Last year was kind of “flat,” for the city of Pierre, fiscal-wise, Finance Officer Twila Hight told the City Commission this week in summarizing the 24-page report for calendar year 2018.
“For the most part, 2018 was just sort of status quo,” Hight said. “Revenues were fairly flat, but we budgeted conservatively.”
It’s been that way the past couple, three years, and she expects similar performance into 2020, she told the Commission.
The city’s general fund, which comprises most of the city’s revenue and spending, with each department represented, was budgeted to spend $15.5 million, about $940,000 more than the $14.57 million budgeted for 2017, according to Hight’s report. Actual spending came in at $13.69 million for 2018, less than the $14.11 million actually spent in the general fund in 2017. Revenue for 2018 was budgeted for $14.75 million and final transfers from other fund sources in the city’s budget, will make up for the gap in actual revenue, although the final numbers weren’t in the report presented on Tuesday, July 30, at the City Commission’s weekly meeting.
The first penny of the city’s three cents of sales tax goes into the general fund and the actual revenue was 5 percent more than budget to $3.9 million in 2018.
Property tax revenue in the general fund last year totaled $3.07 million, 99 percent of what had been budgeted at the beginning of the year.
So the total tax revenue — sales taxes and property taxes — of $6.986 million coming in to the general fund was 2 percent more than what the Hight and the Commission had budgeted for 2018, according to her report.
Total sales tax revenue for the 2 cents on most goods and a third penny for food and lodging, came in at about $8 million, up 1.8 percent from 2017, a trend of slight increases she expects to continue into 2020, Hight said.
The water fund showed actual revenues of $3.59 million in 2018, 15 percent beyond what was budgeted; and well above actual spending of $2.55 million, which was 90 percent of the spending budgeted at the beginning of 2018, according to the report Hight summarized on Tuesday
In 2016 the city set a goal of increasing its reserve fund, which it had largely spent during and after the 2011 flood, to about $8 million. That figure at the end of 2018 was $14.8 million, Hight said this week, pointing out the item in the written report.
That is important because the reserves will come in handy if the city’s revenues remain as flat as she expects, Hight said. City leaders soon will begin reviewing 2019’s spending to make sure it doesn’t oustrip income, and also will begin on first drafts of a budget for 2020, Hight said.
Commissioner Jamie Huizenga told Hight, “I appreciate the summary. My personality is kind of slow and steady wins the race. We’re not the Sioux Falls metro area, we’re aren’t growing by leaps and bounds. But we just keep lugging along. We’re not like North Dakota with the oil. We’re big on (state) government, tourism and agriculture and those three things are kind of what run this economy. As long as we don’t overspend, we seem to get along pretty well out here.”
Time begins to ease backward as you stroll toward the quaint walkbridge from the north side of the Bad River to the south bank. Echoing from behind you are the voices of a Fort Pierre farmers’ market; friendly banter reminiscent of a slower enjoy-the-day life. Horses drawing a covered wagon, with the cover down, clip-clop far behind you. Laughter from kids and adults at the market and on the wagon ride carries on the wind, and you catch yourself smiling.
While crossing the high walkbridge, you try to take in the brown-blue of the Bad River below, the green of the city park on the other side, the creak of distant playground equipment, the slight moisture-filled breeze, the blue white-capped current of the Missouri River in the distance, but your attention is drawn to the dominant object moored on the other side.
You are here for a ride on the paddlewheeler The Sunset.
Men in black slacks, white shirts, and captain’s caps welcome you at the gangplank. “Come on board” is not a command, but a grand invitation.
All three decks of the ship have been filling with people, in a ‘join us” atmosphere. The crowd — all kinds of people, including a large birthday party group --is actually fairly light, because the ship can comfortably carry over 100 passengers plus its four-member crew.
What on the Ohio River in 1964 was christened “The Spirit of Cincinnati,” is now rechristened “The Sunset,” the last true paddlewheeler on the Missouri.
