Here’s What I Know: Municipal Elections, Recreation Buying, and Girls Softball – Sioux Falls Live

SIOUX FALLS – There’s an old saying that nothing good ever happens after midnight.

For the municipal council you can reduce that to approximately 9 p.m. After three hours of wading through zoning regulations and wastewater treatment, the brain can get a little…foggy.

Patience is running out a bit.

The magic hour was almost approaching when the council took up item 81 last Tuesday, a proposal to lower the threshold to prevent second elections in the city.

You could tell the energy level was getting low and there was a lot to unpack.

The (very) quick background is that the council changed the magic number from 34% to 50% to thwart former councilor Theresa Stehly’s bid for a second term in 2020. That’s because Stehly won an At-Large seat four years earlier with 44%. in a three-way race on the first lap.

Turns out the change wasn’t necessary as only one person, Alex Jensen, challenged Stehly in that 2020 race and narrowly won.

Incoming former council members Greg Niezert and Pat Starr tried to reverse it, but the council split 4-4, with Mayor Paul TenHaken casting the tie-breaking vote without comment other than to affirm the opponents’ positions.

The nature of the negative votes was usually that there was not enough time to work it out. Councilman Rich Merkouris voted to move the proposal to a second reading, but said he planned to amend it and appoint a subcommittee to investigate the change.

What does it all mean?

Not much.

I said last week that I believed there was enough support to pass it. Wrong granola.

And it was probably wishful thinking on Neitzert and Starr’s part.

Still, it’s not a bad idea. The 34% threshold was put in place to prevent the city from calling an election for a single City Council seat, which happened last month between Richard Thomason and Jordan Deffenbaugh.

Although it was an interesting three weeks of campaigning, it probably wasn’t necessary. It didn’t change the results much and just cost taxpayers money.

I was wrong last week, but I don’t think I’m wrong in the long run.

Frank Olson Pool.PNG

Frank Olson is one of three city pools that need to be replaced, according to a report from the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department.

Contributed / City of Sioux Falls

The $77 million water bond is on hold while the city figures out who pays what to visit new indoor recreation centers.

In the meantime, the City Council will decide tonight whether to spend $9 million to buy the Sanford Wellness Center on the west side.

It’s a bit presumptuous considering the bonds haven’t been approved yet, but city officials say the purchase should continue to keep everything on the same timeline. The 20-year-old building on Tea-Ellis Road needs some work, including a new roof.

The $9 million for the facility and about $3 million for the repairs will be paid back from the bond money, so to speak.

Despite my doomed prediction of success before the election threshold, the City Council will likely pass the second reading to approve the spending at tonight’s meeting.

Not to mention girls softball…


Artist’s rendering of the final design of Frank Olson Park’s indoor pool, recreation center and ball fields.

Some time after the witching hour, the City Council approved the master plans for Frank Olson and Kuehn Parks.

Frank Olson’s plan — the potential home of a new indoor recreation center and swimming pool — eliminates nine of the 11 current softball fields, which are used primarily by girls’ fastpitch teams. There was a lot of public commentary that the girls got the short stick in this deal.

Which seems to be the case at first glance. But probably not in the long term.

The reality is – given one year of coaching 12U girls softball – the existing fields at Frank Olson are not great. Some are nothing more than a circle of dirt and a guardrail, nestled against the street, with no fence. The outfield on others slopes downhill, also without a fence.

Maybe they were acceptable forty years ago, but the girls deserve better.

There are several other locations in the area where new fields could be built and the two that will remain at Frank Olson would be significantly upgraded.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Don Kearney assured the council that there are suitable locations on the east side with fields that could be better used, including Morningside Park, adjacent to Harvey Dunn Middle School on Bahnson Avenue.

“We have plenty of fields available,” Kearney said. “I completely understand the loss of the fields. I understand. They are used to playing there. It’s a big shift. But at the same time, we have to think globally about what is best for the entire community.”

The trick is to hold them to it.

And now for something completely different…

The Levitt at the Falls released the schedule for its summer concert series last week.

I must confess that I am not familiar with almost all the scheduled artists. But it is important to note that I will be attending several.

That’s the great thing about the Levitt: you are assured of a quality act every night, regardless of genre.

You can learn more about the season in this piece we put together from the announcement.

But taking a cursory look at the lineup, I’m extremely excited about the LowDown Brass Band.

There’s a tuba in the band, my friends. That’s really all you need to know.

As a reminder, rising local band The Brass Holes will be performing at Remedy Brewing Company for Queen Bee Day this Saturday at 6pm.

Yep, that’s a shameless plug for the outfit I play tuba in.

And yes, I said that last week too.

Why we don’t open for LowDown, I’ll never know.

I’ll see you out there.