It’s getting down to haggling over the price in the discussion about how or if Hughes County will transfer the rural sewer system over to residents of the Cow Creek and Spring Creek developments north of Pierre next to Lake Oahe.
About a dozen residents of the Spring Creek and Cow Creek rural developments about 14 miles northwest of Pierre between Grey Goose area and Lake Oahe crowded the Hughes County Commission meeting room on Monday.
It was sort of a status update to see where the residents were in organizing enough to take over the rural wastewater treatment system and the drinking water system.
The county has been in charge of it for about 22 years, ordered to by a state judge when the previous owners and operators failed to make a go of it.
The county kept on with Doug Ripley as the manager and slowly improved things and paid down debt, using user fees and Ripley’s expertise and skill.
But when the county wanted some capital to do some needed work, it’s application for a state grant was turned down because it’s illegal in South Dakota for a county government to own and operate an enterprise such as a sewer system.
The Commission last year decided to put it up for sale after having it appraised at about $400,000.
Doug Ripley has managed and operated the sewer system, including lagoons, for 24 years. For years he drove up to Spring Creek after his day job with the city, in the water department, then the wastewater department and the engineering department. He retired in 2009 from the city and lives up near Lake Oahe and near the system that he still runs.
The residents have asked him to keep on working for them if they are able to form a sanitary district and take over the system from the county.
The system can handle about 500 people, and every Fourth of July about that many people crowd into the homes and RVs that make up the area, Ripley said.
But most of the time its about 220 people using the system in the spring to fall.
A good number of his customers leave for the winter, a third or more, he said.
The residents made clear they would like to take it over. Unlike the county government, the residents can form a sanitary district as a form of small, local government, like a road district in a rural subdivision, and operate the system.
But they can’t afford to buy it from the county, and it doesn’t seem quite right, since the residents have been paying fees for years, Vic Utecht told the Commission. He’s a resident and a developer of lots there.
But commissioners have said that the county residents subsidized the rural sewer system for years until about 2014 when it started to make a profit after years of fixing on it and better management.
Commissioner Connie Hohn crunched some numbers and said over 20 years, the appraised price of the system ends up being “peanuts,” in terms of a per-year amount.
Commissioner Roger Inman said no sales price has been fixed yet and has said at previous meetings the appraisal price is ceiling and not necessarily what the county would seek in a transaction.
The rural residents won’t go for forming a sanitary district if they have to buy the sewer system that they have been paying monthly fees for, Utech told the Commission.
He knows the county doesn’t have any good options other than the residents taking it over.
But Utech also argues it simply isn’t right for the county to put a price on the system for the residents and users.
“We’re county residents, too,’ Utech told the Commission on Monday. “This is our health and well being. You are asking them to buy what already is a public system..”
The county itself didn’t have to buy the system from the previous owners, and a new form of local government, a sanitary district made up of Hughes County residents and tax payers, shouldn’t have to buy it from the county, Utech said.
“We don’t have the money to pay for it,” Utech told the Commission. “Let us take it over and the problem is off your back.”
Commissioners Roger Inman and Norm Weaver said they would meet with residents of the developments next week to talk about how the wastewater system could be transferred to a new sanitary district formed by the residents.
Although more runoff water is coming into Lake Oahe day by day, the amounts remain below the volume of water the U.S. Army Corps is releasing, so Oahe Dam’s level has been falling. But the relatively high level of releases from the dam mean people in Fort Pierre especially are watching the river level. Homes in Marion’s Garden development notice it when the river level gets this high.
The official experts’ forecast for late June rains is that chances are they will be above normal, the Army Corps reported on Monday.
This whole winter-spring-summer has been wet enough to get near record levels on the Missouri River and big dams on it.
The Army Corps plans to keep the daily average release flow from Oahe Dam at 49,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the next seven days while inflows are projected to rise from a rate of 35,000 cfs to 43,300 cfs by June 24. the day the Army Corps plans to up releases to a daily average of 52,000 cfs for a week.
“We’re OK at that level,” Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson said about the 49,000 cfs and projected 52,000 cfs release rates by the Army Corps. “We were kind of expecting it.”
It could be worse, she told the Capital Journal.
“We talked earlier this spring that we might get as high as 55,000,” she said, referring to a public meeting held in Pierre by the Army Corps. “So it will be a little over sidewalks in Marion’s Garden, but we are accustomed to that. “
“The Army Corps is doing a good job of anticipation and communication, so we don’t have any great concern,” Hanson said.
There has not been any sandbagging or other dike building needed, Hanson said.
However, city leaders keep the long term in mind, too.
“We think we will be OK this year,” Hanson said. “But we continue to work on our (flood) mitigation plan.”
The total runoff this year in the Upper Missouri River Basin — all the area above Sioux City that drains into the river and its dam reservoirs — is expected to hit 50 million acre-feet, which would be the second-highest on record, the Army Corps reported on Monday, June 17. Only in 2011, when the big flood hit Fort Pierre and Pierre doing billions of dollars of damage, was the Basin-wide runoff higher than 50 MAF; 61 MAF in 2011.
