The city commission Tuesday gave first reading to a measure that would end a special fund created to deal with last year’s flood and move funds and expenditures to the general city budget.

The ordinance asked to take $2.12 million of the $5.6 million of authorized expenses from the city’s flood fund balance and apply it to the city’s budget in the appropriate departments

Twila Hight, Pierre’s finance officer, said this is the first step in cleaning out the flood fund, which was set up to facilitate a quicker response to needed projects after last year’s flood.  Money in that fund does not require the same rigorous process, such as first or second readings, to authorize expenditures as the city’s general funds.

Over the next several weeks the flood fund will be emptied and all expenditures put on the city budget, as there is no longer a need for expedited funds, Hight said.

As of Tuesday, the city had spent nearly $6.1 million on flood expenditures with estimated expenditures with the Federal Emergency Management Agency reaching more than $5 million.  

Housing Study:

Based on a housing study that is just wrapping up, the Pierre City Commission heard a 22-point recommendation Tuesday, similar to one given to Fort Pierre Monday.

The recommendation, based on a study done by Community Partners Research Inc., included acting on market potential for 80 to 110 conventional market rate rental units, developing 30 to 40 tax credit or moderate rate units, and setting a goal of developing 20 to 30 subsidized general occupancy rental units.

Preliminary findings from the study show, among other things, increasing preference towards renting, lower median incomes among renters, strong household growth, falling household sizes and increasing older populations in the area.

The study also projects an annual household growth for the Pierre and Fort Pierre area of 73 to 99 households per year, and the need for 150 to 190 rental units and 275 to 325 owner-occupancy units over the next five years.

Scott Knudson, from Community Partners, said the 57-unit Highlands Ridge complex under construction and 44 additional market rate units in various stages of development will be a “shot in the arm” for the city to meet those demands.

The full report will be available in December.

Ambulance Service:

The Pierre City Commission voted to approve a new five-year contract with American Medical Response for emergency medical services during its meeting Tuesday night.

The city is the first of the necessary four local government bodies to approve the contract. Stanley County and Fort Pierre are expected to vote next week and Hughes County sometime after that.

Commissioner Steve Harding, who serves on the Ambulance Committee, said

the major difference is the subsidy paid to the service. Before the subsidy was a sliding scale of between $124,729 and $170,229, depending on the total number of transports. In the new contract there is a base subsidy of $135,000, which is less than the subsidies paid between 2008 and 2011.

If approved the new contract goes into effect on Jan. 1 and will last until Dec. 31, 2017.

TIF:

The city commission took another step toward finalizing its guidelines for Tax Increment Financing, or TIFs, Tuesday night.

The commission heard comments and discussed their own reservations on the latest version of the guidelines, which have been forming since 2009.

TIFs are based on “increment,” or the difference between the base value of a property and the future value after the property is developed. Taxes that normally are paid on that increment are temporarily placed in a fund to pay for the development cost, instead of to the taxing entity.

Pierre has used TIFs three times since they were allowed by state law in 1978.

Jim Protexter, executive director of the Pierre Economic Development Corporation, said he was generally in favor of the new guidelines, but asked the commission to make them more flexible.

Specifically, he pointed out the requirement for all TIFs to be above $2 million, and said that under that rule, the $1.3 million Shooting Star Strip Mall on Sioux Avenue, which used a TIF, would not have been built.

Commissioner Jaime Huizenga also said he wanted to keep the guidelines as flexible as possible, so not to box in potential projects and future elected officials.

“Who’s coming after us?” he asked. “We won’t be commissioners forever, but (the guidelines) will be here in the future.”

Commissioner Steve Harding asked about the potential of creating two sets of guidelines – one for economic development that could be passed soon, and the other for residential purposes after further study.

“I’m not comfortable in that we know the usage of TIFs for residential properties,” he said.

Harding also asked to clarify language about job creation in the guidelines and who would be necessary to approve TIFs. The last point was also brought up by Commissioner Jeanne Goodman.

The guidelines will be revisited during the commission’s Dec. 18 for possible action, after allowing more time for public comments.

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