Reconstruction of Major Lake Bridge on the horizon

By Carol Walker


If all the pieces come together as planned, construction on the Major Lake Bridge could occur in 2019, according to Brett McMacken, city administrator. He gave an update to Hill City’s mayor and council members at the city council meeting on Monday night.

A grant application begun in 2004 was somehow stalled and rediscovered by the South Dakota Department of Transportation this year, and before the grant program closes, Hill City has the opportunity to complete the process and get help with restoring the bridge on Major Lake Drive. Brose Engineering has completed the initial study and is in charge of bringing all the players together in the planning process.

“The state would like to see a bridge there, but Dennis (Schrier, public works director,) and I believe a box culvert would work and probably cost less…. One major hurdle for this project is the state would like to see it constructed to meet a 20-year storm event standard. We can’t meet that standard. The current construction conforms to a 10-year storm event. We would like to see the new construction closer to a 12-15-year standard,” said McMacken.

He said meeting the 20-year storm standard would require everything else around it to be raised, including the highway, Major Lake Drive and the culverts across the highway near Subway and Matkins. McMacken said that is not realistic.

McMacken would like to see the bridge restoration happen concurrent with the dredging of Major Lake, but that is a Forest Service decision. He said Brose Engineering is responsible for getting entities together to discuss the options.

When it comes to the downtown sidewalk project, Kale McNaboe, city engineer, has completed his drawings regarding the movement of a few light poles, and it is now in the hands of an engineer for Great Plains Engineering, the firm tasked with the project. Their engineer will submit drawings to the State, and it will take about two weeks to review them, according to McMacken.

McMacken reported on the recent Business Improvement District (BID) Board meeting, stating that the board has moved away from the corridor project between Mangy Moose and Jon Crane Gallery and are focusing on upgrading the area behind Main St. and near the Boys and Girls Club and the Hill City Senior Center, which could include public restrooms. They will have to create an outline of the project, how much taxes need to be collected and the mechanism for collecting the taxes.

“We want to make a laundry list of about 10 action items such as taking down fences, paving the alley, building bathrooms, relocating the basketball court and taking out the racquetball court. Something I want to ask you, Frank (Bettmann, city attorney,) is if we complete one through five on the list and have budgeted $1 million, but it only costs $750,000, can we use the remaining money for six through 10?” asked McMacken.

Bettmann said it depends on how the proposal is designed. That will be determined at future BID board meetings, the next one being this Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m. at city hall, and it is open to the public.

The topic that elicited the most discussion on Monday night was the creation of an ordinance allowing for on-sale licenses for full-service restaurants in Hill City.  McMacken said the design of the ordinance is about 90 percent complete but there is one area that has to be determined.

“My biggest thing is to nail down the cost of the license. The initial cost for the license must be at least $984, based on the population of Hill City. Renewal, by state law is set at $1,200 per year,” said McMacken.

He said Pennington County charges $25,000 initially, as does the municipality of Custer, and Rapid City charges $250,000 for the license. That is a higher fee than the current $4,700 charged annually for on-sale licenses in Hill City, but the succeeding years of the new license, no matter the location, drop down to $1,200.

That is what the council grappled with on Monday night. Could this new license, which would require at least 60 percent, or possibly more, of the restaurant’s revenue to come from food, enable new restaurants to open? Would this encourage existing restaurants and bars to transfer to the new license knowing that renewal is only $1,200 compared to the current $4,700 annual fee? If that happens, would the city lose money or gain more because of increased sales?

Council members were all over the board when it came to ideas for setting the fee. Some believed the fee could not be so high so as to discourage restaurants from making use of it, staying around $4,700, while others felt the initial fee should be equal to at least three years of the current license bringing the cost for a license closer to $15,000. McMacken commented that they are trying to find that good balance. For the next council meeting he will attempt to lay out a spreadsheet showing the options.

In other business, the council approved several variance requests that were recommended by the Hill City Planning and Zoning Dept.  One was for Armando Daninid for a reduced setback for a shed next to a garage on the corner of Major Lake Dr. and the Mickelson Trail, and another was for a reduced setback for a carport attached to Roger Broer’s building on Ponderosa Ave. The third was for Shane Schriner for a reduction of 14 parking spaces initially required for new construction at the Best Western Golden Spike Hotel.

The next city council meeting is set for Monday, Dec. 11, at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.