Road Rage

Investigates

TEA, S.D. (KELO) — How would you feel about paying tens of thousands of dollars for a new heavily traveled road in front of your business? Some small business owners in Tea are none too happy about it. Directly or indirectly, we all pay for the roads we travel on. But for a mile and a half stretch of Highway 106, which takes drivers in to Tea, the bill is hitting landowners there especially hard.

Tiny Tea, South Dakota isn’t so tiny anymore. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growing towns in the state.
Along with growth, comes traffic–a lot of it.

Some 13,000 vehicles travel this stretch of Highway 106 every single day. The city of Tea has been working on a plan to expand this two-lane road for years.

“Number one, it’s mostly safety. That many cars per day is crazy,” Tea City Administrator, Dan Zulkowsy said.

The project will widen 1.3 miles of 271st Street (Hwy 106) to be renamed Gateway Blvd., at a cost of $12.4 million

But half a dozen small business and landowners along this mile and a half stretch of street are none too happy about their share of the $12.4 million road expansion project.

“This one here will be $52,500, Kevin Klein, owner of Vermeer High Plains, said.

“They’re talking now only $40,000, Doug Putnam, owner of Putnam Business said.

“Just shy of $100,000,” Gerry Goldammer, owner of Goldammer Auto, said.

While they recently got assessed for their share of the new four lane road, business owners Gerry Goldammer and Doug Putnam have been fighting the Highway 106 expansion for years. They even went to Pierre to try to change the law to require landowner approval of such a project. They were unsuccessful.

Property owners in Tea talk with KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke about their concerns

“I’ve been in business for 26 years and if I had it or I did not have it, it should not be my responsibility to pay $100,000 for 12,000 cars to travel from Lennox, Parker, wherever. But no, do I have $100,000 to pay it? No I do not,” Goldammer said.

Auto dealer Goldammer is especially frustrated because according to his original deed, he didn’t even own the easement to his property now being assessed by the City.

“When I purchased this in ‘9–the first parcel–I had to give up the front 50 foot,” Goldammer said.

But after questioning it, he got a handwritten note from Lincoln County telling him a mistake had been made and it was actually his property,

Goldammer; I didn’t sign to accept this parcel back. They just did it.
Kennecke: After all these years?
Goldammer: After all these years.
Kennecke: So if you didn’t own that would you have to still pay?
Goldammer: No, correct, no I would not.

These landowners also say they didn’t have a chance to voice their dissent.

“So they still never had a public meeting. I just feel that everybody who pays taxes should have their rights and it should be fair across the board and you have the chance to voice your opinion,” Goldammer said.

The City says it had to cancel its public meeting on March 30th due to COVID-19, but put all of the project information on its website.

Kennecke: Will you reschedule that? Will you allow them to have their voice?
Zulkowsky: We’re not going to reschedule another meeting; another public meeting. They’re more than welcome to come to the council meeting. They can come and opening visit about that. In a way right now with all the signatures and all the easements just about being in place, I don’t know that will be beneficial.
Kennecke: It wouldn’t do any good?
Zulkowsky: No?
Kennecke: At this point it’s too late?
Zulkowsky: I think it is, yes.

“Our rights are being invaded here and there needs to be a public meeting. Everybody has to be able to voice their opinions and it has to be done correctly,” Goldammer said.

The City points out that there are 41 parcels of land along this stretch of road being assessed and the majority of landowners have agreed to pay their share.

“It’s going to make their property more valuable; easier for their clientele to get on the road; off the road; easier for delivering. So they’re excited about it,” Zulkowsky said.

Getting an unexpected bill to pay for major improvements to an arterial road doesn’t happen to businesses here in Sioux Falls. Instead, commercial developers are charged platting fees up front, right now that’s about $19,000 per acre. That cost is passed along to the buyer of the property.

Counties cannot charge landowners for road projects. While Highway 106 was a Lincoln County road, on July 1st it was turned over to the City.

“They want you to annex in too—you’ve got to annex in and that’s $800 an acre to annex into the town of Tea,” Mueller said.

Zulkowsky says these businesses are not required to annex into the City, so they don’t have to pay to hook up to water and sewer if they don’t want to–only for an extra lane of road.

Most of the funding for the project is coming from an $8.7 million federal grant. The City must kick in 30 percent and the landowners are helping make up the City’s share.

“It’s not anything I want to pay. It’s not anything I think I should pay. They need to come up with some kind of wheel tax for all the cars driving down here; not for the property owners,” Klein said.

“Take a penny from each one of them a day and it would pay for it in no time,” Rick Mueller, landowner, said.

The City is renaming Highway 106 Gateway Boulevard. It will begin taking bids on construction next month, with work to begin by next Spring.

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