Entries Tagged 'Public Utilities' ↓

Sioux Falls water plant expansion should be bonded thru 2nd Penny

Sioux Falls water and sewer is funded thru enterprise funds (user fees). Those fees go towards maintenance, operation, general expansions and pipe replacements. They also go towards paying the salaries of the employees of this department (while all other city employees are paid thru the 1st penny operational fund).

While the concept of enterprise funds works well for normal operation, paying salaries and bond payments for major expansions out of this fund is what is draining the coffers and a cause for fee increases.

The 2nd Penny fund was created for road maintenance and soon got hi-jacked for all infrastructure projects. But that is what is it is for, major infrastructure like an expansion of our water and sewer plant.

This is really about allocation of tax money.

We say we need to pay down the bonds for this facility with user fees but we don’t use user fees to pay down the bonds for the Events Center, Pavilion, Zoo, Tennis Courts, Midco Aquatics and the list goes on.

It is ludicrous to have $80 million in a reserve fund for infrastructure projects while raising water rates to pay down bonds for a needed infrastructure project.


Why not re-finance the bonds thru the 2nd Penny fund and avoid a water rate increase? I wonder what Bloomberg thinks of that?

UPDATE II: Is the City of Sioux Falls still sharing data with Bloomberg?

UPDATE II: The mayor put out a brief statement about his trip. He didn’t mention that he took Shawn and Mark;

“Local government is the catalyst for community progress, and I know our City’s participation in the City Data Alliance will help us double down on our data efforts to ultimately benefit residents.”

So you have been participating in this program for several years now, wondering when you are going to start sharing those benefits with the citizens?

I also found it interesting that out of the 11 American mayors participating only one was Republican, TenHaken, and one Indy (who leans Democrat). All the other mayors were Democrat.

UPDATE: A South DaCola foot soldier pointed out to me after posting this earlier today that there is another issue with this trip.

The city pays a consultant for the software that helps with sharing data thru the Bloomberg initiative. As I understand it, that money DOES NOT go towards trips city employees or elected officials may take in coordination with Bloomberg.

‘IF’ and only ‘IF’ Bloomberg Philanthropies paid for the trip and NOT the taxpayers of Sioux Falls that is an ethics violation because of quid pro quo. By Bloomberg providing an all expense paid trip to the mayor of Sioux Falls, or ANY mayor or municipal employee for that matter, there is an appearance that Bloomberg provides these conferences and in return gets to use the data from the city, probably even sell it.

I am NOT sure who paid for the trip, but if it was Bloomberg, Paul and his cohorts have some explaining to do.

I’m wondering when they are going to start sharing information and data with the citizens?

I see that the city was not only represented by Mayor ONE, but the Public Works Director and the Finance/Tech Director at the conference. I wonder who was running the city . . .

I understand the concept behind the data sharing, but what I am curious about is how this is helping us in Sioux Falls? There have been NO major initiatives by this administration to use the data sharing with Bloomberg to improve our city. On Demand is a joke and will be repealed, so that doesn’t really count. But when it comes to crime, neighborhood cleanup, infrastructure, transparency, climate change, housing and better wages we sit at a standstill. Heck, we can’t even approve a mural!

So what do we get when the 3 most important people in city government spend a week yucking it up with Bloomberg?

We will never know.

Maybe this is the reason Sioux Falls is limiting credit card parking meters

So what do most people do if they are in a hurry? They say ‘F’ck it’ and move on. If someone is in a hurry and they find a parking spot DTSF but don’t have any change to feed the meter (that doesn’t have a CC reader) they will probably not go looking for another spot and just risk the ticket. Maybe that is what the city is hoping for.

You can either listen or read the interview;

GRABAR: I think so. Essentially, parking enforcement serves as a subset of what is now known as revenue-driven policing. And the idea here is that cities take advantage of these parking laws to try and get as much money out of people as possible, but not in the way that you would think, right? I mean, I think this is a common misconception. Meter rates are actually, for the most part, pretty low in most cities, which is to say they are below the market clearing price that would create empty spaces on every block. Most cities make more money from illegal parking fines than they do from meters and garage taxes put together. So, for example, New York City in 2015 made $565 million in parking fines. It’s the biggest category of fines that the city issues. But they made just $200 million from parking meters.

