BID project approved by city council

By Carol Walker


When the Hill City Council met for the first time in 2018, a fair amount of time was allotted to discuss Hill City’s Business Improvement District (BID) project. With public restrooms on the radar for years, and because they are also included in the city’s Comprehensive Plan, restrooms are a key component of the $400,000 BID project.

A $200,000 addition to the Hill City Senior Center will include public restrooms, and additional monies will be spent to remove the old concrete Lewis Park restroom, along with racquetball court and the tennis court fencing. The old log building used by Boy Scouts, the Evergreen Garden Club and Lions Club will be relocated. The alley and tennis court area will be asphalted and a 10-ft. walkway created between the Mangy Moose and Blazing Saddles.

“The BID Board has had about 10 meetings over eight months with good discussion and good ideas. The vote for this BID project was 6-0. One person was absent from the last meeting…. This creates the skeletal structure for the project, and not all the details are included in this,” said Brett McMacken, city administrator.

It has been proposed that the project be funded by a revenue bond, of which the annual debt service would be covered by a $2 occupation tax per room per night at each of the lodging establishments in Hill City that  have 11 rooms or more. It was noted that smaller lodging establishments could charge the additional $2 per room, but that would be reflected as income for them.

McMacken distributed a paper proposing different BID district boundaries from the original plan. Instead of the entire city of Hill City, the boundaries would include properties zoned C3 that contain hotels with 11 rooms or more, the Mangy Moose and Blazing Saddles, as well as municipal-owned properties zoned Commercial C1 and Agriculture  A3. This would require only about 12 letters of notification as opposed to about 100, according to McMacken.

Vic Alexander, owner of the Super 8 Motel, asked if something could be written into the proposal to make it clear that if a new motel were to be built in the community, even in Commercial C4, the $2 occupation tax would also be assessed at that establishment. Alexander also floated the idea of taking money out of the emergency fund for the project with the city acting as its own bank instead of acquiring a revenue bond.

“Could the project be self-funded allowing for cash flow when needed? We might have two years of collection (from motels) before the first invoice comes in,” said Alexander.

McMacken will look into the possibility of Alexander’s proposal. The council unanimously approved the BID project proposal, even with possible changes in the works. It will go back to the BID Board, and will be considered again at subsequent council meetings as well as at a public hearing on Feb. 26 before final approval.

Connie Prautzsch expressed concern with the changes to the tennis courts and the fencing around it.

“That area is used every day in the summer by the Boys and Girls Club kids. I see the kids losing out on this plan,” said Prautzsch.

Jim Peterson said the school playground is just across the street and can easily be accessed by the Boys and Girls Club. It was suggested that Prautzsch or other representatives from the Club attend the next BID meeting on Jan. 11 at 5 p.m. at city hall as well as the next city council meeting to express their concerns.

Carla Sheldon, city finance officer, reported that out of the three on-sale licenses to serve malt beverages, wine and hard liquor in Hill City, one recently became available in Hill City. The annual fee for the license is $4,800. A couple businesses expressed interest in the license, but there appear to be no guidelines for how this is to be passed on.

“I have researched this and have found nothing that shows parameters for listing this in the paper. Frank (Bettmann, city attorney) is going to check on this….This hasn’t happened in at least 10 years,” said McMacken.

“Even if it is not required by state law, I think we should get a notice out there. Get the word out and shake the tree a little,” said Councilman Jim Peterson.

It was suggested other cities be contacted to see how they handle this and what criteria they use to issue a license to a new entity. McMacken said one criteria would be if the business is open year-round, which would bring in tax dollars for a longer period of time. He also said they could put it up and create a bidding war for the license.

McMacken also brought to the council more information for a Restaurant Liquor License which has been discussed at previous meetings. This license would require at least 60 percent of the revenue at a restaurant to come from food sales, but the initial fee for the license is determined by the city. The fee for subsequent years is set at $1,200. Area towns’ first year fees varied from $1,200 to $7,000 up to $25,000.

Council members suggested that if the fee is too high, it could discourage restaurants from taking part. However, with years two and beyond being only $1,200, it wouldn’t take long to make up for a bigger initial fee. Council members’ suggestions ranged from $8,000 up to $15,000 for the first year. Both of the aforementioned liquor licenses will be discussed at the next meeting.

Janet Wetovick-Bily, Hill City Area Chamber Director, said when all the numbers were in, Hill City’s numbers for visitors and inquiry were about the same as 2016. All indications are that 2018 will be a good year for tourism.

She mentioned Open Stage to begin on Saturday, Jan. 13 at High Country Ranch, Breaking the Winter Blues on Jan. 20 and filming by Crow Ridge Productions on Jan. 27.

She has been conferring with Lisa Modrick and Deb Jensen, who have been through the Mt. Rushmore Rd. construction in Rapid City, to find out how Hill City businesses can be better prepared when the sidewalk construction occurs in the community.

In other business, a raffle for a rifle was approved for the Heart of the Economic Development Corporation from Jan. 9 to Mar. 2.