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Posts for January 2014

From City Hall: Election Day is June 3

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It is election time again. Although we will not vote in Hot Springs until June 3, the process has started. There are certain steps spelled out by state law that must be followed.

The first step state law requires is that if a city is not going to hold the election the second Tuesday in April, the city must choose the date by the middle of January. We have chosen the date of June 3, in conjunction with the school and primary elections.

The next step is to publish notice of vacancies and the time and place for filing petitions for the people interested in running for the positions. This publication must be in the paper twice, for two consecutive weeks, late February.

For the Hot Springs municipal election, nominating petitions will be available at city hall on March 1, and must be turned back in by 5 p.m. on March 25. There is also a deadline of March 25 in case any person turns in a petition, and then decides to withdraw the petition, and not have his/her name on the ballot for the election.

The voter registration notice must be published two consecutive weeks early in May. The deadline for voter registration will be May 19 this year.

Absentee ballots must be available no later than 15 days before the election, which will be on May 19. There also must be a notice of election published for two consecutive weeks, the first being at least ten days before the election.

A facsimile ballot must be published in the calendar week prior to the election. On Election Day, the polls must be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Then there is one more deadline, that of canvassing the vote, which must be done by June 10.

The election seems like a simple process when you just go to the polls and vote on Election Day, but it is far more detailed by state law than just going to vote. The process is set up to keep the public informed, and to encourage people to vote.

-Mayor Don De Vries

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Sharing a bit of history of building codes

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A few years ago I wrote about the Code of Hammurabi, the first known building code, created in ancient Babylon in 1760 BC. It was basic but strict building regulations. During the adoption process of the 2012 ICC building codes I stumbled onto another piece of history that I found interesting.

In 1753 a group of Moravians, members of a Protestant religious denomination from the region formerly known as Moravia, now a part of modern Czechoslovakia, originally emigrated and settled in Pennsylvania. They eventually purchased a 100,000-acre site in North Carolina and named this area Wachovia. In 1766 they founded the Town of Salem in the heart of their new territory, now known as Winston-Salem.

The German-speaking Moravians practiced a communal life-style and all material affairs of the territory were controlled by the Community Conference that was made up of all members of the community. This Conference elected the Aufseher Collegium (Town Council,) which, in turn, appointed a person to fill the salaried position of town warden (a city planner of sorts).

Twenty-two years after founding Salem, the Moravians adopted a formal set of building regulations. During those 22 years, approximately 20 buildings had been erected, mostly without problems, however, the increasing number of outside builders made it necessary to regulate the construction of buildings. These regulations addressed such issues as fire hazards, health and safety concerns, drainage, zoning, privacy, construction standards, the filing of plans and code enforcement. Those basic regulations were a precursor to today’s more complex codes.

The ‘resolution’ establishing building codes is far too lengthy to re-print in this column, but the first paragraph reads, in part, as follows: “… It often happens, due to ill-considered planning, that neighbors are molested and sometimes even the whole community suffers. For such reasons, in well-ordered communities, rules have been set up. Therefore our brotherly equality and the faithfulness which we have expressed for each other necessitates that we agree to some rules and regulations which shall be basic for all construction in our community so that no one suffers damage or loss because of careless construction by his neighbor, and it is a special duty of the Town Council to enforce such rules and regulations.”

The original Town Council minutes were written in German and a translation is provided courtesy of the History Department of the University of North Carolina and the translation can be viewed in its entirety at www.broward.org/CodeAppeals/Pages/CodeNewSalem.aspx . It does make for some interesting reading. In order to know where you’re going, sometimes its helpful to see where you’ve been.

Though there have been obvious advances in public safety, construction methods and technology in the last 226 years, it is interesting to see how the reasoning then correlates so closely with the reasoning of current governing bodies in their pursuit of providing for public health and general welfare and the safety to life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment.

Good luck and good building in this new year of 2014.

