Entries Tagged 'SF City Council' ↓

Sioux Falls 6th Street Bridge Project could have been broken up into smaller projects

Some may ask why the city even has an engineering department. Well, for starters they identify projects and determine the best way forward to tackle the project. At least they used to.

Building anything big like a bridge, a swimming pool or an Events Center, you likely would use several subcontractors. The contractor chose to do the bridge project awarded by the council last night on a 6-2 vote (Neitzert and Starr dissenting) will likely have to job out different subcontractors to complete the work that includes demolition, utility work and actually constructing the bridge. The engineering department could have easily broke this project up to make it more appealing to bidders and probably would have saved the city millions.

It wasn’t just the incompetence of the administration and the city council that approved this blindly, it was an utter failure of the Public Works department to NOT take another approach to this to save taxpayers money.

Then there are the questionable and cozy relationships certain contractors have with the city, and that was on full display last night when the council approved this 100% cost overrun with only ONE bid. (Councilors Merkouris and Barranco also changed their votes the last minute I’m assuming to save the Mayor from casting the tie-breaker, which he would have broke and approved).

The precedent set last night by this council and administration was not good and the genie is now fully out of the bottle. Infrastructure projects in Sioux Falls are going to become very, very expensive moving forward.

Who is running for the next mayor of Sioux Falls?

I know, I know, a little early, but you would be surprised how much chatter has been going on already about the next mayoral race. The below predictions are PURE speculation based on convos I have had with city government nerds;

• Mike Huether, the former mayor has been actively reaching out to potential supporters and it is highly likely he will run.

• Greg Jamison, Greg currently serves in the SD legislature, but I have a fishy feeling he would love another round with Mr. Huether.

• Christine Erickson, she is coming off a very successful campaign against the stinky folks, and she has the ego to take a stab at this.

• Alex Jensen, not sure what to think of this, but his name has been floated out there by TenHaken worshippers.

• Greg Neizert, not sure if he is interested, but it seems like the most logical next political step.

• Theresa Stehly, I doubt she will run, but I can almost guarantee if she does run she will be in the runoff.

I’m sure there will be a couple of other Zombies (SNARK!) entering the race, but I have a feeling we will see a very crowded and diverse group.

UPDATE: City of Sioux Falls Engineering Department off 100%+ on cost overrun projections for 6th Street bridge

UPDATE: Here is a copy of the final bid tabulation: 6th Street Bridge

I understand inflation and cost overruns, but I am not certain how you can be off by 100%?

Recently the city had a change order (cost overrun) on the wastewater project for over $500,000 with NO explanation. With the 6th street bridge, the council gets a short email from Public Works Director, Mark Cotter (Click on the attachments for Item #27)

Good Afternoon City Council and City Council Staff,
On December 22, 2022, we bid the 6th Street Downtown Project. The major elements of this project include a new bridge over the Big Sioux River, extensive underground public and private utility work, a large bore through quartzite rock under the railroad tracks to allow for the utilities to cross, and the elements for the future quiet zone/whistle reduction crossing. The project came in significantly over the engineer’s estimate at $21.8M. There are a number of drivers that make this project difficult to estimate:
• Limited bidders – This is a very complex project coupled with fact that there is a significant amount of bridge work in the region and several contractors are full or are nearly full for the year,
• Project access is a challenge and primarily must be built from one side, the east side,
• Limited staging area coupled with risk of high river flows with spring rains/runoff,
• Tight labor market and continued high construction cost inflation,

*The original cost estimate put out for bid was $8,867,228 with it expecting to come in at 12,919,000 (as of 12/22/2022) that bid came in at 100%+ overrun of $21,821,916 with an additional add on of $238K for a steel railing (*Bid tabulation from the SF Public Works Engineering Department).

I get it, cost overruns occur, but maybe the city council needs to be asking Mark Cotter how they can be off by over 100% when inflation last year was around 7%. Something isn’t adding up.

Is the City of Sioux Falls using public transit to REDLINE Sioux Falls?

If you watch the presentation and look at the map above you will see there is a plan to move bus routes out of the ‘lily-white’ neighborhoods permanently, especially North Harrisburg (SE Sioux Falls).

Is this a backdoor way of making sure likely riders of public transit would not have options in affordable or accessible housing in these neighborhoods?

Public transit has been used in the past to redline neighborhoods.

