Letters to the Editor #6 Chestnut Street: Here�s what I know
To the editor:
Over the past few weeks I have read with some amazement the �Did you know?� Chestnut Street statements plastered all over our local papers. I admire the �Did you know?� people for their passion on this issue, but I do wish they could keep their information a little more truthful and not bring in so many unrelated issues.
According to the �Did you know?� folks, there are an amazing number of issues that can be resolved by voting against condemnation. This is not true. There is one issue to be resolved by the Nov. 5 vote, and one issue only.
The residents of Vermillion will be asked to vote on whether the city of Vermillion should proceed with condemnation of needed property to upgrade Chestnut Street.
Legally, and in intent, this is the only purpose for the vote. What this vote definitely is not for is to decide on whether to repair Chestnut Street or in what manner it should be repaired. That issue has already been decided by our elected officials on the city council.
The �Did you know?� people have made many comments to the effect that Vermillion is shrinking, and that our infrastructure is insufficient to entice new businesses. Their claim is that available infrastructure dollars should be spent on the �industrial park� area of Vermillion, not Chestnut Street.
Perhaps Vermillion�s business sector is shrinking, but guess what business area is growing? Agriculture.
Here are some numbers from the S.D. Agricultural Statistics Service (SDASS). Clay County Production (5-year average) for 1989-93: Corn 7,220,010 bushels, soybeans 2,659,380 bushels, for a total of 9,879,390 bushels.
Clay County Production (5-year average) for 1997-01: Corn 9,773,520 bushels, soybeans 3,590,900 bushels, for a total of 13,364,420 bushels.
That is an increase of over 35 percent in ag production in Clay County. To put this in perspective with a $1.3 million dollar farm to market road, that is over $40 million in ag commodities raised in Clay County per year.
I don�t know if Vermillion is doing everything to promote bringing in new businesses, but perhaps the more important question is, are we doing everything to keep the businesses we have?
SDASS lists 397 farm businesses in Clay County. Are we providing the best farm to market infrastructure that we can, to encourage these 397 businesses to conduct their business in Vermillion? Are we providing a proper infrastructure for the businesses that provide services to and for these 397 businesses?
The �Did you know?� individuals may finally be right on something. An older plan considering traffic patterns probably doesn�t take into account an increase of 35 percent in grain volume in Clay County.
Some of the comments made by the �Did you know?� people are so ridiculous as to not need rebuttal. Stating that the retaining wall is not required by the BNSF and that the engineers involved in the formation of the Chestnut Street reconstruction have not considered any other alternatives are simply not true.
Obviously these people have never heard, or cared to listen, to Joe Gillen describe the numerous alternatives pursued on this project. There are many other comments, which are nice in theory, but cannot even be considered.
Saving $1.3 million to contribute towards other needy entities or projects sounds wonderful. Who wouldn�t love to drop a $1.3 million windfall on our public schools, or use the money to reduce taxes or utilities? Wouldn�t it be great to throw $1.3 million towards bringing in new businesses or any of the dozen unrelated items the �Did you know?� people have mentioned?
The problem is, these funds can not be transferred to unrelated projects or causes. The funds currently set aside from the second penny sales tax can only be used for street projects. The state STIP funds can only be used for a specific project, as approved by the state.
The current Chestnut Street project is approved for state STIP funds. Any other lesser plan will not meet state STIP fund approval, and the $700,000+ will go back to the state kitty.
It will not be there for Vermillion to use on just any other project we desire.
I am very tired of hearing of the $1.3 million plan being compared to some mythical $300,000 plan. There is no magical $300,000 estimate for the repair of Chestnut Street. If there is, apparently the �Did you know?� people are the ones holding it, because city staff is aware of no $300,000 cure-all plan.
The current, approved plan was a plan drawn up by certified engineers. It meets standard guidelines for designs of roads of this type. It meets the guidelines for maximizing safety and minimizing legal risk. It meets the guidelines, and has been approved, by state officials, which makes the road eligible for state STIP funds of approximately $700,000+.
State funding is not available for state non-approved designs. Anything less than what has been currently approved will not meet state guidelines. Anything less is also open to issues of liability and litigation. If someone is killed or seriously injured on Chestnut Street, I think $1.3 million will be small compared to the amount the city will be sued for.
What will be the city�s cost if Chestnut Street collapses onto the BNSF railroad line? The closest thing I have heard of in regards to a $300,000 plan for Chestnut Street is a rough estimate to simply pave with asphalt. This included no widening, and was compared to a glorified ally.
Approximately $600,000 of the funds needed for the Chestnut Street rebuilding are from the second penny sales tax. The rural residents of Clay County use Chestnut Street extensively and contribute significantly to this second penny sales tax.
These folks, of course, also contribute to the state fuel tax which funds the state STIP fund, which makes up the balance of how this project will be funded. It is unfortunate that these folks will not have the opportunity to vote.
One election these folks can take part in, however, is the Clay County Commissioner elections. I hope they keep in mind which candidate running for commissioner voted to not move forward with the city council�s currently approved plan to upgrade this important farm to market road.
I appreciate the fact that some landowners are offering land for an improved Chestnut Street. But, when it comes in the manner of �build the road my way, and I�ll give you the land,� I say no thanks. This is the way I expect my 4- and 6- year-olds to negotiate, not my city government.
In addition to all the private individuals who have voiced support for the Chestnut Street project, I also want to thank Vermillion�s mayor, city council, the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce (VACC), and the Vermillion Development Company (VDC) for their support.
On behalf of our �original Vermillion� businesses and the 397 farm businesses we service, we appreciate your support.
If any Vermillion business wonders why they should join these fine organizations like the VACC and VDC, I think this is a fine example of how these organizations rally behind their members.
Manager/co-owner Vermillion Fertilizer & Grain