Entries Tagged 'Public Utilities' ↓

We are next folks!

Not sure if you have heard this fun news?

Xcel Energy’s rates would rise 15.2% over three years as the electric utility seeks to raise $466 million to pay for a host of a projects, from improving its power grid to bolstering its nuclear plants and building wind farms.

Minneapolis-based Xcel, Minnesota’s largest electric utility with about 1.3 million customers, on Friday asked utility regulators for a rate hike that would leave residential consumers paying an estimated $110 more per year for electricity by 2020 — a 10.6% increase. The biggest rate impact would come in 2020, the first year of the proposed rate plan.

If Xcel is asking for this in Minnesota, you know damn well they will be knocking at our door next. As you may or may not know, Energy Companies often ask for more then they need from PUC’s so they get what they want. It’s the oldest trick in the book and something that used car salesman do.

I have never understood the ‘math’ of utilities. While their customer base increases, you would think their revenue would to, but for some reason they need these rate increases. In reality, our rates should be going down. Conservation efforts, green energy, etc. would tell us that things should get more affordable. Make no mistake, this is about the bottom line.

It’s back to the well and is the well is drying up?

Guest Post by Bruce Danielson

Here we go again, let’s build up hysteria and then spend millions of dollars under the table, over the table and in closed back rooms but claim transparency. It’s now 2019 and let’s remember and discover what’s new in the city of Sioux Falls. We see the same things in every project of dubious or questionable value to the town.

Let’s review a few:

The City Center Administration Building had to be built because a planning department employee claimed he had pee running down his City Hall basement office wall.

An indoor swimming pool our town could not live without so it was built on land loaned to the City of Sioux Falls and could be repossessed by the real land owner, the Federal government at any time (and probably will once the VA expands some more).

An event center designed to suck every bit of money out of the community to the benefit of the construction and the out of town management companies. Then to top it all off, put it in a location guaranteed to NOT help the struggling locally owned businesses of Sioux Falls.

The different emergency for sewer and water infrastructure bonding of over $300 million dollars to benefit a set of special developers and to hide the disastrous City Center HVAC system mistakes.

The parking ramp that had to be built, even if it does bleed the Parking Enterprise fund down to nothing keeping us from having properly maintained streets to drive to the parking spots. To do this we saw illegal asbestos removal, a building collapsed, a man die, and a developer defaulting, what a trifecta all in the name of ___________ (you fill in the blank). Now we have to spend $1.5 million of 2nd penny infrastructure money to protect the building that should have never been built. WE have to protect our investment but whose head will roll because of this? By the way, where is the Parking Director Matt Nelson these days?

Now have you seen the strange looking new machine being hauled around town lately? (At the top of the page)

This recent Vermeer Grinder – Shredder purchase for $964,270 by the city is for use in grinding trees at the landfill and around Sioux Falls. Do you know what is wrong about this purchase? Sioux Falls has an agreement to have a private business do this for FREE. Hidden in plain sight (if you can find the Consent Agenda of the July 5th, 2019 Council meeting) is contract 19-4165. Our administration spent almost $1 million dollars of 2nd penny without any discussion. Not only do we take away money from the pothole budget, but we take work away from a private business who was doing the city’s shredding to undercut the limited market the business has developed.

Once again, a city of Sioux Falls administration, pretending to be legitimate, upstanding, honest, trustworthy (is it an “and” or an “or”) TRANSPARENT is screwing all of us and trying to hide the evidence.

It’s 2nd penny be damned, full steam ahead on bonding everything. Get ready for the next bonding project(s) that never were bonded before. This is to keep the bonding companies and their supporters happy. You even see it in the Charter Revision Commission this year. Now consider the new Southeast fire station, street projects (remember the 2nd penny was created so streets would NEVER be bonded), the new training center and more are going to be in the next go round of bonding coming to a city council near you. So say good bye to getting your potholes repaired. Expect to see your locally owned employer or your privately owned business going down with city hall’s wall pee as more of the city’s limited funds are taken over by the bonding companies, all for another edifice coming to you.

Isn’t the 2nd Penny supposed to be for roads and infrastructure?

I was glad to hear PTH talk about dedicating more money to roads and infrastructure. In the case of the water department and reclamation, we really have no choice. As for roads, the 2nd penny is SUPPOSED to be mostly dedicated to these kind of projects, but we have gone off the rails a bit over the past 16 years building play palaces.

