Council approves fund designation
A group of Mobridge residents appeared at the Mobridge City Council meeting, Monday, Sept. 17, to get answers to questions concerning the designation of a front footage assessment.
Mobridge residents were notified of the hearing through a postcard in the mail. Some of those in the crowd were under the impression the designation was a new assessment and would raise taxes.
In answer to a question posed by Peggy Jackson of Mobridge, Mayor Jamie Dietterle clarified the reason for the hearing.
“Nothing is increasing, nothing is being changed,” he said. “We implemented this last year. The only thing that is changing is that our employees are not putting this together and trying to collect it. We are turning it over to the county to collect it.”
He went on to explain that it was difficult to collect because when properties changed hands, the city was not informed and had a hard time keeping track of those changes. He said it was not fair to those who paid to have others who did not.
“To be fair and to save ourselves some man hours and money, we are handing it over to the county to be collected with property taxes,” he explained.
Sara Giese asked how the decision to implement a special assessment was made and if it was put to a vote of the people.
Dietterle explained that people elect the council to make these decisions for them and that not every bit of business is voted on by the people.
“As representatives of the city, people entrust these men and women to gather the facts and listen to citizen’s concerns when making these decisions,” Dietterle explained. “Not everything goes to the a vote of the people.”
Giese then asked why they chose to build a bridge to nowhere rather than take care of the city’s infrastructure first.
“How can you justify doing the bridge to nowhere with loose dogs, drunks and rattlesnakes? This is $250,000 less than Mobridge has committed to this crossing,” she said. “You’re asking me to pay for a sewer but you have committed to a crossover that has no safety benefits or infrastructure benefits to the city.”
Councilwoman Amy Cerney stepped into the discussion saying Giese was wrong to point that finger at the sitting council.
“We are not the council that made the decision to build the crossing,” she told Giese. “This council was left with that decision and either we have to finish it or leave it.”
Ward I Councilman Tom O’Connell reminded Giese that the railroad crossing was a project that was brought to a vote of the people and they chose to move forward with it.
Giese said that if the people had been asked to vote for the crossing or the sewer, did the council think they would have voted in favor of the crossing. She then asked why the sewer project was pushed to the back burner while the crossing project is being finished.
Todd Goldsmith of Goldsmith and Heck Engineering explained to Giese that the council and those before them and the administrations before them had not pushed the sewer project on the back burner.
“The city has been aggressively working on the storm sewer project since the 1990s and I believe they studied the issue for two decades before that,” he said. “This is one phase of many different projects on parallel paths that have been approved by this council or others before it. It is not a case of picking one project over another.”
He said the crossing project is a separate issue all together and the city had been planning this project and seeking funding for many years.
Mobridge resident Charles Finney then stepped to the podium.
“I am a little confused here,” he said. “I thought this was a hearing about the storm sewer, not a discussion about the railroad crossing. Was the agenda changed?”
Dietterle reassured him the hearing was about the storm sewer assessment, but they were answering Giese’s questions.
Finney then asked if it was true that the taxes he was paying now would not increase.
Mobridge City Attorney Rick Cain explained the only thing that would change was the designation of the fund. The storm sewer assessment would be repealed and the assessment will be designated strictly for the Second Avenue West project.
The vote was taken with Cerney, Ward I Councilwoman Rose Henderson and O’Connell voting in favor of the re-designation. Ward II Councilman Tony Yellow Boy and Ward III Councilman Randy Carlson voted no. With Ward II Councilman Gene Cox absent for the meeting, his vote was treated as a nay and Dietterle broke the tie with a yes vote.
Dietterle explained to the crowd that the contract for the manager of Mobridge Regional Airport was up and a new contract for that position needed to be addressed.
“Last year we made some adjustments and the manager is now an hourly employee,” he explained. “That makes it tough for the employee to work flex hours and keep the overtime down. We were looking at having to have a salaried position but then we would need to add a couple of other employees. We are now going to go back to a contract employee and that is why we will ask for contracts to be submitted.”
The council approved advertising for a contract airport manager.