Since May 2017, Fort Pierre is its home port. The railroad bridge between Fort Pierre and Pierre is its up-river destination, followed by the down-river edge of LaFramboise Island, before returning to port. The trip takes a couple of hours, maybe a little more.
For a large part of the time, Captain Caleb Gilkerson is using the intercom system to relay the history of the boat, the car bridge, the railroad bridge, and other points of interest. His tales, and corny jokes, go back to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Kids, and some adults, have their pictures taken while wearing Gilkerson’s cap and ‘driving’ the boat. “It turns hard, so the kids just get to move the ‘play’ out of the wheel,” confides Gilkerson. The kids are driving the 22-feet-tall and over 120,000 pound ship at an against-the-current speed of 3 miles per hour (mph), or at a with-the-current speed of 8 miles an hour. “Anything over three is ‘hauling’ according to my crew,” said Gilkerson.
His crew includes Juan Caicedoarza, Taylor Cowan, Lisa Young, and Morrie Gilkerson.
About 95 percent of the excursions are private charter trips for parties, business gatherings, family reunions, class reunions, and many wedding parties. As captain, Gilkerson has actually performed three weddings while on the water.
Since it has begun trips from Fort Pierre, The Susnet has carried over 10,000 customers. Last season, River Boats LLC hosted over 280 trips. The boat, with two main heaters running, has experienced weather conditions good enough to churn its way up and down Big Muddy for Christmas and New Year’s parties.
In a casual, but clear way, safety is first. More than enough life jackets are within easy reach. An enclosed rail system keeps kids safe, so passengers do not have to wear the jackets unless needed.
“The boat hasn’t sunk for, what?, over a year now,” jokes the captain in his before-sail introduction. He announced several times, especially for echo effect while under the car bridge, “I’m going to blow the horn a couple of times, so you might want to cover your eyes.”
The boat is not just for charter customers and some tours.
Gilkerson has hosted Boys & Girls Club trips, camping trips on the shores of the Missouri, and fundraisers for local causes.
The paddlewheeler fits into the community of Fort Pierre, into the Pierre region, into the past and present Missouri River lifestyle.
According to Callie Iversen, event coordinator and board member of Fort the Pierre Tourism and Promotion Council, the town’s Trader Days is growing every year.
Trader Days takes place Friday through Sunday, August 16-18, in Fort Pierre’s Fischers Lilly Park, the Expo Center/baseball field, and the Stanley County Fairgrounds.
“In 2017, Fort Pierre celebrated its bicentennial,” she said. “We had so much fun with that celebration that we have done a town festival every year since.”
“While only three years old, Fort Pierre Trader Days seems to grow exponentially every year,” Iverson continued. “Some of the events that are now a part of Trader Days used to be standalone events. It is great that they have all come together to make for one busy and fun-filled weekend. There will be plenty of entertainment for people of all ages. We know how to have a good time in Fort Pierre, and this year will be no different. We hope to see you there.”
“Callie and her team have done a great job of putting together a calendar jam-packed with events for every age and interest,” said Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson. “If it isn’t obvious, the name ‘Trader Days’ is a tribute to Fort Pierre’s origins as a meeting and trading place long before it was occupied by European explorers and traders. And of course, our name comes from the first European trading post, built and operated by Pierre Chouteau, Jr. in 1817.”
“The pictures show the vendor show in Lilly Park; this year it will be in the Expo building. I clearly need to take more pictures this year,” Iverson said.
This year there are already at least 40 venders registered. Last year’s attendance was difficult to estimate, “since it was outside last year, but the Sunset Paddleboat Wine cruises were full, and the 4H Rodeo had over 300 competitors.
One of the many new events, the tug of war, is open to the public. Families, groups, and organizations with ‘friendly grudge matches’ are encouraged to participate. The Quik Draw, coordinated by Shane Clarembeau of Shane’s Pharmacy, promises to be a big hit.
“If you have an opportunity, take a helicopter ride with Bob over the area. There is nothing like an aerial view to get the big picture of Pierre and Fort Pierre,” said Hanson.