When it comes to streets, what I would really like to see is more money being dedicated to engineering the streets better. The city needs to partner with local contractors to build better roads by investing in research and development. Instead of sending our Public Works director to a 3rd world country to teach people about Jesus and running water, we need to be sending him to Europe to learn how they build stronger, better roads. We also need to start making contractors warranty their work. Will this make our roads cost more? Yes, but the payoff is that they will last longer. I have often joked that our pothole hotline should be called as much as the Maytag repairman, this happens by building roads that don’t crumble every Spring when we have a slight temperature change.

While I appreciate the bigger investment in roads (even though it is what the money is really supposed to be used for) I would like to see more innovation building those roads. Wouldn’t it be great if the city became the leader in the Midwest for building rock solid infrastructure and roads. Wouldn’t it be great if people visiting our city talked about our modern euro-style roads instead of our money sucking Events Center?

I would also like to give a thumbs up to whoever decided to finally fix the roller coaster ride on Cliff Avenue in front of Avera last week. It only took them about 5 days to fix something that has been horrible for around 3 years. The only other question I have is ‘What took so long?’

City of Sioux Falls brags about filling 2.875 potholes per hour

I guess I have never filled potholes before, so I don’t know how long it takes but;

City of Sioux Falls Street Operations Manager Dustin Hansen tells KELOLAND News city crews have filled more than 2,300 potholes since March 1.

Hansen says that there are “about five to six crews out” every day right now.

So lets do the math, 2,300 potholes in 20 days = 115 day. 5 crews at 8 hours a day = 40 hours a day.

That equals filling 2.875 potholes an hour.

Like I said, I’m no expert, but I’m not sure if I would be bragging about those kind of results.

Major Fail – City of Sioux Falls Engineering and Public Works

From a SouthDaCola foot soldier;

I 229/26th Street/ Southeastern Drive Reconstruction Project

ABSENCE OF A NEEDED LIFT STATION

In order to begin this massive road and bridge project, Rotary-Norlin Park needed to be relocated from the east side of the river to the west side.

The majority of this work took place in 2018.

In conjunction with the Rotary Park Project the City needed to do underground work on the utilities (storm sewer, sewer, and water).  The residents who live in the Riverdale subdivision (which is just across I 229 from Rotary Park)  saw that utility work was being done last summer/fall in Riverdale Park.  This is where the new utility lines were being connected to the existing lines.

At approximately the same time the work was being done in Riverdale Park, residents in Riverdale subdivision began to experience both low water pressure and sewer backups in their homes.  In some homes, sewer backups have happened multiple times since last summer/fall.

Today, we finally may have an answer as to why this is happening.

The City probably should have invested in a lift station when the work was done last year.

THEY DID NOT, AND NOW PRIVATE CITIZENS ARE EXPERIENCING THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS DECISION.

After reviewing the documents related to the I 229/26th Street/Southeastern Drive Project on siouxfalls.org, it appears the elevation needed to construct the overpass for the BNSF railroad will also be a factor in this major blunder of not building a lift station.

Phase I of this Project is set to begin in a few days. Should the project be allowed to go forward before resolving the issue of the lift station? Good question.

This is what a compromise looks like for Elmwood Avenue

Here is an overview of where we started on the street vacation and where we ended up.

This is what it looked like before the houses were removed;

This was what Lifescape wanted to do;

This is a proposal by a resident in the neighborhood who used to work as an urban planner. This was proposed last Fall when the first attempt at the street vacation was proposed. Notice the only difference between his proposal and the city’s new compromise is he proposed keeping a two way street instead of one-way.

City’s compromise proposal;

 

Slab on Grade Baby!

In one of the more humorous moments during the Q & A portion of the Sioux Falls City Council informational meeting about drainage issues in Sioux Falls, the city official stated that the best way to avoid water in your basement when building a new home was to go ‘slab on grade’. In other words ‘NO BASEMENT’. That’s why these guys have engineering degrees I suppose, to give out riveting solutions to difficult problems.

What is the ‘Real Cost’ of the proposed thermal chiller not working at the City Admin building?

Fast Forward to 47:00

Notice Director Cotter talking about how the system is malfunctioning because of the high level of minerals in the water . . . then he says that the water then has to be discharged in the the sanitary sewer (this was going on during the summer and not now).

How does this tie to the capacity of the current water reclamation plant?

Rough estimates from doing engineering research is that if this system is running at full capacity during the summer (pumping cool water) and not simply discharging the warm water back into the well, as intended (but back into the sanitary sewer) it would be approximately discharging 300 gallons a minute, which equates to about 14,000 homes in Sioux Falls a day.

I wonder why we need a new sewer plant?

