Water surcharges, city pay increase

By Garrett Ammesmaki,

Editor


Tea city councilors had a marathon session to kick off August.


Over the course of two-and-a-half hours, city council members approved an autism fundraiser, denied luxury storage condos a spot at Bakkers Landing, took action on a “smell tax” and approved mid-year cost of living increases for all city employees. City Administrator Dan Zulkosky also announced a ribbon cutting on August 24 to celebrate the completion of Gateway Boulevard.


While it ended on a high note, most of the lengthy session was spent in conversation with Corey St. Germain from Luxstor, and associate Barry Johnson, about luxury storage condos possibly taking up residence at Bakkers Landing.


St. Germain said they are currently rounding out the first phase for a Luxstor project in Fargo, North Dakota, and thought Tea would be a good spot for their next luxury storage facility.


Each unit could be outfitted to the owners liking — St. Germain mentioned golf simulators and a mezzanine, as well as garage lifts and other amenities. No one would be allowed to have a residence at the facility, but there would be a club house for sponsored events and other community usage.


The starting costs for owning one of their storage condos would be around $150,000, he said.


Council member Ruby Zuraff mentioned the issues the Tea community has with storage units being broken into, as well as lived in, but St. Germain assured city councilors that no one would live in the luxury storage condos, and there would be security measures — such as exterior cameras and a fence — to stop any would-be criminals.


Though the concept was debated, members of the city council were largely in agreement that the luxury storage condos are simply storage units for expensive stuff, and could not be dissuaded of that. They also cited that one of the main purposes of Bakkers Landing is for businesses that generate sales tax revenue. Ultimately, commissioners made a motion to deny the Luxstor project.


Councilors also approved an autism fundraiser to take place outside of Sky Lounge on August 13.


After the public outreach session, the council members approved a mid-year cost of living increase for all city employees due to extreme inflation across the area.


Council member Jim Erck wanted to clarify that the cost of living adjustment is not a bonus, and is not meant to set any precedent for future mid-year increases, but is only a measure to offset the burden of current high inflation rates.

The COLA is retroactive, and will be effective for the July pay period.


Tea residents will also see an increase to their water bill. The increase is due to a surcharge commissioners approved to start paying off the water regionalization project.


The regionalization project is to connect with the Sioux Falls waste system, and remove the unsightly and smelly lagoons present around Tea.


“We could call (the surcharge) a smell tax,” Mayor Casey Voeker joked.


Along with a surcharge of $12 being added, a previous surcharge was reduced. That will make the increase equal to around $8.50 per month starting June 1, 2023.


Zulkosky has reached out to Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds, as well as Governor Kristi Noem to come out for the ribbon cutting set to take place 10 am at the intersection of Gateway Boulevard.


All were large supporters of the project when it started, and Zulkosky wanted them to be there to take part in the celebration.