BID projects live on

By Jeff Smith

An occupancy tax of $2 per room, per night will affect six area hotels to help pay for the Business Improvement District projects.

A public hearing over the proposed Business Improvement District (BID) project took place at the city council meeting on Feb. 26. The city council heard arguments for or against the proposed conceptual plan.

No one spoke out against the projects during the time of the hearing. There were just some concerns about how the project will look going forward and how those involved will address certain issues. Clarifying discussion about how the whole proposed project area will look at completion still needs to happen.

About a year ago there was a desire to put together a BID Board. A BID Board is allowed to be formed through South Dakota Codified Law. Brett McMacken, city administrator, said the whole purpose of the BID Board is to come up with projects, activities or promotions for the city that will benefit the community.

“It’s directly related to the business activity in the community,” McMacken said.

“That’s where the money is going to be coming from to support any projects.”

In the case of the first round of public improvements and facilities the board wants to do, the funds will be coming from an occupation tax that affects six hotels.

McMacken said the hotels will be collecting $2 per room per night and reporting that to the city as revenue.

McMacken said they are estimating to collect $110,000 per year in new money.

There hasn’t been much change in the plans. The BID Board still wants to have a senior center addition with public restrooms, reconfiguration of Lewis Park bathrooms, racquetball court and tennis court fencing, welcome signage, Main Street to restroom walkway, relocation of the old log building, asphalting of the alley behind the Boys & Girls club and senior center.

In order to move forward with the construction of these improvements, costs will be incurred for the services of architects, attorneys, engineers  and project management.

McMacken said it will take time to get everyone on the same page. The community needs to be on board with it and not just the seven people on the BID Board.

Connie Prautzsch, Hill City resident, realizes the plan is very vague but is not sure that the Boys & Girls Club will be treated fairly with the project.

The tennis court area might be converted to parking spaces. Prautzsch said if the Boys & Girls Club doesn’t have the space they might not have a space to ride bikes or do other activities.

She would like the space where the racquetball courts are to have appropriate surfacing to have bikes ridden on. She hopes the area that is created can properly be used by children with the Boys & Girls Club.

Carl Doaty Jr., scoutmaster for troop #10 with the Cub Scouts, spoke about use of the log building by four different organizations.

Doaty said the Boy Scouts are starting up again after about a four or five year lapse.

“We’re looking at using the space year-round. The Girl Scouts use the space year-round,” Doaty said.

The Cub Scouts use the building frequently throughout the school year.

Doaty said the Cub Scouts don’t want to dig their heels in and fight the project.

“Our concern is having space for the kids that is adequate for both the troop meetings and den meetings, as well as our functions that the public is invited to,” Doaty said.

He talked about the need for access to a facility at any time. There are organizations that meet on different times and different days so trying to schedule meetings around someone who has a key or code to a different building wouldn’t be convenient.

“The location of the senior center or the scout house is really convenient right now for the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts program,” Doaty said.

Those that are Cub Scouts will be at the Boys & Girls Club and then move to the scout building for meeting time.

Finding out that the projects are just a concept and not set in stone relieved a lot of Doaty’s stress.

His concern of moving it is the cost associated with it. He thinks it will cost a lot more than the BID Board thinks and will take money away from other areas.

Merlene Broer, with the Hill City Evergreen Garden Club, said the garden club has been very enthusiastic about the BID Board, their ideas and what they have looked at.

“I would say go for it. We’re on board,” Broer said.

Dale Householder, president of the Hill City senior center board of directors, said that the board of the Hill City senior center is excited about the project and thinks it will benefit a lot of people in town.

The senior center will transition into more of a community center if the project moves forward.

Cheryl Whetham, citizen of Hill City, said the project is a great opportunity for Hill City and everyone to come together as a team.

She said the public restrooms are going to provide a reason for visitors to come to town.

The first reading of the ordinance also took place at the meeting. The ordinance was constructed from the resolution of intent with some minor edits being made.

The ordinance needed to address eight things. It included the resolution of intent being adopted, the hearing to adopt the ordinance, the creation of Business Improvement District “A”, the purpose of the Business Improvement District, proposed district boundaries, the creation of an occupancy tax, how it will be collected and the penalties involved if there is failure by the lodging establishments in not giving the city the occupancy tax.

The city council adopted the ordinance establishing Business Improvement District “A”. It will need to be approved again in two weeks.

The BID Board was tasked with creating a laundry list of items to put in a project. The first plan to put together was a resolution of intent that was adopted by the city council in January.

The BID Board and city council still need to figure out if the hotels will send money every month and who will be in charge of reporting it and keeping track of any penalties.

Alderwoman Kathy Skorzewski was also wondering about the questions that exist if there are lodging establishments with under 11 rooms that want to contribute to the tax collection.

McMacken said those businesses who want to participate can donate funds to the city. The ones under the ordinance have to participate.

Another hearing will need to happen to specifically address the collection of the occupancy tax. The tax hearing date was set for April 23, 2018 at the city council meeting.

The next city council meeting is March 12. The next BID Board meeting is March 22 at 5 p.m.