Downtown business owners list concerns about reconstruction project

Photo by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald-Star

The parking situation on North River Street was recently improved when parallel parking was opened up on the east side of the street after the flow of traffic was switched over this past weekend onto new pavement.


By Brett Nachtigall


HOT SPRINGS – Last Monday, Aug. 21, several downtown Hot Springs business owners gathered at the Southern Hills Mercantile for a meeting with road reconstruction personnel to share their concerns with how the project has negatively impacted their businesses.

Originally slated to last two years, from 2022 to 2023, the Hot Springs Urban Reconstruction Project has a current tentative completion date of September 2024. However, due to delays this summer because of weather and many other factors, most in the community are bracing for a 2025 or even later completion date instead.

The urban street reconstruction is a South Dakota Department of Transportation effort which includes Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) surfacing, lighting, curb and gutter, suspended sidewalk, storm sewer, and the City of Hot Springs water and sanitary sewer main upgrades. It encompasses U.S. Highways 18 and 385 from the southern Hot Springs city limits (south of Taco John’s) all the way through town and ending near the northern city limits at Summerville Street (near the new Dollar General).

According to the website, the project is necessitated by the infrastructure being at the end of its useful life. The highway through Hot Springs has not had a major rebuild for 50 to 80 years. The lanes are narrow and are difficult to maneuver, alignment is not ideal, parking has been an issue and the City’s utilities need an upgrade.

Complete Concrete Inc. is the prime contractor. The project cost breakout initially included $25 million from the SDDOT, $3.9 million from the City of Hot Springs for the suspended sidewalk and also $1.7 million for city utilities for a total of cost of $31 million. Those numbers however are expected to climb the longer the project is extended.

As part of the discussion during the Aug. 21 business meeting, a list of concerns was compiled with the intent of sharing it with local and state government officials, along with representatives of each of the construction companies involved with the project.

The document shared at the meeting – compiled by Kara Hagen and other interested business owners – states “Many Business Owners have inherited extreme losses on their business income and investments. The majority have reported losses of as much as 70%.”

Rich Zacher, Custer Area Engineer for the SDDOT, said he would take a close look at the list and address each of the concerns the best he could. In a follow up with Zacher later in the week, he said a response to each of the comments requires some input from the City of Hot Springs, which he was working on as well.

The following is a list of all of the specific concerns included on the document, which was handed out to everyone in attendance.

• Negative reviews impacting their Business Profiles.

• $25,000 actual income deficit (out of pocket) in 1 year.

• Daily concerns and complaints regarding barriers and overall cleanliness of the town.

• Customers constantly complained about there being no parking.

• One Business Owner had to sell land to keep their doors open.

• A few Businesses had to take out a loan to keep their doors open.

• One Business Owner is close to defaulting on their loans.

• One Business Owner reporting sales from Jan 2023 to August 2023 of $64,232.00 (7 months). May 2022 until December 2022 (7 months) total sales $171,607.00. Down $107,375.00, a 59% decrease in revenue.

• A Business Owner reporting Complete Concrete workers) have been rude to the customers, yelling and cursing at a client. She drove away and didn’t come back for her scheduled appointment.

• Basements flooded and additional hardships.

• Property Taxes have increased.

• Staffing is now an issue due to the unreliability of downtown business stamina and parking, due to road construction. Employees find it less than desirable to walk the distance for parking in extreme weather conditions. Crossing Minnekahta has been dangerous with no crosswalk markings, vehicles do not typically stop, and several have reported almost getting hit by a vehicle.

The document also listed some requests on behalf of the business owners:

• Remove barriers from areas where there is no work being done, specifically, 431 N River Street. Weeds are growing, trash is collecting, barriers are up but no work has been done in this area for weeks.

• Prioritize completing sidewalks and all construction on North River Street that are currently torn up. Remove all construction and no parking signs, open the barriers so our paying customers can park. Open the empty lot for additional employee and customer parking.

• Install lights on completed sidewalks throughout town.

• Decrease the speed limit through the construction zone from 25 mph to 15 mph and post signs throughout the downtown corridor. Motorhomes, motorcycles, and vehicles are going 25 plus mph through the main construction zone. Accidents waiting to happen with low visibility and tight construction zone lanes.

• Paint Crosswalks with Crosswalk standard paint. There have been areas in town that were entirely neglected. Ex. Minnekahta and N River Street.

• Sweep streets on a weekly (at minimum) basis. Just because our town is under construction does not mean the city should pause its obligations to sweep the city streets, especially in our main downtown corridors throughout construction. This is an embarrassment for our town.

• Mow grass in new construction areas. These areas have been planted with new grass but not maintained. This includes weed whacking in all new areas as well as the old, specifically throughout our downtown corridors. Again, this is embarrassing for our town

• Install new Wayfaring signs in completed areas, including Kiosk’s.

• Chamber to complete parking banners with arrows on both sides of the river bridge.

Also, a big sign that states: Centennial Park Parking. Visitors and new residents do not automatically know what or where Centennial Park is.

• Ask contractors not to park in downtown parking spaces. Businesses are all

extremely limited in parking, contractors parking right in front of our businesses.

• Reduce taxes due to extreme duress we have undergone throughout this road construction process.

• Finally, organize the chaos. Clean up North River Street and complete the Southern end entirely before continuing construction. Move from one end to the other. Organize the chaos in segments, completing areas from one end to the other, then move forward. Our whole town is torn up. This creates an extreme and long-term hardship for businesses.

• Complete both sides of streets on the north side of University. There are small areas that are not finished all sorts of construction barriers because of these 2 small areas.

• Remove random signs lying down in the streets and our flower pod areas, more specifically, near the former library and attorneys’ office.

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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