• Completed street, sewer projects would permit more rapid development
BROOKINGS – Southside development was on the minds of Brookings’ city councilors Tuesday as they took a look ahead at city capital improvements for the next five years.
The council tentatively green-lighted several street and sewer projects for the South Main–20th Street area, instructing city staffers to develop plans for a tax increment financing district (TIF) that would help pay for the improvements.
City Manager Jeff Weldon pointed to three capital improvement projects that would have a major impact on growth in Brookings:
• A Main Avenue South sanitary sewer line, costing $500,000;
• A Main Avenue and 20th Street South to 32nd Street South street project, $1.5 million; and
• A street project finishing West 20th Street from Cumberland to Main Avenue, $2 million.
Those three improvements, Weldon said, would hasten both commercial and residential development in Moriarty Heights, Prairie Hills, Christie Springs, Valley View and Esther Heights.
All of those subdivisions would benefit from packaging the projects for completion in the next five years, the city manager added.
Part of the work – the sewer project – would be paid for by property-owner assessments, but the other projects would have to be funded through the city’s budget.
Weldon suggested that the city might be able to pay for the street improvements by using second-penny tax revenues to finance the projects over a five-year period and create a new tax increment financing district that would permit a 20-year repayment. Future property taxes would meet the TIF obligations.
The councilors directed Weldon to model a TIF plan, complete with detailed costs and repayment figures, for their consideration.
During the capital improvements discussion, Councilors John Kubal and Mike McClemans fired a “shot across the bow” of the Swiftel Center, both arguing that there are more pressing needs for city money than the event center.
Kubal pointed to the roughly $3.5 million in expenses planned for the Swiftel Center over the next five years. The Swiftel Center staff has requested major improvements that include kitchen facilities with storage and a receiving dock, a green room-dressing area for performers, replacement of the wooden basketball floor and a new video display.
“There are some pretty ambitious projects there,” Kubal noted. “As we look at this, I hope they have some fallback positions. That ($3.5 million) figure obviously gets my attention, particularly when we look at the fact that we’re subsidizing $300,000 a year in addition. I think we’re going to have to take a real hard look at some ways to trim that down.”
“What’s our return on investment?” asked McClemans. Weldon quickly answered, noting that the Swiftel Center is returning $11.5 million annually in economic impact to the city
“Well, yeah, that’s what you call blue smoke,” McClemans shot back. “When you have roads that aren’t done, sewer and water projects that aren’t done … ”
“I don’t know that any of these (projects) are a bad idea,” he said, “but it’s a lot of money.”
All the discussion of improvement projects took place during the pre-meeting work session. During a brief, half-hour regular meeting, the council approved the 2012 sidewalk repair list.
The project area this summer is located north of Sixth Street. Property owners have been notified of needed repairs and contract prices for the work, but none appeared at council.
Contact Ken Curley at kcurley@-brookingsregister.com.