With roughly two years left in his final term as Sioux Falls Mayor, Mike Huether’s time as the City’s leader is winding down. But he’s determined not to go out quietly.

He’ll be remembered, good or bad, for quality of life improvements, including the construction of the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center near the convention center. He’d also like to be known for investing in what he calls “boring” infrastructure.   

From roads to water and sewer, Huether shows Matt Holsen his plans on a tour of the city.

Picking us up in the old dodge pickup he used when he first ran for the office…Mayor Mike Huether agreed to drive us around town and show us what he wants to improve before he leaves office in 2018. A major focus will be infrastructure. 

“That’s how I’m going out the final two and that is repairing and rebuilding and replacing this infrastructure and yeah including some of the bumpy roads in our town,” Huether said. 

A $100,000, state-of-the-art pavement survey says four-percent of roads in town are poorly rated. It’s a good result. According to Huether, the goal is to keep that number below ten-percent. It doesn’t mean there won’t be complaints. 

“You know, if you’re one of the people that are living on one of those four-percent backlogged roads in town, you’re dang mad at the mayor,” Huether said. 

With the results of the seven-week survey in hand, we set out to find one of the backlogged locations.   

“I’m going to take you to 8th and Indiana. Oh I’d love to beat this train,” Huether said. 

After a short delay near 8th and Railroad Center…

“We’ll just pull in here and look at it,” Huether said. 

We arrive at Indiana Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets. This stretch is rated a 25. Anything below a 40 is considered poor. 

“This is a backlogged street. It is. This is not good. It’s not a good ride. It’s embarrassing for our city and we need to do something about it and we will,” Huether said. 

Other poor ranking areas are also located in the city’s inner core. (5th Ave., 13th St. and 6th Ave. loop east of downtown; Duluth Ave. from 26th To 29th) Huether says a lot of money will be spent fixing spots like this. 

Holsen: Do you feel like you’ve paid attention to it pretty well over your terms?

Huether: It’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of. 

Yet he admits, the work is never done and there will always be issues, regardless of who is mayor. 

“There’s always going to be that dang pothole, this dang pothole and many, many more that the public says, ‘Mike let’s go. Let’s get that thing done,'” Huether said. 

That’s what he hopes to do moving forward. Take a look at this. You can see the amount invested in Street and Utility Infrastructure dropping from 2010 to 2014 by more than $27 million. The biggest number, $137.2 million comes in this years budget.

“Well I’ll give KELO a little scoop. It’ll be a really, really high percentage in the budget for not only 17 but the budget for 18 and beyond,” Huether said. 

He says roads set up the foundation for economic development and points to the Russell St. reconstruction as proof. A new Holiday Inn And Suites is planned at Russell and Western Ave.  

On our way back to downtown, he says his enthusiasm for the job is still high. 

“I’m not playing to play. I’m playing to win. That’s just the way God made me. It’s good on one hand and it’s bad on another,” Huether said. 

In order to pave the way for future development in areas such as the spots opened up by the railroad relocation, water and sewer utilities need to be in place or upgraded. 
Huether recalls a tough time at the beginning of his first term in 2010 when the city’s sewer system failed in a north central neighborhood during a heavy rainstorm. 

“Flooding basements or sewage backing up into someone’s home or this or that. Having to throw out couches or rugs or heirlooms they were keeping for years. I’ll never forget that,” Huether said.

Replacing aging pipes and systems is a priority and that’s why the City’s leaders made waves by approving rate increases for sewer and water projects earlier this month.  

“Some of the biggest investments we’ve ever made are happening right now,” Huether said. 

This year and the next, $35 million will be invested in wastewater improvements in northeast Sioux Falls. Four miles of sanitary sewer pipes will transport 90-percent of the region’s wastewater. 

Projects through 2021 that include storm drainage, water purification and water reclamation will cost more than $180 million. A hefty price to pay but worth it according to Huether. 

“Let’s stay ahead of the game even if it includes increasing rates because we don’t want to be Michigan. We don’t want to be California. We want to be Sioux Falls, SD, and here we do it right,” Huether said.