A couple of interesting items on the consent agenda (Item #6, Sub-items 9-10)

Notice almost $1 million in sidewalk repairs. Is it just a pure coincidence?

The city also seems to think we need to spend $380K to design a new clubhouse at Elmwood (Sub-item #6).

Elmwood Golf Course Clubhouse; Agreement for professional services, Stone Group Architects, Inc.

While I understand there is design costs, we are NOT building a Nuclear Reactor, it’s a room where people can eat popcorn and drink beer and a lean two for parking golf carts. If it costs this much to design the facility, can’t wait for the price tag of the actual building? The new city engineering formula is estimate the cost, tack on another 10% and $10 million and call it good.

I had heard about this lawsuit this past summer, but I couldn’t figure out who was filing it or what it was specifically about. It was first filed in June of 2022 and amended in September;

Mayor Paul TenHaken and the city of Sioux Falls are being sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The suit is filed on behalf of Sioux Falls resident Robert Elliot. It claims that the city has failed “to design, construct, maintain public facilities and enforce city ordinances related to sidewalks for ADA compliance, access ways, sidewalks and roads that are fully accessible to, and independently usable by persons with disabilities.”

The lawsuit also claims that barriers also violate city ordinance.

Besides the residential sidewalks (the adjacent property owner’s responsibility) the ‘barriers’ have been an issue for years. As a person who has rode the sidewalks in this town on a bike for years I have often been astonished with how bad the sidewalks are mainly on Minnesota Avenue and 41st street. They look like sidewalks in a war torn country like Ukraine.

I was curious why the city decided to spray paint to their heart’s content thousands of sidewalks last year and offer a neighborhood grant program to fix them. Looks like they were trying to play catchup. As it was explained to me the city could not use ARPA money to fix adjacent sidewalks due to liability. In other words if the city just used ARPA money to fix the sidewalks they would take on the liability of the sidewalk if someone got injured falling on a crack, BUT the city could have used the money to fix barriers and put in ADA accessible ramps to the sidewalks.

Which brings us to this claim in the suit;

The lawsuit also claims the city has the ability to pay for repairs and construction. As an example of ability to pay, it cites the several million dollars the city received in federal COVID funds in 2021 and that the city spent zero of that infrastructure aid money on ADA compliance.

This lone sentence in the lawsuit is the kicker. While the city literally threw money at butterflies, tennis courts and ‘other stuff’ at the DSU (private) research facility they spent NO money fixing ADA problems.

Let’s not kid ourselves, a Federal lawsuit like this will be in the courts for years and the city will likely fight tooth and nail with our tax dollars instead of doing the right thing and just complying.

The city should really just work on a compromise and a plan to do the right thing but with a lead city attorney with one foot out the door I have a feeling this is going to end badly.

So the Sioux Falls city council has decided to bury this on the consent contracts/agreements, Item #6, last sub item #38;

City Attorney’s office, Engagement Agreement for Human Relations Commission Review, Cadwell Sanford Deibert & Garry, LLP, Not to exceed $5,000

A concerned citizen asked a city councilor to pull this from the agenda for discussion and he not only refused to pull it, he refused to tell the citizen what it was about. Mind you, this is on a publicly posted agenda.

So why is an outside law firm reviewing the Human Relations Commission. I don’t know, but let’s make some guesses;

• The attorney running the department mysteriously disappeared and the replacement left to work for the county. Why?

• There has been several accusations that the commission (city) has been dismissing complaints for no reason.

• Was there a Federal complaint filed? The commission probably is funded by some Federal grants and has to follow certain Federal rules when it comes to the appeals.

As I understand it another city councilor has agreed to pull it from the consent agenda and have some one from the administration explain what this review is about.

At this point I won’t speculate, because I am just as curious as you.

I have been complaining about the horrible shape of the sidewalks and curbs on our city’s main retail corridor for a long time, and I am an able bodied pedestrian, imagine riding a scooter down this bombed up war path;

“I was expecting that the study would have been done, or it would have been enough to say that this fiscal year we will be doing this, this and this,” Santee said.

Crews from the federal agency cited 26 pages worth of ADA violations in Sioux Falls.
The city has four areas to work on.
The FHWA is asking Sioux Falls to enforce ordinances for private property owners, maintain sidewalks, correct public right-of-ways that are currently not compliant, and take immediate action to correct about 11 miles of sidewalks and curb ramps that were not built to code during overlay and reconstruction projects from 2009 to 2013.
The city’s response outlines studies and evaluations for each of these areas asking for up to nine months to lay out a plan.
This worries Santee.

“Will we live long enough to see anything happen,” he asked.

The city did cite a project in the design phase that would bring curb ramps into compliance on Minnesota Avenue from 18th to 33rd Street.

“I was hoping something might get done in the interim period between when it was filed and the Letter of Finding finally came out, that the city would start doing some stuff,” Santee said.

The irony of all this is that if the city just handed out code violations to the adjacent business owners, they would have to pay for the upgrades, not the taxpayers. Not only that, you would think that if you had a business on the busiest retail corridor in the city, you would want your curb appeal to look good and be safe? There is also the hypocrisy of the city going after (private) citizens for 8.5″ grass and an inch of snow on their sidewalk, but not bothering to hand out violations to businesses for crap sidewalks. Talk about bad neighbors.