Nearly $1 million of your taxpayer dollars went to consultants this year for Sioux Falls’ wastewater treatment plant.
A city counselor is now questioning whether that’s just money down the drain. KELOLAND News finds out what you got for your money.
“$850,000 over a two year period seems like it’s just over the top,” Councilwoman Theresa Stehly said.
So was $850,000 just flushed down the toilet in Sioux Falls to study the City’s sewer system?
“Wastewater flows 24/7, even on holidays. You’ve got to have a system that is prepared for that and also redundant and that’s what this study really provided for us,” Public Works Director Mark Cotter said.
Cotter tells us the City has invested $131 million on improvements to the wastewater system in the last decade.
“Our current system today is about 850 miles underground; that’s the distance between here and Dallas, TX.” Cotter said.
The City plans to spend another $125 million more on improvements.
“When we’re making these big decisions, you’ve got to get the right people in the room, you’ve got to get the most advanced people in the room and that costs money,” Cotter said.
But Councilwoman Theresa Stehly wants to know those consulting costs upfront.
Stehly: I think it would be great for us to get a report on all the consulting fees in our community.
Kennecke: So the City I’m told spends $10 to $12 million a year on consulting fees.
Stehly: That blows my mind. I don’t think the council is aware of that, I don’t think the citizens are aware of that.
Public Works hired two consulting firms which billed the City for 5,000 hours to come up with a long term plan for the City’s wastewater treatment.
“We’ve got to make sure the wastewater plant actually has the capacity to take the flow and treat it and to our permanent levels and we are continually building out our system because we are growing at almost 5,000 people a year,” Cotter said.
At first the City thought it would need to build two more wastewater treatment plants in different sections of town.
Kennecke: So how much more would that have cost?
Cotter: Oh millions of dollars”
But Cotter says thanks to the study, the City can now save money by adding on to the existing plant.
“Well after doing a lot of study, two years of work, a lot of modeling, we can actually get the wastewater to this plant,” Cotter said.
Kennecke: So did we get our money’s worth?
Cotter: We did get our money’s worth and you’ll see other cities in the region who are doing similar studies and I would say we got a very result, scope of work and it’s going to pay us dividends in the future.”
For two decades your sewer bill stayed the same in Sioux Falls, but over the past 12 years it increased by six percent a year. Some of that money paid for the consulting fees. Cotter says the goal within five years is to lower the increase on your bill to meet the rate of inflation.
The $850,000 wastewater study is 1600 pages long. You can access it here.