The city council took the opportunity to NOT talk about this obvious glaring problem but to take up most of the Q & A time to complain about batteries for electric buses, because, you know, climate change is a hoax.

Sioux Falls City Council Agenda, Jan 3-4, 2023


Informational Meeting • 4 PM • Tuesday, Jan 3

• Transit Development Plan by Sam Trebilcock, Senior Planner

• 2026 Housing Action Plan – Year 1 Update by Logan Penfield, Housing Development Manager; and, Jeff Nelson, Accessible Housing Advisory Board Chair

Regular Meeting • 6 PM • Tuesday, Jan 4


Background & Objective: A required annual report from the CRS program on the Hazard Mitigation Plan. The current plan is at the end of its usefulness and a new plan is in the early stages, so no new efforts have been put into adding new items to the existing one. This is why the report is so short this year.

(I have never seen this program before, so I would be curious how long it has been since this has been updated considering we have been hit by tornados, severe storms, and flooding over the past few years requiring FEMA reimbursement. Would have been nice to have an informational meeting presentation.)

Planning Commission Meeting • 6 PM • Wednesday, Jan 4

$200 a day rent for Downtown Sioux Falls Loft Apartment

Yes, that is the daily rent, for the month it will cost you $5,950. I purchased my home 20 years ago, before I bought the house the rent I paid for a nice 1-bedroom behind U-Haul in Pettigrew Heights was $350 a month which included gas and garbage service. For $5,950 a month you could pay a mortgage on a 1 million dollar home. You can rent a decent hotel room in Sioux Falls for about $100 a night. Heck even Hotel Phillips only 2 blocks from this loft charges between $140-$220 a night. An VRBO or Air BNB is even cheaper. This 3 bedroom short term rental in McKennan Park will run you about $162 a night. Even if you had 3 people renting the loft, they would still have to pay $2,000 a month in rent. In fact what you would pay for rent in a year for this place ($70K+) was more then the original purchase price of my home.

Normally I wouldn’t give two rips about what a wealthy property owner/developer in DTSF charges for rent, I’m a free market person and if they can get that kind of ‘rent’ money, good for you. Where I take issue is that this building received a facade easement grant* (basically the city gives private developers money to fix up their historical facades with little oversight). I asked a councilor recently if the half-Inch faux brick that they glued on the front of Lucky’s facade was considered historic? Faux brick has been a trend lately, but I still think it looks fake. I thought one of the requirements of historic restoration was for it to be actually historic, you know, like the fiberglass bulstrades on the Pavilion’s new roof.

Besides the atrocious monthly rent, this really doesn’t make the city look very good when they are handing out TIFs for condo parking ramps and facade grants DTSF but on the other hand are promoting(?) affordable and accessible housing.

*The facade easement program was mysteriously and suddenly re-instated by the urging of Central District Councilor Curt Soehl. No surprise the 1st recipients for the grants were the former campaign treasurer for Soehl (for the 9th and Grange coffee shop that he is restoring) and the investment group that owns the Lucky’s loft who has given thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Mayor TenHaken and his various supported candidates. The program is nothing but a pay to play payback to these campaign contributors. The program was originally ended because there really is NO need for taxpayers to be propping up these private developers.

The city really needs to get out of the wealthy developer welfare program business and start incentivizing affordable housing DTSF with programs that help build housing density while focusing on the individual property and small rental owners. Instead the city’s solution is to build slab on grade tract homes in a cornfield in Southern Brandon. Even a chicken playing tic-tac-toe is smarter than that.

UPDATE: In 2017 Rapid City used a very small TIF to support affordable housing (H/T Mike Zitterich). It was 5 years ago, but for a $26,500 TIF the developer was able to build 5 Town Homes – the cheapest with the price tag of $109K. Even with inflationary adjustments, that same place would only be about $130-150K today. It was built on a blighted empty lot.

We could legally do this in the core of the city, and we could do it for multiple properties.

Here is a video of the project;

City of Sioux Falls passing community centers over to the SF School District

During the informational meeting today, the Parks Department proposed turning over the community centers to the SFSD for a after school program.

Councilor Merkouris questioned how this was concocted behind closed doors without input from a majority of the council and school board. He didn’t put it that way and was little more clever and asked how the SFSD can send out notifications for this program’s enrollment before the council or school board approved this.

