City Councilors Speak Up About Parking Ramp Project and Transparency Concerns
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Sioux Falls city councilors are speaking up after last night’s decision to continue with the controversial $50 million downtown parking project and more importantly who’s behind it.
The city has spoken: Aaron Hultgren of Legacy Development is out and Village River LLC is in for the public-private parking ramp project that’s making headlines.
Still, the public is left with more questions than answers, but city councilors share that sentiment.
“It’s been somewhat frustrating because it’s been so silent,” said city councilor, Christine Erickson. “It’s been so quiet over constant stories coming out but no response.”
Councilors also say there have been transparency issues.
“There’s a lot of damage that’s been done to trust in the community that I think we really need to step up and ensure that we’re gaining that trust from the community because it’s struggling right now,” said Erickson.
“I think we have a problem,” said city councilor, Greg Netizert. “I think damage is being done to confidence in city government.”
Neitzert was originally on-board with the plan, but then voted to have a second reading of the proposal so it could be further discussed and studied.
”It’s as if they’ve been hiding under their desks,” said Netizert. “It’s as if, you know, if we have enough votes, we can punch this through and it get across the goal line, we’ll just do it.”
You may remember Aaron Hultgren formerly of Hultgren Construction, who settled with the state over allegations of improper cancer-causing asbestos removal from the former Copper Lounge before it collapsed, allegedly violating OSHA and environmental regulations.
Mike Fodness spoke from his heart to city council last night. He lost his house – and almost his daughter – in the Copper Lounge collapse in December 2016.
”It hit me hard,” said Neitzert. “It was a game changer for me. It was something where I just kind of felt morally convicted.”
Both Erickson and Neitzert are still in favor of the project itself, saying it could be a big bonus for downtown Sioux Falls.
However, councilors understand that this is about a lot more than some parking spaces.
”As I was sitting there, it looked as if we were just tone deaf that we heard this testimony and that we were just simply going to go forward and completely ignore it, completely ignore the emotional appeal, and it made us look like we were completely callous,” said Neitzert. “I couldn’t do it.”