Vendors are still being accepted for the Vendor Art & Craft Show, but the park is full as far as activities. More detailed information on each event listed on the schedule of activities poster can be seen on their individual Facebook sites. For more information, the public is directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Right Turn is sponsoring one of the free entertainments, Phil Baker and the Red Guitar, for an 11 a.m. Saturday children’s concert at Fischer Lilly Park. After the concert, The Right Turn holds an obstacle course and other children’s activities from noon to 2 p.m. “This is our first time sponsoring this event and we are so excited to offer a family-friendly activity in our community,” said Nancy Schlichenmayer, early childhood specialist with The Right Turn.
Come join in the Fort Pierre Trader Days, with booths, entertainment, 4-H Rodeo, barbecue competitions, five-kilometer fun run, turkey bowling tournament, plenty of food, and more, from 1 p.m. Friday through 2 p.m. Sunday.
Last night, the Pierre City Commission heard details about the city’s plan to ensure that Pierre residents are not the only ones paying for the processing and disposal of yard waste and recyclable materials that are managed by Pierre’s solid waste facility.
Currently, the city provides yard waste and recycling bins that anyone can access, whether they are city residents or not. Because the recycling market has changed, the city is asking the commission for permission to establish fees for non-resident users.
“There was a time when we could just hand our materials off to a recycling company,” said City Engineer John Childs. “Now we have to pay them to take used cardboard, plastics, tin and other recyclable materials; those prices keep going up.”
Recycling and yard waste operations and disposal have historically been covered by the recycling fee that all city residential utility customers pay with their monthly utility bill. However, with the change of the recycling market, Pierre residents are now subsidizing recycling and yard waste operations for the non-Pierre residents who use the city’s drop off bins.
“We think that’s an inappropriate financial burden to put on our customers,” said Childs.
Consequently, the city is now enclosing its recycling and yard waste bins and asking the commission’s approval to charge non-Pierre residential utility customers $3 to access those drop off bins.
“This project was approved during the 2019 budget process with the understanding that fees would be established,” said Childs.
If the use fee is approved by the city commission, non-resident Pierre users will need to pay per load to use the bins. Pierre residential utility customers will be provided an access card to use the drop off bins. Just as before, commercial users will need to cross the scale at the baling facility to pay for disposal.
The commission is scheduled to vote on the change Tuesday, Aug. 6.
Melissa Scull of Pierre appeared in federal court in Pierre on Monday to be arraigned on a charge of conspiring with Frank Loring Miller Jr. of Fort Pierre and others to possess and distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine,
Scull, 38, pleaded not guilty to the charge that carries a maximum penalty of a mandatory five years in prison up to 40 years and a $5 million fine, as well as at least four years of supervised probation.
She and Miller, who is 61, were in a vehicle with others when they were arrested June 23 and initially faced drug charges in state court, according to news stories.
They were charged by the indictment earlier this month by a federal grand jury and Miller’s name was released on July 19.
But it wasn’t until after her appearance on Monday, July 29, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Moreno in Pierre that Scull’s name was made public in federal court.
The charge says Scull and Miller and others not named began “at a time unknown to the grand jury but no later than on or about the 1st day of February 2019 and continuing to on or about the date in the indictment,” conspiring to deal the meth.
In fact, court documents on Miller’s case were not available until this week after Scull came to court.
Scull is being represented by attorney Katie Thompson.
Miller was arrested in Fort Pierre on July 18 and appeared that afternoon before Magistrate Judge Moreno. He did not fight detention and remains in the custody of the U.S. marshals service
He was arrested after the traffic stop of a red Honda CR-V on June 23. A Highway Patrol officer, tipped off that such a car with Stanley County plates would be coming through carrying a large amount of meth, pulled it over in Murdo, southwest of Fort Pierre on Interstate 90.
The car came into Murdo from the south on U.S. Highway 83, according to an article in the Mitchell Daily Republic.
Scull was driving.
According to state records, she’s on parole from the state prison and was sentenced in 2013 on a forgery felony and in 2018 on a drug charge. A Pierre man was in the car with Miller and Scull but has not been mentioned by the feds in court documents.