Entries Tagged 'Public Utilities' ↓

Should we Scrap Public Transit for E-Bikes in Sioux Falls?

My little slice of Heaven

I made this joke a couple of months ago to some people, “Maybe the city should just sell SAM and buy current transit riders an E-Bike.”

Imagine my surprise when I heard about this NY Times Article today;

I’m no stranger to bike commuting, I have been doing it on and off, depending on the job since 1993. But like the article mentions, you get sweaty. I have been putting off getting an E-Bike, because up until this point, I don’t think many models are worth a crap (there are only about 3-5 brands that are worth a damn) and I have quite the non-ebike collection now, mostly cruisers I have fixed up or saved from the junk pile that are wonderful for leisure rides and short commutes and as I lovingly call ‘My Children’.

My 1957 Schwinn ‘Cotton Candy’

I first started with an E-Scooter (that only rides on the streets) 2 years ago, which I love. But it is heavy and you cannot pedal it.

E-Coco, made in Turkey

So after visiting San Diego in May and riding a certified throttle E2 I was sold and finally narrowed it down to my Ariel Rider (top pic). The bike I chose is not for everyone. It has a center bar and is made for shorter people. But it rides and handles like a motorcycle, and I won’t even tell you the speed I get out of it, but I have been riding everyday since I got it a month ago and it is amazing and the charge is good for 40 miles. The only thing I can suggest for you is to do your research (I watched hours of video reviews and read tons of data about batteries and motors). I don’t see myself driving my car at all next summer except for when it is raining (but this is an all-weather bike you can ride through most weather events except for like a blizzard or ice storm). Other brands like RAD and Himiway are also year round E-Bikes that are actually very affordable and tough as nails. The other advantage of having a bike VS. a car is that it can be included on your homeowners or renters insurance.

The ride that sold me on an E2

So how would it change our perception of Public Transit in Sioux Falls?

I’m not naive, I realize that there are many people who ride SAM that cannot bike or walk to work. But what if we reduced the size of SAM to targeted pickups and simply buy anyone who qualifies a good E-bike with a tool kit and access to affordable parts and a trade-in program? It would be life changing and you might even be able to diversify the workforce in Sioux Falls. If the city bought durable E-Bikes at a bulk rate they could probably get the bikes for under $1,000 a piece. They could probably even get a Federal Transportation grant for it out of the infrastructure bill. You could also exchange the FREE bike for a one-time volunteer opportunity to pick up trash along the river and bike trail or any other number of community projects.

Here is an example, through Federal housing grants it already costs around $300K to build one multi-family home in Sioux Falls. Can you imagine how many working people you would impact if you spent half that on FREE E-bikes Instead? It would be enormous. You could also set the program up so they could trade the bikes in for an upgraded model in a couple of years and make sure the bikes are specially marked from being sold to Pawn Shops, etc.

There are a lot of details to be worked out and YES some people may abuse the system but I can tell you from my experience of getting on a true E2 for the first time in California, once you ride one, you are sold. Many of these bikes can also fold up and be very compact for a small living space, and like my model, the batteries are detachable for recharging in case you have to store it outside. Let’s just say besides saving public tax dollars in transit costs it gives recipients of these bikes enormous FREEDOM they did not have before standing and waiting for the bus.

I think when it comes to commuting to work in Sioux Falls, we really need to think outside the box, and big clunky buses really are NOT cutting it anymore.

I grew up always having a bike, and I can’t imagine what it would be like NOT having one now, especially to someone who is working poor and cannot afford a vehicle. Instead of blowing millions on parking ramps, tennis courts and ice ribbons, maybe we should be investing in reliable transportation for workers. Just a thought.

Billion dollar permit record in Sioux Falls happened by pouring gasoline on a fire and massive property tax increases

As I have been saying for years, we are breaking these records by ignoring affordable housing, handing out millions in tax rebates and TIFs and including publicly funded projects while raising property taxes a record amount.

If you read the article you see that two large chunks of permitting were projects that received millions in TIF money and another large chunk was public projects like the water treatment plant and the public safety center.

I have often argued that permits should be separated into PUBLIC PROJECTS and COMMERCIAL PROJECTS.

Private Commercial projects build economic growth, but when they are propped up by massive tax rebates it’s just putting gasoline on the fire. As for Public Projects, those are funded by the taxpayers as investments in infrastructure and should NOT be considered towards the permitting financials as part of economic growth. Sure, we have to build these facilities because of growth, but it also means our taxes are going up to do so while handing out tax breaks to the very developers fueling the uncontrollable growth. It is counter productive and simply growth for growth sakes instead measured, calculated slower growth.

