes to school boards.

Former Sioux Falls City Councilor Stehly on FORUM

Theresa touches on snow removal and the 6th Street Bridge.

‘Out of Context’ is all SD Republicans have

When I first saw this clip, I knew right away that it was taken out of context before I even saw the context. When Erin Healy was referring to ‘killing the fetus’ she was referring to the fact that certain Republicans in our state want to prosecute rape and incest victims for having an abortion or as they claim ‘killing a fetus’.

Congressional hearing proves our Premier Center is a money vacuum

If you watch the hearing below you will see just how much of your ticket purchase goes to the big guys and how very little goes towards the artist. What is left out of the discussion is just how much money stays in our community. Very little. I have argued that when you spend money locally on entertainment that money gets re-circulated in the community when you spend it at the Denty most of it goes straight out of town. And SALES don’t reflect profit which doesn’t even cover 10% of our mortgage payment;

It was the Premier Center’s most profitable year yet, coming in at $2.1 million compared to the previous record of $1.5 million set in 2019.

And just how much of that ‘profit’ goes back to city coffers?

Sioux Falls City Council expresses their displeasure with being the administration’s doormat

For clarity NO councilor today at the 4PM special meeting used the term ‘doormat’ but they really didn’t have to. After being hoodwinked into believing they could take another stab at the bid today they realized the mayor’s office, the city attorney’s office and finance office used the wrong language last Tuesday on the agenda item which an assistant city attorney admitted to at today’s meeting after Councilor Cole questioned the language (Councilors Cole, Neitzert and Starr all voted against the $3 million supplement).

Let’s admit it, the bridge is a POS and needs to be replaced, it will also cost more then projected, I think everyone can accept that. What cannot be accepted is the way this was ramrodded through with little transparency OR respect for councilors. Four councilors touched on this;

Councilor Neitzert, clearly disgusted with the process, pointed out that he felt that the administration was disrespecting the council’s duties (he puts it much more eloquently) when it comes to how they were treated in this process and they should work as a team on this stuff;

“The city council should not tolerate an enormously expensive and important decision being dropped on us at the last minute, giving us no opportunity to do due diligence and no option to defer or delay it,” Neitzert said. “We shouldn’t tolerate being put into a corner with no options and we imposed no consequences for that behavior. In fact, we rewarded it. So don’t be surprised when it happens again.”

Councilor Cole expressed that she didn’t think it was fair to be mislead with incorrect agenda language at last week’s meeting.

Councilor Merkouris felt that the council (the legislative policy body) should put some safeguards and ordinances together over the next 30 days to prevent this from happening in the future (he looked pretty green while talking about this).

Councilor Starr reminded Merkouris that this kind of policy takeover has been going on since the new charter was put in place and that tweaks to policy ordinances hasn’t really remedied the problem that has only gotten worse since each administration has figured out how to sidestep the council. Pat basically said that the council needs to assert themselves more to become the policy body they are intended to be (it takes ACTION not talk);

“Power doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” said councilor Pat Starr, who joined Neitzert in voting no to accept the bid. “They take over our policy making process when we don’t do our job. That’s what happened in this case and it happens all the time. It will happen again because until we stand up and do our job, and not doing the work that we should, and telling the administration where we want the city to go in making that policy and until we do that they are going to continue to make policy.”

According to Charter the roles of the council and mayor are pretty freaking clear;

Section 2.01 General powers and duties.

All powers of the city shall be vested in the city council, except as otherwise provided by law or this charter, and the council shall provide for the exercise thereof and for the performance of all duties and obligations imposed on the city by law. The council shall act as a part-time, policy making and legislative body, avoiding management and administrative issues.

Section 3.03 Mayor’s duties and responsibility.

The mayor shall, at the beginning of each calendar year, and may at other times give the council information as to the affairs of the city and recommend measures considered necessary and desirable. The mayor shall preside at meetings of the council, represent the city in intergovernmental relationships, appoint with the advice and consent of the council the members of the citizen advisory boards and commissions, present an annual state of the city message, and perform other duties specified by the council and by article III. The mayor shall be recognized as head of the city government for all ceremonial purposes and by the governor for purposes of military law.

I encouraged the city council during public input to vote to reconsider at the next February meeting since it was NOT of their fruition, and if the contractor wants to sue, that is on the administration and NOT on them for being mislead. It seems at least one councilor, Cole, intends to do that;

To formally reconsider an action of the council, a member on the prevailing side of the vote must make that motion during the same meeting or at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the governing body, according to city ordinance. But because Tuesday’s meeting was not a regular meeting, Sioux Falls City Attorney Stacy Kooistra said the soonest that could occur would be at the Feb. 6 meeting.