The SFSD and the Parks Department tried to tie in future proposed indoor rec and pool centers. So are they proposing the SFSD take over the Midco Aquatic center? Yankton Trail Park? If you are trying to justify these indoor rec centers, then justify them for city public use not for supplementing the SFSD after school programs.

I agree this is needed, but I am with Rich, why wasn’t our policy body, the council, working on this? I often question what the purpose of our council is if the mayor’s office is molding policy and sponsoring it on the agenda. Might as well just put eight tic-tac-toe playing chickens on the dais, probably make better decisions 🙂

Councilor Starr questioned if the city will be saving any money? It doesn’t appear that way, it looks like we will still be providing funding since the city will still have use of the community centers on some occasions.

While I agree the SFSD should be sponsoring this program, I’m not sure it is the responsibility of city coffers (sales taxes) to help with this. I have been a major proponent of Pre-K education and public funding of it, but that should come from property taxes, Federal grants and mostly state coffers. We have a child care crisis in this city and country, no denying it, but we need to direct funding from the correct coffer. When I have to drive over 6″ ice ruts down my residential street, I’m not wondering why the city isn’t funding child care, I’m wondering why they are not spending my sales taxes on the most basic of needs like road maintenance.

Downtown Sioux Falls BID tax almost doubled due to typo in ordinance

I am not surprised this happened. Over the past decade I have watched the integrity of the legal descriptions in ordinances deteriorate substantially and it seems almost weekly the council is amending some mistake or typo (Item #96);

This would have been quite the boo-boo.

This past year the Building Services manager had to apologize to the city council for screwing up on a fee adjustment that wasn’t caught by the council or attorney’s office but by a contractor.

The BID Tax increase was deferred because a couple of DTSF business owners cried. I don’t see any amendments and I don’t expect any tonight, this will pass easily. The Billionaire Italians bitching about this increase can afford it, oh, and will DTSF hang some damn xmas lights at Sunshine already!

Mayor TenHaken is running out of employee options

He is now having directors double up on their duties;

Shawn Pritchett, who has served in the role of finance director since late 2018, will now also be the director of innovation and technology for the city, following the council’s unanimous approval of TenHaken’s appointment.

It is getting pretty obvious that PTH is struggling to recruit people to work for him, which he even admits;

TenHaken called Pritchett an “obvious choice” for the role, and candidly noted that he was “0 for 3” in directors of the department during his administration, which he said was one thing that made him want to look inside for a new director.

He is actually ‘0 for 12+’ when it comes to directors. I have lost count. Why is it that people either don’t want to work for Paul’s administration or only last a short time?

Maybe he needs to start merging other department heads? Like Fire and Police? Parks and Rec with Entertainment facilities? If we can’t find people to work for this mayor maybe we could just consolidate?

City of Sioux Falls plan to expand indoor pools has been in the works for years

This is no surprise, before the doors of the Midco even opened there were plans to expand the indoor facilities;

South Dakota’s largest community is readying to spend tens of millions of dollars overhauling its pool system, which could include a pair of brand new indoor aquatic centers.

The plan to expand indoor facilities has been talked about for a long time. In fact, the bonds they are proposing have been on the table for years.

I am NOT against building indoor rec facilities that have multiple uses, but when we are losing $700K a year on just one indoor pool we have to ask ourselves some serious operating expense questions. If these community centers are meant to help those who can’t afford private fitness clubs why not have certain hours where they are FREE to use by anyone?

Leon Younger, President of PROs Consulting, reviewed the alignment with the Park System Master Plan, with the following main points: replace aging aquatic facilities; renovate and update aquatic facilities to extend their useful life; adult fitness and wellness programs; year round programming; maintain the level of service with population growth; address the shortage of indoor recreation space. Younger also stated the following recommendations: prioritize indoor multi-generational recreation center with aquatics at Frank Olson or Kuehn Park, ideally both; follow Master Plan for McKennan Park with replacement of wading pool; add shade and upgraded concessions at Terrace and Laurel Oak parks.

We can’t say on one hand we are here to help the less fortunate then turn around and charge an entrance fee like we do that already at many city owned facilities.

You will also find that the largest number of people who filled out the survey were from the SE district in North Harrisburg. It makes you wonder if that district is more targeted online to participate in the survey. The SE district is what shaped the last city election, and now we are letting them shape policy.

It will be interesting to see what kind of operating expenses the Parks Department comes up with.