So what’s essentially being run here – and I don’t know if cities are conscious of this – is a system that is poorly designed that almost seems like the incentives are in favor of illegal parking because for the city, that’s where they make their money.

I would have loved to been a fly on the wall when the Parking Director, Matt Nelson and Mayor TenHaken had a conversation about getting creative with raising more parking fees. Probably went something like this;

Nelson says, “Paul, we just gotta find a way to get people to park in the ramps more.”

TenHaken responds, “Thank goodness I stopped that naked Indian mural, because that certainly would have drove drivers away.”

Is the Carbon Pipeline really for Carbon?

It’s not what is in the pipeline but who is burying it.

There has been a lot of chatter about the proposed carbon pipeline and some of the extraordinary actions taken to get it in the ground.

Of course none of this is surprising considering some of the players in this and everything done so far has worked in their playbook.

I asked someone recently who has been around in politics since the late 60’s, “Do you think there is some kind of other agenda when it comes to this pipeline?”

Let’s be brutally honest, grain ethanol is NOT the solution to our energy problems. Green energy is. We should be using all the available farmland we have to grow crops that feed PEOPLE not create waste with an energy source that really isn’t that sustainable. Which brings us back to the ‘agenda’ question.

This person pointed out to me that once the easements are set and the pipeline is approved and buried in the ground the servicer of that line can transport any material thru the line like oil from North Dakota or Canada.

Is it much easier to sell a carbon pipeline that will somehow trickle down to benefit farmers or an oil pipeline?

We know the answer to that question.

The affected landowners need to start asking the carbon pipers what exactly will be in this pipeline because right now there is something flowing and it ain’t carbon.

Sioux Fals Landfill EV plan

While the city is struggling with a sustainability plan, it seems they are all over it for this (Item #7. Sub Item #10);

I am assuming, but don’t know, that this is for EV battery disposal.

Mixed Use Zoning in Sioux Falls is needed

The administration has been busy pushing it’s agenda onto the city council just waiting for their rubberstamp approval;

The new zoning districts, referred to as “midtown mixed use,” are specifically aimed at increasing population density and walkability in fitting parts of the city. An ordinance that would introduce them into the city’s zoning options passed to a second reading unanimously Tuesday.

They range from three-to four-story buildings that could fit near single-family homes to seven- to 10-story buildings that could only be built along some of the city’s busiest streets, or perhaps a whole city block.

Councilor Rich Merkouris said increases in this type of zoning could hopefully be accompanied with improvements to the city’s transit system, and Councilor Greg Neitzert said bicycles should be taken into account while sidewalks and roads around the buildings are developed.

With most proposed city ordinances, the devil is in the details.

I support building density and finally cleaning up corridors like Minnesota Avenue, but I’m starting to get the feeling this will be more like the old Westerns with the fake main street facades. We can clean up the curb appeal of Minnesota Avenue all we want but it is what is behind the street that concerns me more.

When cleaning up neighborhoods it starts with the lowest rung on the latter, that means a total overhaul of our core neighborhoods FIRST then we can concentrate on the window dressing.

And Rich and Greg are correct, there are many other issues we must solve first in our core before dreaming about moving next door to George Jefferson in the high rise with an awesome view of the Pita Pit roof.

Of course Wealthy Welfare Developer Queens have their prince on the council;

And Councilor Alex Jensen said there would need to be incentives to make the zoning appealing, saying it was easy to go buy land on the outskirts of the city for a one-story project, if the location made sense. Convincing that hypothetical landowner to get into the core of the city could take some extra work.

Which means tax rebates and TIFs. Ironically there is a natural incentive to those who actually play the FREE market system fairly, instead of waiting for government handouts, you get to build 5 to 10x the square footage on the same plot of land in the core as opposed to a cornfield next to Brandon.

Besides transit and walkability I also have other concerns about transitioning these buildings from well established core neighborhoods. So does councilor Soehl;

“If Mr. and Mrs. Smith have been living in their house for 40 years and now we’re gonna put a seven-story building in the same city block, explain to me how you’re gonna alleviate the city council from making that hard decision,” Soehl said. “Because it’s gonna end up with us. The complaints, the packed room, it’s gonna end up here to make those hard decisions.”