Cole told The Dakota Scout Tuesday evening she intends to do just that.

“There just wasn’t enough time ahead of the vote,” she said.

As always, when government is transparent and thorough, it saves taxpayers money. When it is chocked full of typos in the legal documents (either intentional or not) you get this turd blossom; Bunker Bridge.

Was fuzzy math used in bid tabulation for 6th Street Bunker Bridge?

There has been much discussion and consternation over the bridge. Two years ago we replaced the 8th street bridge with more decorative elements for $8 million. So how is it that the new rebuild will be $21 million? Some argue that it has to do with the multiple steps in this rebuild. Some argue inflation. Others have told me that since it is ARPA money they need to shove it out the door. There has been requests (not by me) that the Council does it’s own independent audit and investigation (they have this ability in the charter) or that the Feds should look into RICO violations. Others in the private engineering sector have all come to the same conclusion; this ‘deal’ probably didn’t magically come together by itself but with collusion and pressure from certain downtown developers and contractors.

Rumors be damned!

One of the sticking points the Public Works Director Mark Cotter used to trick the city council into voting for the Bunker Bridge was that is was unsafe. Holes have been blown into that argument;

And in the most recent inspection of the Sixth Street Bridge, done in 2020, inspectors assigned its overall structural integrity a 4 based on a 0-9 grading system, according to a review of data by The Dakota Scout. While not great, a 4 means a bridge “meets minimum tolerable limits to be left in place as is,” according to federal criteria.

But it didn’t take Joe and Jon needling thru Federal Safety inspections to see the obvious; if this bridge is so unsafe why have they allowed large heavy machinery and building materials to go across this bridge all summer? Even Councilor Neitzert pointed out at the meeting, if it is so bad, why don’t you close it?

I decided to dig thru the bid tabulation sheet to see if I could find any wiggle room, this is what I found;

• Mobilization: $4,341,000

• Temporary Works: $2,610,000

I have no doubt these are actual expenses but I find that the two biggest expenditures in this bid are NOT broken down. This would be a very easy place to pad the bid. I think council needs to ask the contractor to break this down for them.

• Class A45 Concrete, Bridge Deck: $4,914,420

Concrete will be a big expenditure for this bridge, but with the way that prices are fluctuating it would be hard to say this is actual. Heck, it could be more or this number could also be padded.

I also would like to go into some smaller numbers that really make you scratch your head;

• Benches: 3 at $4,000 each

Looks like I need to get into the steel bench making business!

• Relocate LSS Monument Sign: $25,000

Seems the sign relocation business is very lucrative also (they probably run a side business making benches).

• Sprinkler System: $56,000

Just in case the bike trail catches on fire and doesn’t spread to the concrete bridge.

• Water Meter & Backflow Assembly with Enclosures: 2 at $7,500 each.

Not sure if they are planning on opening a laundromat or spray park on the bridge itself?

• Waterfowl Grazing Control: $4,700

You might as well throw this money in a burn barrel, because whatever they are doing currently on this part of the bike trail downtown ISN’T WORKING!!!!!!

Not to mention how many more millions will we have to endure with change orders? There have been rumors that the Water Reclamation Plant is extremely over budget due to change orders. But hey, we needed a dented up entertainment facility more then clean water.

Why it is important for City of Sioux Falls Employees to live in the city they work for

I have argued at the Charter Revision Commission that city employees (at least directors, managers and first responders like snowplow operators) should reside in our city because of emergency response. I also think you should pay taxes towards the city that pays your wages.

During the below press conference it was mentioned that snowplow drivers were put up in a downtown hotel to be ready for storm cleanup. We would not have had to do that if 1) they all resided in Sioux Falls and 2) used private contractors to assist.

I’ve been told that the city will pickup snowplow drivers in the city limits to assist, so I am assuming the peeps staying at the hotel were probably out-of-towners.

Once again the city argues my point without even realizing it.

It will also be interesting to see the labor costs the city has incurred paying out overtime instead of contracting with private companies (it has been said city operators have been working 12 hour/7 day shifts since the big storm.)

Should the Gear Up & EB-5 program investigations resume now that Jackley is AG again?

No better time then now to investigate Jackley and his role in both of those scandals. I suggest a bipartisan legislative group employ independent counsel to re-open the investigations. I started thinking about this after someone recently sent me this photo of Mike Myers and Lora Hubbel ‘shooting holes’ in the 5-foot branch theory that Richard Benda shot himself.