By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – Mike Behm and Rich Zacher with the South Dakota Department of Transportation kicked off a near four-hour Hot Springs City Council meeting this past Monday night, Dec. 7, which included a pair of Executive Sessions for Personnel, Legal and Contract Negotiations.
The two SD-DOT representatives joined the meeting remotely from their respective offices in Pierre and Custer, but didn’t exactly share good news with the council about the $20 million Hwy. 385 construction project, which has already seen delays to its original anticipated start date.
“Currently, as the project sits today, to try and let this project in the February timeframe does not seem plausible from a right-of-way acquisition standpoint,” Behm said. “Unfortunately, we have not progressed as far as we wanted to on that.”
Behm described how, due to COVID and several other factors including out-of-state ownership of some properties, they have had difficulty connecting with downtown Hot Springs landowners to make agreements to acquire small pieces of property in various areas along the reconstruction route in order to meet design specifications.
Secondary to this fact, Behm said that attempting to let the bids in the spring, in April or even later, often presents an additional concern of higher bid prices due to contractor schedules filling up.
“Therefore, as of right now, we are looking to move this project into the fall. We feel we can get better bid prices in the fall,” Behm said, while he explained some of the other benefits of moving the bid letting process to an August or September timeframe.
Due to Hot Springs’ milder winters, Behm said this allows work to commence during the winter months of late 2021 and early 2022, which gives the DOT a better opportunity to complete the entire project in two years.
“This is a huge investment for the state of South Dakota, a huge investment for the folks in Hot Springs,” Behm added. “I wish I could come bearing better news with our right-of-way acquisition, but unfortunately we are behind schedule.”
In response to a question posed to him about the impact of the Wesch-Oak building’s fate on the SD-DOT’s decision to proceed with bid letting, Behm said that a determination would need to realized about the building by mid-July in order to allow for a September bid letting for the entire project.
Also during the Dec. 7 meeting, the city council:
• Unanimously accepted the lone bid received from Rich Olstad to purchase the two lots referred to as the Armory Property located near Butler Park. Olstad’s bid, which was first opened at the Nov. 16 meeting, is to purchase the property from the city for $26,000 and then remodel the inside north half of the Armory into a single-family residence and the south half as a garage. As part of the RFP requirement, the structure must be occupied by June 2022.
• Witnessed a presentation by Mayor Bob Nelson to Safety Coordinator Lori Sherrard, representing all city employees, for earning the Platinum Level Achievement Award from the SDPAA and SDML Workers’ Compensation Fund.
• As part of Personnel Actions, approved the hiring of Phillip Shively as a Hot Springs Police Officer at a rate of $17.60 per hour.
• Authorized the Mayor to apply to the U.S. Army Donations Program for a demilitarized helicopter to be displayed at Centennial Park.
• Accepted the request from Fall River Sanitation to terminate the City of Hot Springs Solid Waste and Recycling Collections and Disposal Contract effective Dec. 31, 2020, instead of Dec. 31, 2021. According to letter submitted to the city by Fall River Sanitation, the current contract was agreed to be for five years, beginning in January 2016 which means it should have expired at the end of 2020. The signed contract however contained a typo which says it lasts through December 2021, which would have been a total six years.
• Following an executive session, approved a new contract for garbage services beginning Jan. 1, 2021, with Sander Sanitation. The new rates will be $10.34 per month for a 96 gallon container (compared to $10.40 per month currently), and $3.98 per month for recycling (compared to $4.07 per month currently).