Once again councilor Soehl is choosing to take the safe and easy road and wanting to throw out the entire proposal based on the fact he may have to make a decision. This kind of zoning WILL require a case by case basis review and approval. DUH! What works well at 18th and Minnesota may not work at 33rd and Minnesota, I think the public and developers get that.

Building density is always a good idea, this is NOT complicated.

Transparency would solve many problems for Sioux Falls City Hall

Recently the administration said they want to increase water rates again;

While the last round of rate increases adopted in 2018 ran through 2023 and ranged from 3 to 6 percent, it’s unclear what the new rate increases will look like.

That’s because the city is still calculating what level of rate hikes are necessary to keep up with anticipated population growth, operational needs and anticipated revenues, according to the Public Works Department that oversees municipal utility services.

“We are in the process of developing the operational and capital budgets which will inform the utility rate models,” Public Works Director Mark Cotter told The Dakota Scout when asked about the hikes, how far into the future they will be scheduled and why they’re necessary. “I expect to finalize this process in the coming weeks.”

One thing that happened during the Munson administration was an effort from city hall to encourage water conservation. Heck, the city was even giving away toilet rebates! If I recall the public works director, Mark Cotter, who is still the director, said the conservation efforts were making progress and people were consuming less water. Tack this onto growth and more users and you should be able to keep above water, no pun intended, without raising rates too much.

The problem is the water and sewer department depend on user fees to fund their operations, this is called enterprise funds. You pay your bill and that money goes directly to the maintenance and operation of the facilities. While enterprise funds are a good idea, they don’t always work well when you have major expansions because we also use the funds to pay down bonds for the facility upgrades. I have argued for awhile that major infrastructure projects should come out of the 2nd penny capital budget, like new water reclamation plants and bunker ramps (the Parking division which is ran on enterprise funds is also running lean probably due to paying bonds on a parking ramp that is not completed).

Some would argue that the enterprise funds should also pay down bonds, but I ask this question; “Do the wages for people who work in water reclamation come from the 2nd penny operations fund, like all other city salaries, or do they come from the enterprise fund?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but whether it is an enterprise fund OR sales taxes it is still coming from the same pot. With $80+ million in reserves we can easily takeover the bond payments for the water rec out of the 2nd penny and avoid any rate increases.


We could come to a compromise by sitting down with the public in public forums to discuss different options when it comes to increasing rates;

• More robust conservation efforts

• Using the 2nd penny or even reserves to pay down bonds

• Even higher rates for excessive users

We don’t need to raise rates, there are other solutions but we need to discuss them in a public forum and our city council NEEDS to demand it.

While I support the efforts of the sustainability folks to call out the administrations lack of transparency I asked someone yesterday, “Where were these folks 6 years ago when this guy rolled into office?” and this person replied, “Where were they in the last election?” Basically saying we let Paul and his endorsed candidates roll over the competition without a fight.

Transparency effects more then just climate change. It also has to do with utility rates, art censorship, insider bridge deals, free facade money to political donors, purchase agreements for welfare developer queens, banning drop boxes from public libraries, demolition orders from VIP neighbors and the list goes on.

We have a bigger fight then just sustainability when it comes to city hall, we have an communication problem. Once we shine light into city hall, most of these difficulties would be less difficult. The mayor says he wants a ONE Sioux Falls (still not sure what that even means) but he seems to be the only ONE not understanding that the ONE doesn’t stand for his bureaucrats but it stands for US, your constituents.

Is the city data mining with the FREE dump pass?

The city has already been using a private contractor at the recycling center that uses the special software to scan your driver’s license and they will deny you if you abuse the dropoff;

The Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill now will scan driver’s licenses or state ID instead of collecting the free passes. It’s still one load per household address and up to 10,000 pounds. The goal is to start the digital approach April 3 and allow residents to use the pass until the end of the year.

While I agree mailing out postcards can be costly and apartment dwellers deserve the passes as well, I think they are making this more complicated then it needs to be. You simply keep a data base of all adult residents residing in Sioux Falls with their address and when they present their ID (not scanned) at the dump, their name is searched and removed from the list after utilizing the opportunity. This could be done in under a minute by simply doing a search of the name in the data base.

Many residents have reached out to me telling me they don’t want there DL scanned and this may be an attempt to data mine more information from citizens.

