Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Nov. 16, 2013
Save money from corps
It's understandably enticing for city leaders to see a $10 million check come across their desks.
It's $9.77 million, to be exact, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The money is payment on what the federal government owes the city for its share of the cost of making flood control improvements.
The corps agreed to pay the money after the city advanced the federal share of the funding in 2009. The improvements along the Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek were needed, in part, so that 1,500 properties could avoid higher flood insurance costs. The arrangement allowed the city to move more quickly on the project.
So, Sioux Falls city councilors approved a total of $18 million in bonds for the upgrades, which were completed earlier this year.
Those bonds can't be paid off until 2019, however. So, perhaps not surprisingly, there is discussion about what to do with the $9.77 million in the meantime.
Councilor Greg Jamison, who also hopes to become mayor, jumped in with a suggestion that the city look into using some of the money for a development project to generate new jobs. It's a pretty broad concept that Jamison suggested be refined with the help of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation or the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
Some have suggested putting the money toward ongoing construction projects, from an indoor swimming pool to street work. Others recommend a rainy day fund.
Mayor Mike Huether has said he prefers to hang onto the money and ultimately direct it toward paying off the bonds.
We agree with him.
That's what the payment is intended to do in the first place. While it's tempting to take this money now and invest it toward some other worthwhile community improvement project, that is not the advisable route.
City Finance Director Tracy Turbak outlined possible options for using the money in a memo to the council. One of the options was to save the money, earmarking it for future principal and interest payments on the bonds. By doing that, the city could reduce the amount of sales tax money that would have to go toward bond retirement in the future.
"It seems quite reasonable that the city would utilize these funds in a way that will mitigate the impact of debt service costs on our limited sales tax dollars," Turbak wrote.
Let's take the cautious route.
Capital Journal, Pierre, Nov. 18, 2013
Another day, another title
What's left to say after that nearly perfect first half in the 11AA state football championship against the Watertown Arrows? The Pierre Governors left no question in anyone's mind that they were indeed South Dakota's 11AA champions, with an offense that ticked like clockwork and a defense that reliably shut down nearly everything the Arrows tried. And frankly, there wasn't much left to try after Garrett Pochop picked off that pass just before the first half ended and returned it for a touchdown and a 34-7 lead that never changed after that.
Alex Gray well deserves the Joe Robbie Award he received as the game's most valuable player. But it speaks well of the entire team that every athlete we heard from after the game gives credit to every other athlete on the team for supporting each other.
We'll say it again: Teamwork like that is the mark of great coaching. Jayson and Shannon Poppinga deserve a big round of applause for seeing what kind of athletes Pierre had and giving them the strategy and skills they needed to win the title.
And it's also worth noting that it's the mark of a great athletic program at T.F. Riggs High School that we have now won, as sports editor Wade LaRoche reminds us in his coverage from the weekend, four state sports championships in calendar year 2013: boys' wrestling, boys' basketball, girls' golf and now the 11AA football crown.
Talk about a title town. Who else has won that many titles in one year?
The people at T.F. Riggs should give themselves a hand for making Pierre the school to beat in so many sports. We don't know what you did, but it works for us.
Please carry on.
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Nov. 20, 2013
The Renewable Fuels Standard was created by Congress in 2005 and required oil companies to add ethanol to gasoline. Beginning with a 4 billion gallon requirement in 2006, the following year President George W. Bush called for increasing the amount of renewable and alternative fuels produced by 2017 to be 35 billion gallons.
We joined South Dakota elected officials in embracing adding ethanol to fuel, first from corn and from other biofuel sources, including waste from timber operations in the Black Hills National Forest and elsewhere.
Back then, the overriding concern was the use of a domestically-produced fuel additive instead of importing more oil, including from the volatile Middle East. The RFS also provided the state's producers with another market for their corn crop.
The vast expansion into ethanol as fuel has had unforeseen consequences, including higher corn prices ($1.95 a bushel in 2005 to $7.13 a bushel in March 2013) that has led to an increase in prices at the grocery store and feed prices for livestock producers; encouraging farmers to plow land set aside for conservation for the more lucrative corn market, leading to fewer pheasants and other birds and animals; and an increase in environmental damage caused by using more fertilizer, as detailed in a series of Associated Press stories carried by the Rapid City Journal and other newspapers.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced recently a reduction in the Renewable Fuel Standard from 16.55 million gallons to 15.21 million gallons this year.
Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and John Thune, R-S.D., blasted the EPA's decision. "I'm very disappointed in the EPA's announcement today proposing to lower the RFS targets below current levels," Johnson said. "The ethanol industry has a $3.8 billion economic impact in South Dakota. This proposal will negatively affect farmers, ethanol producers and communities throughout the state."
With a record amount of domestic oil production and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the highways, the need for ethanol is less than it has been.
Despite the problems detailed by the AP series on ethanol, we still support the Renewable Fuel Standard and research into biofuels.
We have questioned whether enough corn could be grown or diverted to ethanol to meet the 2007 RFS of 35 million gallons of renewable fuels by 2017. It now appears that there is only half as much demand for renewable fuel additives as will be required by 2017.
What happened with the push for more cellulosic ethanol produced from grasses and wood chips, including forest byproducts produced in the Black Hills? With all the questions being raised about corn-based ethanol, now would be a good time to push for other ethanol sources.