Staggers finds ways to save millions of dollars
By Jonathan Ellis
Published: August 6, 2007
At least three city councilors want to change spending in the city's five-year capital improvement plan.
As it stands now, that plan totals $492 million in projects that are scheduled to be completed between 2008 and 2012. The council is set to vote on the plan Aug. 13. The vote will authorize spending for projects next year - which now totals about $125 million - as well as reaffirm the pecking order of projects to be completed between 2009 and 2012.
Each year, the mayor's administration submits a new five-year capital plan. The plans include the mundane, such as new streets, as well as goodies such as new pools and parks.
Councilor Kermit Staggers wants to remove a number of those goodies. Councilors had a deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday to submit amendments. Staggers put 24 into the hopper. Councilors De Knudson and Bob Litz are proposing one amendment each that would move two projects scheduled later in the plan to next year.
The plan calls for spending more than $581,000 in 2010 and 2011 for energy efficient, easy-to-clean windows at the Washington Pavilion. Knudson's amendment would pay for that project next year.
The city estimates new windows would save $19,000 a year in energy costs.
Knudson, who has been on the council five years, said the project has been put off a number of times. Last year, the council voted to push the project back until 2010 and 2011. Knudson says it's time to get it done.
In some places, windows have been covered by construction material. Replacing the material with windows would restore some of the building's original features.
"I want real windows in the Washington Pavilion," Knudson said. "The building is majestic - it's one of the gems in our city."
Knudson also notes that the Pavilion is a city building, and it should be cared for by taxpayers.
Officials have found extra money to pay for the project next year, Knudson said. Another person on the council has agreed to second her motion on Aug. 13. From there, it will take Knudson and four other votes on the council to win.
"I assume this could be a close vote, but I'm hopeful I can win this," she said.
Litz's amendment deals with a bread-and-butter drainage issue. Residents in the area of West 23rd Street and West Avenue have been flooded during rainstorms, and the problem is getting worse. One cause, Litz said, is that 24-inch and 18-inch drainage pipes along 22nd Street carry water to a 15-inch pipe. Water backs up and ends up flooding nearby homes.
"There's a choke point in there," Litz said.
The project has also been scheduled in the past but put off. Litz said that public works officials have found extra money to begin work next year in redesigning drain inlets. The area could end up with new, wider drainage pipes.
"This is just nuts-and-bolts - it's nothing sexy," he said. "But we've got to take care of these older neighborhoods."
The raft of amendments proposed by Staggers would cut spending in the program by millions. Staggers said new windows for the Pavilion are "a low priority," and he's offering an amendment to scrap the project altogether.
Staggers also wants to eliminate more than $1 million that the city has proposed for an indoor ice rink. The project has been scheduled for 2011 and 2012, and depends in part on private donations.
If people wanted a new ice center, Staggers said, they would have approved it during the 2005 recreation center vote, which included two ice rinks and which failed miserably at the polls.
Other amendments would eliminate more than $120,000 in "fishing access points" and a $186,000 restroom planned for Memorial Park. He also wants to scrap the city's facade program, which pays downtown business owners to refurbish the exteriors of their businesses. That program would spend $750,000 in the next five years.
"The prominent personalities in Sioux Falls have gotten the money," he said.
Staggers always offers amendments to the capital improvement plan, as well as the city's yearly budget. Most don't receive a second from fellow councilors, meaning they're never debated.
Will that happen again this year?
"Ideally, I would get a second on every one of them," he said. "They will have an opportunity to second these if they want to."
Reach reporter Jonathan Ellis at 605-575-3629.