I would love to see the city stop giving TIFs for Korean owned egg roll factories and parking ramps and start applying them to neighborhoods. Or better yet abolish TIFs all together and simply invest tax dollars in neighborhoods by encouraging the construction of more affordable housing through other tax incentives. Instead recently the city code enforcers bombarded neighborhoods in the central district with pink spray paint and violation notices for city owned sidewalks. What a great way to prop up our central neighborhoods by fining citizens to fix city owned property (more on this story in the near future).

Recently CountCilor Alex ‘Expert Economist’ Jensen suggested on CityLink that the way to solve our workforce and housing issues is by inviting people to work in Sioux Falls but to live in towns around us like Tea, Hartford, Dell Rapids, etc. Yeah, that’s an awesome way to build a solid tax base 🙁 and this guy works at a bank!

I would also like to see separating commercial and public permits. They don’t represent the same thing and shouldn’t be held up together. It’s like saying you are the championship BBQ’r in your own backyard and buying yourself a trophy. The city saying they broke records by including infrastructure projects they approved and we are paying for through higher taxes is putting the thumb on the scale.

Don’t get me wrong, economic development is good, but let’s be honest about the numbers and where the money is coming from (mostly taxpayers) and let’s start investing in neighborhoods, local businesses and people – then you will see true economic development we can be proud of because you can’t live in a parking ramp, police firing range or an egg roll.

Did the Sioux Falls City Council set themselves up for a discrimination complaint?

The city council bowed down to the garbage haulers last night essentially allowing them to charge a valet fee to pick up garbage by your house if you can’t carry it to the end of the driveway (Councilor Neitzert and Starr voted against the measure). So not only will cans be blowing all over the streets moving forward, they will probably remain there all week since the city really has no enforcement.

One company already told a person today that the valet service would be $17 extra a month even if you have a disability. Some have already been discussing if this is an ADA violation discriminating against handicapped and elderly folks. We will see the complaints coming.

Also, as Councilor Starr pointed out last night, Kiley’s Amendment didn’t get a required 24 hour notice to the council a rule that Kiley and Erickson have squawked about in the past when other councilors have not followed the rule. In fact the city attorney is the one who thinks this rule should be followed even though he remained silent about it last night.

I understand the haulers complaints about gas and labor issues, but the haulers already have the power to raise rates, they just wanted the council to validate it for them.

I have argued that common sense could easily fix many of these issues and actually lower our rates without getting rid of the private service or valet. Two things I have suggested are setting up sectors and days when garbage can be picked up during the week in a specific neighborhood and stop charging the haulers tipping fees unless they go over a certain tonnage or are dropping trash from other communities. The first idea has actually been thrown around for awhile and would save the haulers on fuel and labor. The second idea has probably not been discussed but makes sense. The taxpayers already own the landfill and pay for it’s maintenance. We also make money from the methane and other materials we sell. It doesn’t make sense for the city to charge a private hauler tipping fees then have them turn around and charge the consumer for dropping garbage off at a facility we own. It’s like putting a parking meter in your driveway.

The council should have voted for Neitzert’s original amendment to leave it alone and discussed putting together a task force to explore other options to save money. Neitzert said it best last night, what we currently have now is a ‘community standard’ we should be proud of. Once again, the rubber stampers took the easy cruise control government route that will make service more expensive and messier without solving the root causes. I’m surprised Carnegie didn’t explode last night with all the DUMB on the DIAS.


There is also a rumor circulating that an open meetings violation will be filed since public input was NOT allowed during the meeting on two items (Club David’s liquor license, and Covid study). Both were pulled from the consent agenda and the Chair of the meeting, Mayor TenHaken, did not request public input, and neither did the clerk or other councilors.

UPDATE: Results of Sioux Falls Garbage Survey are strange

UPDATE: As I suspected today during the informational, the Public Works department dropped their bomb. The garbage haulers want curbside service, don’t want to give a discount for it, and get this, want to charge extra for VALET service (what we currently receive by ordinance). The city council did push back and said a larger discussion must be had first. As I predicted, big business in Sioux Falls wants to get their way, and there is NO way it will trickle down to the citizen consumers. We will see what the rubberstamp council decides, but I’m guessing we (working stiff citizens) will lose in the end, with less service and higher rates. Isn’t deregulation wonderful?

Oh, and if you want a real get in the sack, watch public input during the regular council meeting tonight. Sierra drops the bomb on the Dudley House situation and one lady testifies the Covid vaccination is a bitcoin injection that will be turned on with a micro-chip activated by 5G phones to steal our bank accounts and kill us. LMFAO!

While around 58% of respondents were ok with putting garbage cans at curbside that was about the only clear answer we received.

RESULTS

Some don’t want government to tell garbage haulers what to do, which means the (private haulers) will be telling the consumers what to do and the very reason we have regulation that apparently people don’t want.

And while most consumers agree customer service and price is what they look for most, only around half think they should get a better deal because of curbside. Around another half think it is okay to take the cans to curbside, they just want the hauler to return them to beside their house. So about HALF want HALF-WAY curbside.

