Update I: Census came out today, as of April 1, 2020 the population of SF was 192,517. So it is under the estimate of about 3,000.
Update: This probably has little to do with this post, but a city hall mole told me that the council is going to amend the Med MJ ordinance to only allow 5 dispensaries in Sioux Falls a a yearly licensing fee of $45k per year. Pretty silly we are not taking advantage of this economic impact? Flandreau has a million dollars in sales per month.
It’s like putting a double layer of chocolate frosting on brownies, it seems the Finance Director for the city got creative on how to mix Covid money with general fund money to come up with a package that has â€˜a little bit’ to do with the pandemic’s affect;
It’s the result of months of work both from the city administration and the council in anticipation of excess funds that would be available because of pandemic-related federal dollars and greater-than-anticipated revenue that came into the city.
The biggest question I have wondered is why did we take the money to begin with? Seriously? I don’t mean to sound like my old friend Councilor Kermit Staggers, but unlike getting FEMA money to clean up tornadoes (with church volunteers) why does Sioux Falls or even South Dakota qualify? We didn’t close down during the pandemic, and we certainly are not using the money to encourage vaccination. It seems they cleverly mixed the money with general fund money so they could skirt the rules on how to spend it.
To be fair, there are things in here that we should get Federal dollars for anyway, but some of the stuff just seems like frosting. Let’s review;
$5 Millon Low-head dam reconstruction for Big Sioux = Good
$6 Million for Pavilion roof = Bad. Not only should we NOT be spending Covid money on this, we shouldn’t even be spending city money. This was a major screwup by the contractor who was supposed to replace the entire roof at the beginning of the project. The roof has been leaking since day one. They should have sued them 20 years ago. This is probably the most ridiculous expenditure in this package. Next they will use Covid money to fix bouncing balconies . . . wait.
$6.8 Million, Water Reclamation = Good
$1.25 million for a cul-de-sac at 7th Street by Arc of Dreams. I could see this coming miles away. I warned people that just because the sculpture itself was privately funded we would be paying as taxpayers to prop up the area. I still think the piece is cool but I also think it’s in a bad location. I also don’t think it drives any economic impact to tourism in Sioux Falls. If someone can find me the numbers that prove people came downtown and spent money just because of the Arc of Dreams, I would love to see them. Most visitors come downtown for entertainment and discover the Arc.
$9.5 Million for River Greenway by Sioux Steel = Bad. So after giving a $25 million dollar tax break to these folks for a parking ramp the public doesn’t need and a top secret land transfer that probably violated open meetings laws, we are also expected to pay for their landscaping along the Big Poo. There is only one word to explain this; Boondoggle!!!!
$800K for Skate Park=Good/Bad. While I am all for giving them the money, 1) it should be more & 2) it should come out of the Parks Budget instead of Covid money. Remember, this will be a public park on public land when it is completed, no reason why the city shouldn’t be footing the entire bill for this project which brings us to another stupid investment since we already have, MORE tennis courts.
$512K for MORE Tennis Courts=Bad. I continue to ask the question, how many damn Tennis Courts do we need in Sioux Falls?! I don’t think the tennis folks will be happy until every park has courts, then they will want the city to start building them in city parking lots. Is it really that popular? I also wonder what we got for our $500K investment in Mayor Bucktooth & Bowlcut’s indoor tennis arena? It would be nice to get an update from MMM someday how we are benefitting from that.
$300K for Mary Jo Wegner Park=Bad. While this is a public park and should be funded, this is another example of how the money should come from the parks money pot and NOT Covid money.
$800K for Dakota Aquarium and Butterfly House=Bad. Not sure if this is totally bad, but it is a private non-profit that can raise it’s own money and also not a wise expenditure of Covid money. You can always tell when the council knows it is highly questionable when they have to have Councilor Rick Kiley give one of his sugar coat speeches about how we need to do this.
$5.5 million Housing=Good. This is actually something most of the funds should be going towards with workforce development ($4 million). As laid out in Federal guidelines, these are things the money should be spent on. Not only would it help shore up some of the issues associated with these projects, it would have the greatest economic impact, unlike tennis courts and river greenways.
$500K, Public Safety Homeownership program=Bad. While I understand the premise behind this program, I’m not sure why it is needed in Sioux Falls. Starting pay for new officers and firefighters is actually pretty good, pile on benefits and I don’t see these folks buying homes in poorer neighborhoods and if they do, GREAT, but not sure they need MORE subsidies from taxpayers. Maybe an education program for officers willing to buy in these neighborhoods instead of a handout and if they need fixed up, an interest FREE community development loan.
$1.4 million Youth Programs=Good. This is a good use of Covid money where you can actually measure the impact of the funding.
$ 11.2 million public safety and health=Good. Ding! Ding! Ding! This is actually how most of this money should be spent with the housing and workforce development.
I still haven’t heard from the council or mayor’s office the real justification for how some of this money is being spent. But like most things in local government, if there is a pot of Federal money, they will find a way to spend it on crap we don’t need. But nothing beats us spending $27 million on dirty railroad land we probably already owned in Federal easements and not getting the trains to move out of town. The worst negotiation in the city’s history. But hey we gave another $25 million in tax breaks to build luxury condos on the land â€“ so everyone wins â˜¹