Mayor Mike Huether Cautions Council against Glory House Gift
A Sioux Falls City Council measure to transfer Sioux Falls city property to a local non-profit organization is on thin ice according to Mayor Mike Huether.
It was announced via press release on Wednesday (January 25) that Huether will not sign the city council’s resolution intended to give away 2.5 acres of city property, the site of the Sioux Falls Ice and Recreation Center. This proposal has been floating around for about seven months.
A resolution that was adopted by the city council on January 17, 2017, sets in motion steps that will result in the property, including the building, being given to the Glory House without any payment to the city. Even without the mayor’s signature, the resolution will go into effect on February 17.
In the release, Mayor Huether expressed his rationale for not endorsing the deal.
“Giving away a very valuable and useful city asset to any organization, even a nonprofit organization, is setting a very bad precedent for Sioux Falls city government, and I will not support it. Our team works hard every day to protect taxpayers, but this city council resolution takes us on an opposite path.”
Additionally Huether gave more details regarding why this transfer should not take place.
- An appraisal for the property is still being finalized, but the property being given away is worth well over half a million dollars. This is a large sum to give away without open and vigorous vetting.
- Other parties have expressed interest in acquiring some, or all, of this property, but this resolution leaves them out of the process entirely. Why give it away when someone wants to buy it?
- If the property was sold, this money would be used to fund operational expenses of city government.
- Many nonprofits are doing good work by providing valuable services to Sioux Falls residents. The city cannot and should not donate taxpayer resources to all of these worthy organizations. It is not government’s role.
- The process used to specify Glory House as the recipient of this gift was not a competitive nor transparent process.
- The city’s resources are limited. For nearly a year now, sales tax revenue growth has slowed, and city spending has been reduced to compensate. The budget this year is flat to last year’s budget. Now is not the time to give away valuable city property.
- Consideration should be given to the future design and development of nearby 49th Street, which may increase the value of this property and may require land for proper drainage design.
- Glory House has submitted no plans to indicate how much of the 2.5 acres is needed, how the organization might use the property, the financial feasibility of their plans, nor the time frame within which their development might occur.
Back in June of 2016, Sioux Falls City Councilor Pat Starr then voiced his hopes that the project would come to pass. He felt in some ways by doing this, less would be expected of other non-profits which would benefit the city.
“We’re trying to figure out a way that (Glory House) can expand somewhere in that 36-40 unit range. For people who have been at the Glory House, worked their program and done really well this is a chance for them to get a house, start over and not necessarily go back to the people who got them in trouble in the first place.”
The city-owned ice and recreation facility is basically out the back door of the Glory House. Starr at that time did have an idea of where they would start.
“They would use that property and raze the building, start over and build that. We’ve been working with the Affordable Housing Coalition and some different groups to put that together. It’s an incredible plan and one of those things that’s taken someone to nudge it along a little bit. I’m hoping to make that part of it happen.”
The mission of the Glory House is to give people who have been released from prison an opportunity to reintegrate into society. According to the Glory House website, they are accredited with the South Dakota Department of Social Services and the American Correction Association.