 

UPDATE: City Hall still in denial about what the 2nd Penny is for

The 2nd penny was designed to help pay for roads and infrastructure, like sewer plants, but city hall seems to be clueless about it;

Stehly’s repeal efforts, though, face long odds of gaining success. T.J. Nelson, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Paul TenHaken, said the administration opposes the resolution because it is a less equitable way to provide sewer service to Sioux Falls residents.

That’s because right now, sewer and water customers — including businesses like big box stores and industrial type companies — pay for what they use. Nelson said if the city shifted from consumption-based pricing, the average citizen who pays sales tax could end up subsidizing water and sewer services for the heaviest water and sewer users in the city.

“Councilor Stehly’s proposal goes completely against the heart of the issue,” he said. “Her resolution would to have the opposite effect of what she thinks it will.”

Yet every time I go buy groceries or anything in this town I am subsidizing people who are attending shows at the Denty. Doesn’t that go against the ‘Heart of the Issue?’ Why should I have to pay extra for milk and eggs so people can be entertained? If we truly want to use user fees, then we need to have the users of the Denty pay for the Denty.

Stehly’s proposal is simple, use user fees to pay for operating and maintenance of the sewer system, use the 2nd penny to upgrade the infrastructure of the sewer system. It’s not rocket science, in fact it is the fiscally responsible thing to do and worked for decades in Sioux Falls until the former mayor had to get his mitts on extra money for his play things.

Also, the bigger question is why didn’t hear about this expansion until after the election, they have known about this for a very long time (Public Works).

UPDATE: I wrote about this TWO years ago, changing all the entertainment facilities in Sioux Falls over to Enterprise Funds.

Sioux Falls City Council avoids the 700 pound gorilla in the room

That wasn’t all entirely true, Councilors Brekke and Starr brought a little reason to the sewer rate increase discussion tonight after Rick Kiley had a total meltdown when Stehly called him out about disparaging the work of staff. Which made it even more ironically funny, because all Kiley does is constantly compliment staff sometimes just for opening the toilet stall door. So when Theresa reminded him that staff helped her come up with her numbers, Ricky Lee went ballistic, twice. Memorable stuff.

Soehl suggested that she share her information in advance (you know, like the rest of the council does with Theresa and Pat . . . LOL!)

But let’s get to the serious stuff. Janet was smart to bring up the history of the 2nd penny and it’s use for infrastructure and Starr quoted Citizen Stanga wondering why so much of the 2nd penny goes towards ‘play things’.

Most people don’t realize, when you buy anything in this town, a portion goes towards paying down the bonds on the Denty from the 2nd penny. Whether you use the facility or not (in which you have to purchase a ticket) you still have to pay for it’s mortgage. You can always sit outside for free and admire the ‘interesting’ siding.

The council totally ignored the gorilla. While they argued up and down that sewer rates must rise to pay for upgrades because it is only fair to charge the user, they avoided the fact that the play palaces bonds in our town are not paid for by user fees, not one penny. Brekke and Starr came the closest to suggesting we have a long term strategic plan to look how we spend the 2nd penny (to which they got crickets). All they could focus on was that Stehly said $300.

If you want to have an honest and fair conversation about user fees and paying down bonds, as several councilors suggested, then we need to start talking about how the Denty is going to start paying it’s own bonds moving forward. I don’t think a person who can afford to pay $150 to see a Jackass in a cowboy hat would blink an eye at paying an extra $3-5 ticket fee for bonds. Heck, most wouldn’t even notice it after there $10 Coors Light and $8 dollar pretzel.

If the council thinks it is fair to raise rates to pay for sewer infrastructure then they need to also pass a city ordinance that attaches a bond repayment ticket fee to all the shows at the Denty. Otherwise they are just a bunch of hypocrites . . . wait?!

There is an alternative that would cost us less

Another portion of the conversation that was left out tonight is the simple word ‘conservation’. Actually, Public Works Director Cotter was the ONLY one who brought it up, recognizing that the conservation programs he helped implement have reduced water usage. And you can’t argue with his numbers, they are astounding and measurable (bravo to Cotter). While he gave this ‘gentle hint’ to the council, no one decided to run with it. We could actually spend a lot less by implementing even stronger and more stringent water conversation programs which would decrease our sewer usage. Many have even suggested eliminating lawn watering by planting more draught resistant natural grasses instead of non-native ones.

Besides just considering the 2nd Penny, we have alternatives to save us money on these projects, but as Brekke has suggested since she ran for the office, it takes PLANNING!