Lift station failure causes damage to residence

City Council hears resident’s concerns, looks at future projects

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De Smet resident Ed Askew addressed the city council at their Sept. 9 meeting regarding damage done to his home earlier this year when the city’s sewer lift station failed. Askew said he and his wife, Donna, received at least 12 inches of water and sewage in their basement. A water heater was lost, along with personal items in the basement that had to be thrown out. Askew said he has spent thousands of dollars to clean up his basement, which they no longer can use, and that the damage has lowered the value of his property. A previous claim to the city to pay for damages was denied, but Askew maintains that the claim should not have been denied.

City attorney Todd Wilkinson and water and wastewater superintendent Richard (Charlie) Stoddard said lightning struck the lift station. There was discussion about insurance not paying for what might be deemed an act of God. Stoddard said he went out to check on the station on the night in question and since a light was still on, he assumed it was still running, but it apparently was not. Stoddard said he has ordered a surge-protector. Askew said he was glad to hear that and hoped that it would protect residents in the future. Askew, a retired business owner who has lived in the community since 1983, said he likes De Smet, but he was not happy with the situation. He said his basement drain is blocked off now, and he uses a sump pump instead of a drain. He said if the station fails again, they will find out who the next person down the line is.

Wilkinson said he would talk to the city’s insurance company, but he couldn’t promise anything.

Water project update

Shane Waterman, a civil engineer with Clark Engineering presented updates and plans on the city’s planned water looping project. Waterman said the project is moving forward, and he didn’t anticipate any major changes. He said the railroad has been easy to work with regarding permits. Waterman advised the council regarding advertising for bids for the project. He said they typically want to avoid advertising during the holiday season, and it should be done before Thanksgiving or after the first of next January. They will have to advertise for two consecutive weeks before opening bids. He also recommended a work session either with a full city council or a partial council and city staff.

Tax incentive discussed

Wilkinson advised the council on a grant that would help with a tax incentive program for new residential housing in the community. Someone building a new home would receive a rebate for the city portion of their taxes a year after occupancy, but the program would not affect the amount of school or county taxes and does not apply to commercial property. The homeowner would receive a 100 percent rebate the first year, 80 percent the second year, 60 percent the third year, 40 percent the fourth and 20 percent the fifth year.

“We’re getting zero on empty lots now,” Councilman Jay Slater said. “We want people to build.”

Council members had the first reading on the ordinance for this tax incentive. They will be required to have a second reading and wait 20 days after that reading before it can go into effect.

Avera agreement

The council reviewed its lease with Avera Queen of Peace Hospital. Avera De Smet Memorial Hospital is included in the Avera Queen of Peace region, and the city and Avera are just completing the 12th year of a 20-year lease. Avera is presently paying $9,600 a month. The agreement is supposed to be renewed every three years, but it has been delayed while the hospital was undergoing additions and renovations.

“We need to try to get the lease extended another 40 years on top of the 12,” Wilkinson said. “You’ve put money into this; they’ve put money into it. We need to sit down with them.”

Councilman Jay Slater pointed out that the information they are using now regarding the rental agreement is 13 years old.

“We have a great working relationship,” Councilman George Cavanaugh stated. “We better sit down again and start negotiating.”

Development report

De Smet Development Director Rita Anderson reported that a new family with four children in the school system is planning to purchase a business and move to De Smet and noted that people from other states have been looking at lots in De Smet.

She also reported that on Sept. 9, Gov. Kristi Noem announced a program to assist South Dakota’s small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Noem laid out a framework for up to $400 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to assist South Dakota’s small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this proposal, businesses would qualify for this grant if they are located in South Dakota, had at least $50,000 in gross revenue in 2019 and have had a reduction in business of at least 25 percent between March and May of 2020 as a result of COVID-19. The proposed application period for the program would be between Oct. 12 and Oct. 23. Grants would be rewarded once all applications are received. Following the initial reward period, a second allocation of funds would be considered if additional funds are still available. Under current federal law, all funds must be distributed by Dec. 30, 2020. Grants would be awarded up to $100,000 per qualifying business. Anderson said she will provide more information as it becomes available, and she wanted people to note the short time frame to get in an application.

In other business:

• Special liquor licenses were approved for Wheaties Sports Bar to host a customer appreciation event Sept. 12 in front of his business on Calumet Avenue. A request was also granted to block part of Calumet Ave. for Wheaties’ event. Also, a special liquor license was granted to the De Smet Volunteer Fire Department to serve a wedding reception on Sept. 19 at the De Smet Event & Wellness Center.
• A request to block part of Calumet Avenue for a homecoming parade on Sept. 25 was approved.
• Council approved a building permit for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society to construct a 16’x20’ garage.
• The council discussed surplus property that is stored in the city shop, including old street signs. Cavanaugh asserted that everything was junk and needs to be hauled to the dump. Finance officer Tracy Larson and Mayor Gary Wolkow agreed that most of the things in the shed will have to be appraised before they are disposed of, and discussion was held regarding letting interested parties take old street signs.
• The council approved hiring Robin Gigov to coach a city-sponsored volleyball program at the De Smet Event & Wellness Center for fifth and sixth-grade girls. Practices will be held Mondays through Thursdays after school throughout September and October and possibly into part of November.
• The council discussed what actions should be taken regarding properties that are not in compliance with city ordinances, including not mowing and parking vehicles in the public right-of-way. The council agreed to have the sheriff’s department access fines for anything that is not cleaned up.
• The council approved leaving resolution 2020-1 for the COVID-19 virus in place. This resolution includes maintaining a limited number of people in an establishment. City Hall and the library may be open for regular hours but at the discretion of the director of each facility.

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