While this kind of information gathering is allowed by law where it gets grey is if this information can be shared with private political campaigns or candidates. As I understand it, it can be. Mayor TenHaken learned thru his Bloomberg connections how to data mine on citizens, but what is stopping him from using this data personally to run for higher office?

The rumor mill says that Marion Mike Rounds will likely run for governor leaving a Senate seat and Congressional seat open. Dusty Johnson will likely run for Senate (with maybe a primary challenge from Noem) and TenHaken is gearing up to run for Congress (you know, the guy who hates politics and isn’t a politician 🙂

6th Street Bunker Bridge Debacle proves the Sioux Falls City Council is bought and paid for, again

While the Sioux Falls City Council still has an opportunity to redeem themselves next Monday with a reconsideration on the vote, I don’t have much hope they will get the 5 votes needed to overturn it.

Most people would jump at a do-over, especially after finding out as NO fault of their own they were mislead into believing it was an EMERGENCY. We all know now that was a bunch of phooey.

The main reason this redemption may not happen is that the 6 councilors who originally voted for this have all received campaign funding and endorsements from Mayor TenHaken. I can almost guarantee without his campaign assistance, PAC money and endorsements the last 4 elected would have all lost or had been close races.

Paul knows what he did, they know what he did, we all know how that cookie crumbles.

Ask Janet Brekke and Theresa Stehly what happens to you when you challenge our very own King of Scotland. The castle tower you live in becomes very cold and dark very suddenly.

Was fuzzy math used in bid tabulation for 6th Street Bunker Bridge?

There has been much discussion and consternation over the bridge. Two years ago we replaced the 8th street bridge with more decorative elements for $8 million. So how is it that the new rebuild will be $21 million? Some argue that it has to do with the multiple steps in this rebuild. Some argue inflation. Others have told me that since it is ARPA money they need to shove it out the door. There has been requests (not by me) that the Council does it’s own independent audit and investigation (they have this ability in the charter) or that the Feds should look into RICO violations. Others in the private engineering sector have all come to the same conclusion; this ‘deal’ probably didn’t magically come together by itself but with collusion and pressure from certain downtown developers and contractors.

Rumors be damned!

One of the sticking points the Public Works Director Mark Cotter used to trick the city council into voting for the Bunker Bridge was that is was unsafe. Holes have been blown into that argument;

And in the most recent inspection of the Sixth Street Bridge, done in 2020, inspectors assigned its overall structural integrity a 4 based on a 0-9 grading system, according to a review of data by The Dakota Scout. While not great, a 4 means a bridge “meets minimum tolerable limits to be left in place as is,” according to federal criteria.

But it didn’t take Joe and Jon needling thru Federal Safety inspections to see the obvious; if this bridge is so unsafe why have they allowed large heavy machinery and building materials to go across this bridge all summer? Even Councilor Neitzert pointed out at the meeting, if it is so bad, why don’t you close it?

I decided to dig thru the bid tabulation sheet to see if I could find any wiggle room, this is what I found;

• Mobilization: $4,341,000

• Temporary Works: $2,610,000

I have no doubt these are actual expenses but I find that the two biggest expenditures in this bid are NOT broken down. This would be a very easy place to pad the bid. I think council needs to ask the contractor to break this down for them.

• Class A45 Concrete, Bridge Deck: $4,914,420

Concrete will be a big expenditure for this bridge, but with the way that prices are fluctuating it would be hard to say this is actual. Heck, it could be more or this number could also be padded.

I also would like to go into some smaller numbers that really make you scratch your head;

• Benches: 3 at $4,000 each

Looks like I need to get into the steel bench making business!

• Relocate LSS Monument Sign: $25,000

Seems the sign relocation business is very lucrative also (they probably run a side business making benches).

• Sprinkler System: $56,000

Just in case the bike trail catches on fire and doesn’t spread to the concrete bridge.

• Water Meter & Backflow Assembly with Enclosures: 2 at $7,500 each.

Not sure if they are planning on opening a laundromat or spray park on the bridge itself?

• Waterfowl Grazing Control: $4,700

You might as well throw this money in a burn barrel, because whatever they are doing currently on this part of the bike trail downtown ISN’T WORKING!!!!!!

Not to mention how many more millions will we have to endure with change orders? There have been rumors that the Water Reclamation Plant is extremely over budget due to change orders. But hey, we needed a dented up entertainment facility more then clean water.