- Associated Press - Thursday, April 28, 2016

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, April 23, 2016

We take a lot of things for granted here in Sioux Falls. Our relative safety and good schools. The city’s philanthropic backbone. More recently, 89 percent of us took our voice in the city’s future for granted, staying home on election day.

So of course we take water for granted. It’s always there when we turn the faucet on, flush the toilet or need to water our immaculate lawns. How soon we forget the droughts, severe watering restrictions and the drying up of the Big Sioux that threatened our main source of water.

From the Lewis and Clark pipeline, to a graduated payment structure aimed at incentivizing conservation, we’ve made great strides in recent years. But water is still a scarce and diminishing commodity, and we need to do much more. Which is why we believe the city is right to continue to raise utility rates, including those for water, sewer and storm drainage.

Recently, the City Council preliminarily approved the proposed increases that would be implemented over the next three years, and would upgrade and expand water infrastructure as our city continues to grow.

Rates have been climbing routinely for years, and this increase would raise the average residential customer’s monthly utility fees by nearly $10 for sewer, water and drainage combined.

Opponents of the plan point to Sioux Falls’ strong sales tax performance, and specifically to the second-penny earmarked for infrastructure, as more appropriate places to find the money for capital improvements. Further, some recently elected city councilors are accusing city staff of rushing the vote through the system before the incoming members take office.

And while it’s true the second penny was initially intended to pay for infrastructure, this community long ago agreed to use that money for quality-of-life projects. From the River Greenway, to pools and events centers, some of our city’s finest things are thanks to that second penny.

We believe the water system should pay for itself, through the users, and that pricing for those services needs to help drive conservation.

If we feel our water bills are too high, maybe we can start by using less water?

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, April 25, 2016

Mitchell has been known for decades as a basketball community through successful programs at the high school and Dakota Wesleyan University.

Now, more basketball is coming to Mitchell.

A professional basketball team returns to our city after a lengthy hiatus. The Dakota Magic will be Mitchell’s first professional team since 2001-02, when the South Dakota Gold played one season in Mitchell for the International Basketball Association. The South Dakota Gold and the IBA folded after that season.

While the new team to Mitchell is undoubtedly interesting news, we’re cautiously optimistic about its arrival and future success.

There’s no doubt locals love basketball, so there is a possibility this thing takes off. Attendance has been impressive at DWU games in the past years, and Mitchell High School has a group of loyalists who seemingly always show up to games.

And, regionally, basketball is king, too. The Corn Palace fills up during the annual Hanson Classic and during postseason playoff games when small-town teams battle for a state tournament berth.

But, we know the interest in those teams is high because of the players and because teams have a strong fan base that’s been built over time.

The Dakota Magic team has plenty of question marks. So if the team wants to succeed over time, it needs to have a great showing right off the bat.

Its games will be played in September, October and November - which could be detrimental in that it will compete with sports fans who enjoy college and professional football. Though, tickets will be reasonably priced to draw more fans.

The most important aspect to the team will be drawing locally known players who aren’t yet ready to retire their jersey. Plenty of dunks, impressive ball-handling and promotional activities during game breaks will also be vital.

We hope this league succeeds, mostly because it’s another entertainment option for our city. But, as history has shown, it’s going to be quite a hurdle to get this team off and successfully running. We’ll sit back with a high amount of interest to see how it does.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, April 28, 2016

Just days after Alderman Ron Weifenbach asked the city council to forgive a $550,000 loan for lights at the new Dakota Fields Soccer Complex, we have another councilmember working to create a windbreak at the facility, which as most of us know is located in a notoriously windy area.

Jerry Wright, the council liaison to the city’s Standing Committee on Sustainability, announced he is working on a plan to add a row of about 43 trees to the soccer complex. The plan, he said, is to have private donors sponsor the trees and get them planted.

It sounds simple enough, but the timing of the request and the lack of information about possible long-term costs does raise concerns and questions.

First, let’s hope that if this project gets off, or maybe it should be gets in, the ground that it remains exclusively a privately funded effort as taxpayers have contributed nearly $5 million to this project, which has the support of many in the community and for good reasons.

The 21-field complex in northeastern Rapid City will make it easier to attract large soccer tournaments and be more convenient for fans and family members to attend than has been the case in the past. Soccer Rapid City, the nonprofit that manages the complex, has pursued this project since it first requested Vision Fund money in 2005. Now soccer games are part of the landscape that will benefit our youth for years to come.

One has to wonder, however, why is the need for a soccer-complex windbreak becoming an issue now and is it really possible to believe this won’t wind up costing city government more money?

At this point, we have learned the Public Works Department is researching the best location for a row of trees. In addition, the city’s Urban Forestry staff will need to approve the addition of any trees to those already planted at the complex.

Trees also do not naturally flourish in the somewhat arid plains that extend east and north of Rapid City. Will the city eventually need to take other steps to ensure those trees will survive once planted?

And, finally, why wasn’t a windbreak part of Soccer Rapid City’s original proposal in 2005 or something that city staff required being part of the project?

We understand that every project is going to evolve and even change over time and this one has been over 10 years in the making. But, nonetheless, this undertaking involves much more than just planting a few trees. It will likely require ongoing maintenance and that costs money.

If this is truly something that Soccer Rapid City desires for the complex - and we have not heard from them that it is - then that organization should be responsible for all costs now and in the future concerning those trees.

You can call it part of a team effort.


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