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Watertown builds an entire Rec center for $23 million, we just got a pool, that we can’t expand.

Click to enlarge

And guess what else? They built the facility so they could expand it and it’s parking! What a concept! They also have it next to a proposed Middle School! WOW! Planning ahead. I bet the lockers are big enough to at least fit your sunglasses and car keys into.

I often wonder how construction costs in Sioux Falls could be that much higher then in Watertown? I actually think it would be MORE expensive to build in Watertown a facility like this.

Like many Sioux Falls city projects, I believe the contractor and price is set before the bidding process even begins. The CMAR process is a boondoggle to make sure contractors rake the tax payers over the coals. It’s unfortunate that with all the ‘smart’ people we have working within city government (that we pay quite nicely) couldn’t see that the Indoor Aquatic Center was a complete rip-off. But Mayor Ramrod had to have it. This is what happens when you don’t let taxpayer’s decide on these projects. A NO vote on an outdoor pool only said that people might prefer an indoor pool. But since there never was an official vote we will never know. Was it a preferred location? Good Price? etc. We see what happens when we only let the mayor pick these projects, we get a huge price-tag and a $25 million dollar administration building.

Yankton Approves New Pool

This doesn’t surprise me. I figured it would pass, by at least 60% of the vote, it got over 66%. Even with about a $100 a year property tax increase on $100K valuation. I think the key to the approval was the HIGH voter turnout;

Total turnout was 43.3 percent of active registered voters in the city.

With only two precincts and a single vote issue, this is pretty impressive.

The plan for the pool is also, IMO, fiscally responsible. For around $14 Million they are going to build on the existing site with a combination outdoor/indoor facility. They also garnered around $6 million in pledged private funds with $1 million for naming rights from the Huether Family Foundation (The Yankton city commission has to vote on those naming rights).

While the property tax increase is a little steep, it is truly an investment in the community.

So what is the difference between what Yankton and Watertown has done compared to our public indoor pool? Unlike these communities, we have plenty of options when it comes to indoor pools privately with attached fitness centers. I have often thought the city should have just partnered with the Sanford Sports Complex and built it out there.

The Sioux Falls Parks and Rec department is gearing up on another master plan for their parks. Frank Olson pool is way past it’s life and there has been some talk that they want to replace it with either and indoor pool or spray park. I think they should just build a new outdoor pool. Until the Midco Aquatic Center can break even, we have NO reason to pursue another public indoor pool.

Are Sioux Falls taxpayers getting bilked on pool construction expenses?

As I posted about in April, Watertown ($23 million) builds an entire fitness and pool complex for less than Sioux Falls built just an indoor pool.

IMAGE: David Lias/Vermillion Plain Talk

Vermillion built a $4 million dollar outdoor pool this spring much larger than Drake Springs.

The little sleepy prairie town of Mobridge just built an outdoor pool for $3.4 million* (City of Mobridge), much larger than Drake Springs.

So why is it that Mobridge, Watertown and Vermillion can build bigger, cheaper facilities than Sioux Falls?

Take into account that Drake Springs cost $4.7 Million, 10 years ago! Or that Sioux Falls has easier access to materials and contractors!

Look at the $115 million dollar Denty that we continue to pour millions into for upgrades.

It makes you wonder if some of the city projects, like the administration building, are inside bids and deals? the numbers just don’t add up folks.

Mitchell, SD pays a third of what we did for their Indoor Aquatic Center

Okay, for disclosure reasons their pool is a little bit smaller (not by much) and they were wise enough to attach it to another public facility (what a concept), a rec center;

MSH said construction costs are below the project’s total budget and construction is on schedule for a mid-June opening.

Under budget!? The only time we have heard that in Sioux Falls is when the mayor decided to put tin foil on the Denty. Not only are they paying a third what we are for the building, the operating costs are estimated at $400K a year (and the citizens freaked when that estimate jumped from $225K). Our operating costs are at $1.4 million a year with a $400K deficit.

So now we have Watertown and Mitchell for examples. Why are we paying double to 3x more for our public facilities in Sioux Falls than in these other smaller South Dakota cities and getting less? Somebody is getting rich from building public facilities in Sioux Falls, and it isn’t the taxpayer.

Is Mayor Mike Huether continuing to use tax dollars to campaign for higher office?

Well isn’t that the $100,000 question?

The third annual Mayor’s Big Sioux River Water Quality Summit will be held at the Days Inn Convention Center in Brookings, SD, on September 10, 2015.

I will say this, I don’t care if he is running for higher office, whether that is a congressional seat or governor. I think it will be fun to watch a man who has very thin skin as a politician to take the scrutiny on a state wide level. He will crumble under the pressure.

What is stuck in my craw is that he is traveling all over the state on the city’s dime to campaign before he even has announced anything. Recent speaking engagements in Yankton, and two in Deadwood and now a ‘Big Sioux River water summit’ in Brookings that doesn’t even have the Big Sioux River running through it.

One of his claims is that Brookings is a good site for the summit because they have a tributary of the Big Sioux running through it, and that people from Watertown would be more likely to attend because Brookings is closer, because you know, everyone uses horse and buggy these days in Northern South Dakota, and while Brookings is only 40 minutes from Sioux Falls in a car, that’s a half-a-day trip in the buggy or stagecoach.

So what do I expect from Huether? At least a partial announcement that he is strongly exploring a run for higher office, and if so, stop using my tax dollars and city resources to quietly campaign across the state. It’s not just unethical, it is against campaign finance laws.

Oh, I forgot who I was talking about, stupid me.

As for cleaning up the Big Poo, I have often suggested partnering with the CORPS to build a filtration dam coming into Sioux Falls. Not only would it help clean the river, it could also act as flood control. Councilor Rolfing made comment about it in a recent council meeting and was told ‘they are too costly’. Well so is spending millions of dollars over a 20 year period (the proposal on the table now) trying to coax cows from not pooping in the river upstream. Lewis & Clark was also expensive, $80 million. Then there is the Events Center, over $100 million, an indoor pool, $24 million and a river greenway, over $10 million so far, in which none of the projects do anything to improve water quality. I say spend the money TODAY on a filtration dam, then proceed with the other cleanup efforts. Because as of right now the plan seems a little ass backwards, you know, like having a water summit about cleaning up the Atlantic ocean in Minneapolis.