The level of water behind Oahe Dam, in terms of feet above sea level, has dropped two feet since May 31 when it hit 1618.8 feet, well, into the “exclusive flood control zone,” at the “top” of the reservoir, only 1.4 foot below the top of the top. On Monday, June 17, it was at 1616.8 feet above sea level, back below the zone “used” for only flood control and into the “annual flood control and multiple use zone.”
The mountain snowpack continues to melt and run into the Missouri River north of Bismarck up into Montana. The mountain snowpack was not much above average this year but the speed of its melt can affect runoff’s effects for a time, of course.
Downstream from South Dakota, there still is serious flooding along and around the Missouri River and Mississippi River systems as the Army Corp coordinates the repair of the many levees breached.
For more information from the U.S. Army Corps’ flood management team in Omaha, go online at www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/reports/pdfs/weeklyupdate.pdf
Oahe Days Arts Festival is a community celebration that includes a variety of activities, national and local entertainment, food vendors, fine arts and craft exhibitors. The festival takes place in Steamboat Park along the Missouri River in the capital city of Pierre. Many of the Oahe Days activities open at 10 a.m. or before, and the days go into midnight.
Thursday, June 20, highlights
Taste of Pierre
Street Masters Car Show
5:30 p.m. The Valentines
7 p.m. Pie Eating Contest
8 p.m. Capitol City Band
Friday, June 21, highlights
5:30 p.m. Kingsway Band
7:30 p.m. Camp Comfort
10 p.m. Saved by the 90s
Saturday, June 21, highlights
8 a.m. PARC Oahe Days Trail Fun Run
8:30 a.m. Oahe Days Yoga
8:30 a.m. Shark of the Park Disc Golf Tournament
9 a.m. Hero Gym FitCamp
9 a.m. Oahe Days Cornhole Classic
9:30 a.m. Children’s Yoga in the Park
10:45 a.m. Capitol City Cheer
11 a.m. ZStonish Children’s Magic Show
12 p.m. Paddle Board Races
2 p.m. Rhythm Prism
3 p.m. SOUND CHECKS
5 p.m. Shawn Hess, Hunter Hicks & The Country Skillet
7:30 p.m. Rascal Martinez
11 p.m. Noah Guthrie
The fuel tanks going into Casey’s Truck Plaza are one step closer to happening.
The Fort Pierre City Council approved the preliminary plans for five above-ground fuel tanks to be installed at the Casey’s General Store complex just off of Yellowstone Street near the Deadwood Street and Highway 14 intersection.
“Because of high water levels, tanks being placed underground are not really possible,” said Aaron Miller, project engineer/estimator for Casey’s Services Company. “These above-ground tanks are impact resistant, fire resistant tanks. Really, the big issue is the size.”
Three of the tanks are designed to hold 20,000 gallons of fuel. The tanks are approximately 12 foot tall, with pump systems extending just a bit higher than that. They are all white, making for them to be less attention-getting, and will have a three-foot barrier around them, a chain-link bronze-colored fence, and eventually a tree line around them. “Unless you are looking for it, it shouldn’t stick out,” Miller said of any eye-sore worries.
The council approved the project to continue forth. “The first step goes through the city council,” said Rick Hahn, the city’s director of public affairs. “Any approval we make tonight would be contingent with the state giving its approval.” The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources would have its say concerning safety regulations.
In the next order of business, Hahn reported that Yellowstone Street is progressing, with the sidewalk still a bit hazardous. With the weather finally drying up, and construction waiting to continue, the area should be far more travelable in a couple of weeks. The street is going to be, in essence, new; going from inadequate asphalt to new poured concrete. Hahn also stated the first of five decrepit vacant homes in Fort Pierre has been demolished.
Roxanne Heezen, city finance officer, reported the lifeguard roster for the swimming pool is in good shape. Returning lifeguards have passed further certifications. The only notable change from last year is, instead of a general manager there will be two shifts of head lifeguards.
Kelly Waage, an employee of the National Grasslands, is working on a project to identify old homesteads. Waage has been appointed to the Pierre/Fort Pierre Historic Preservation, to complete the term vacated by Randy Seiler.
In closing, Mayor Gloria Hanson praised the new hosting by Fort Pierre of the Indian Relay Races, June 29-30. “The way I understand it, one rider and three horses. We have 15 teams already signed up; hoping for 20. We are hoping for this to become an annual event.” Hanson added that the annual parade and other activities over July 4 will be very much the same. The parade has added another category, though, for horse-drawn entries. The open fireworks dates are June 29 through July 5.
Due to technical difficulties, The Capitol Journal was unable to offer readers a comics page in the Monday, June 17, issue of the paper. We are correcting this issue by offering readers two back to back comics pages today.
Also, two photo captions were switched in the Governor statues unveiling story. Former Gov. Dennis Daugaard, the state’s 32nd governor, was sculpted by Michael Maher, with Maher and Daugaard’s family helping to unveil the statue. Also the statue of former Gov. Samuel H. Elrod was unveiled by its sculptor, James Van Nuys and Elrod’s great grandson, Scott Elrod.
We apologize for these inaccuracies and will strive to do better in the future.