The Sioux Falls City Council doled out a $4 million tax surplus to city departments Tuesday night despite protests from one city councilor.
“We've got to stop this extravagant and wasteful spending,” Council Member Kermit Staggers said.
Staggers said the river greenway didn't need the $1.3 million in the proposal. About $700,000 of that went to what he viewed as unnecessary embellishments, like a water fountain and a river wall with steps down to the Big Sioux River.
“It does take some monitoring. It will have to be monitored much like our other fountains have to be monitored,” Sioux Falls Parks Department Director Don Kearney said.
Kearney said the fountain and steps were always part of a proposal for phase two of the River Greenway, but were removed when bids came in too high. Kearney also said if the fountains weren't built right away, they never would be. Other city council members agreed as Staggers’ amendment came up for a vote.
The city spent $5.4 million on the first phase. Kearney says it ran $400,000 over budget and the department has spent $8 million so far on the greenway’s first two phases. Part of the money came from the Big Sioux Trust Fund, aimed at cleaning up the river.
“The River Greenway is a huge expense for us, no doubt about it. And it's going to be expensive. But it's worth it,” Council Member Greg Jamison said.
The other councilors agreed, giving that project a green light along with nearly $3 million in other city-wide improvements. But with an all or nothing vote, Staggers said it had to be nothing.
“There are many other good projects here. But sometimes you have to send a message, and that's what my vote is doing,” Staggers said.
The city council also added slightly more than 4 million into its total capital improvement program so that the additional tax dollars are in the budget for the following years.