The comments are also interesting to read, over 70 pages of them.

I have argued for a long time leave it up to the CONSUMER to decide if they want to take it to curbside, and if so sign a contract with the hauler that says if you do this 100% of the time you will receive a discounted rate in your next bill.

Also, in the comment section, many people feel the city should be broken up in districts so garbage collection only occurs once a week on your block instead of multiple haulers picking up multiple days at multiple times.

I have said for a long time a money and time saving solution to all this madness is for the city to contract with the top haulers (like they do with snow removal) and make it a public system using private haulers. We could supply them their fuel and charge NO tipping fees. We would pay the companies directly for volume and the city would bill you for the garbage fee in your water/sewer bill. You could have the option of having curbside or by your house pickup and one hauler would come to your block once a week.

Many have argued competition keeps prices lower. There really isn’t competition in Sioux Falls. In fact, with all of the companies Waste Management has bought up there really is only one major hauler, them.

One of the main reasons I have argued against curbside is because the haulers are not willing to give a discount for helping them out with fuel and labor costs.

If the council makes changes to curbside, the haulers MUST be willing to discount for that kind of service, but like TIFs they will argue the trickle down economic benefits to the rest of us without actual deliverance of those benefits. Think about it, the results came out on August 20th and the public works department has been fiddling with how they are going to spin this to the public and the council for almost 2 months! In the end we will get screwed.

I truly think the haulers want to save money on labor and fuel, but they also want to put that savings right into their pockets, and frankly, that’s a bunch of garbage.

City of Sioux Falls puts out Garbage Survey

I find this SURVEY to be a bit odd. We have had a rule in Sioux Falls that haulers must pick up your cans next to your home for years, during they Covid they got an emergency exception, which was fine, but now it needs to go back. The issue I have is that they are giving NO discounts to the customers for saving labor costs at curbside. I have argued we need a municipal garbage system that contracts about 4 private haulers that split the city into 4 sections so all the garbage on your block can be picked up the same day by the same hauler which would save us significant money, not to mention tipping costs. It would also allow the city to cap the fees so we all pay the same. It could also consolidate those charges on your water and sewer bill.

I encourage you to take the survey.

Theresa Stehly asks Sioux Falls Mayor TenHaken to look at her when speaking at the City Council Meeting tonight

During the public input portion of the meeting tonight, former city councilor Stehly asked the mayor to stop spraying for skiters in broad daylight. I guess the trucks have been emitting their chemicals before dusk throughout neighborhoods with complaints from people with kids, to people walking with pets. It is also kills beneficial insects. The best time to spray is from dusk to dawn when the skiters come out to play. I guess the city doesn’t really have a reason why except it costs more to spray after dark. I didn’t know running headlights was so expensive. I have complained for years that the city should use safer, natural methods to control skiters. The one reason I don’t have a vegetable garden is because of the spraying. The emission can also cause developmental issues in toddlers. But that’s typical of authoritarians, save pennies over here while harming the health and welfare of citizens while handing out $20 Million dollar plus tax rebates to developers.

I didn’t see Paul’s face, but when Theresa was addressing him, she asked him to look at her (I guess he was staring at his shoes, something you can do when the cruise control is on).

City of Sioux Falls Internal Audit department makes my case for public garbage service

If you FF to about 37:00 in the above video, you will hear an interesting discussion about the Landfill audit.

I have argued for a long time that a public garbage service would save taxpayers millions of dollars a year. I have also suggested, like plowing the city streets, the city should contract those services with the major haulers that already exist in our city. Many have argued that would kill competition and would cost more.

Horse Puckey.

1) We would save on fuel costs because the haulers would be assigned certain neighborhoods and could pick up everyone’s garbage on the street at the same time

2) There would be savings in administering the billing process, it could be attached to our water/sewer bill

3) We would save money on wear and tear to our streets

4) It would help with recycling which would reduce landfill costs

5) There would be no complicated tipping fee structure with the contracted haulers, which would make landfill workers jobs less complicated

The data the internal auditor provided proves to me that the only haulers that would be put out of business are the ones that are not doing much anyway. According to their data there is 27 licensed haulers in Sioux Falls. The 4 largest put up to 72% of the waste in the landfill. The remaining haulers account for 28% of the waste which means on average each of those haulers brings in about 1.2% of the waste individually.

If the current system was really providing ‘competition’ why are 23 haulers not doing much business?

The other irony is that of the 4 major haulers, 2 of them are under similar ownership and just have different names. It’s kind of like all the odd ball tree trimming service providers in town that are owned by a handful of people.

Folks, this supposed competition you talk about doesn’t exist. Stop kidding yourself. It is time the city contracts with up to 6 different haulers, divide up the city, and start a public garbage service. Don’t take my word for it, just ask our internal auditor, I think their data makes a great case for it.

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?’