-City Building Inspector Scott Simianer

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From City Hall: Evans Plunge Roof

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When the city bought The Evans Plunge, we knew there was a problem with the roof. We negotiated and held $148,000 from the payment to the previous owners to cover the cost of fixing the roof. This roof repair cost number was a very preliminary estimate by a contactor.

When the roof repair bids were received, the engineering cost, and the cost of the low bid for the roof repair were lower than the amount withheld. The balance of the money was returned to the previous owners about the end of this last year.

I have heard from several people that it was too bad we couldn’t figure out a way to use the balance of the money, instead of returning the extra not needed for the roof repair. However, the deal we negotiated was for the previous owners to pay for the roof repairs up to $148,000. We had hoped and expected all along for the repair to be less than that amount. The bid we accepted was less, and the roof work will be done early this spring.

The city ended up with more than $105,000 for the needed work, and the remainder of more than $42,000 was returned because it was not needed for the roofing project we selected. Our intent was to adequately fix the roof leaks, which will be done with the bid accepted.

All business deals should be fair. We should not try to take extra in any business deal, nor should the other party try to take extra from us. This philosophy works in business, and although not always followed, it should be. Fair business deals makes for good long term relationships with all business associates.

-Mayor Don De Vries

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PUBLIC NOTICE: City of Hot Springs Snow & Ice Removal From Sidewalks Required

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PUBLIC NOTICE

CITY OF HOT SPRINGS

SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL

FROM SIDEWALKS REQUIRED

 

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the City of Hot Springs, South Dakota, does have Snow and Ice Removal Ordinance as below:

Chapter 22, Section 22-16. Removal of Snow and Ice from Public Sidewalks.

It shall be the duty of the abutting landowner to a public sidewalk to keep such sidewalk clear from snow and ice at all times. Snowfall shall be removed from public sidewalks within two (2) hours of the completion of the snowfall during daylight hours, or by 10:00 o’clock a.m. the following morning. If it is impossible to remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk, the owner shall use a deicer or sprinkle sand on the sidewalk to prevent the sidewalk from becoming slippery and dangerous to travel. If the owner shall fail or refuse to remove the snow or ice from public sidewalks abutting his property within a reasonable time, the City may cause the snow and ice to be removed and assess the cost to the land owner.

Snow removal from driveways or parking lots shall not be deposited onto any public sidewalk or street except where expressly permitted by the Street Superintendent. (Chapter 12-A)

NOTICE IS FURTHER GIVEN that each resident of the City of Hot Springs is hereby notified that each failure or refusal to remove snow and ice from public sidewalks abutting their property in accordance with city ordinance shall result in the City having the sidewalk cleared by city crews or by contract, the cost of which will be billed to the property owner. Repeat offenses and violations will be treated likewise. Any accumulation of unpaid bills will be assessed to the property.

 

 

 

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City Stepping Up Code Enforcement

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Code Enforcement is the enforcement of city nuisance codes, public nuisance abatement, and the enforcement of the City’s property maintenance codes. Violations include such things as un-shoveled sidewalks, un-mowed yards, junk vehicles, public health concerns and condemning dangerous buildings.

Code Enforcement in Hot Springs has historically been an incidental duty of the Building Inspector, but for the year 2014 things are being stepped up a bit. There has never been a budget specifically for Code Enforcement, typically the costs associated with the abatement of violations has been paid from the General Fund. The City Council has asked for increased enforcement activities to encourage people to mow their yards and get rid of junked or inoperable vehicles and have budgeted Fifty Thousand ($50,000) dollars specifically for code enforcement and another Six Thousand Five Hundred ($6,500) for professional services such as legal and engineering services when necessary to accomplish those tasks.

In regard to un-shoveled sidewalks and un-mowed yards, past policy has been to issue a courtesy notice to people to prompt them to clear sidewalks or mow yards. Failure to comply with the courtesy notice has resulted in the issuance of a violation notice to correct within a specific period of time and included a means to appeal the notice. For the year 2014 a public notice will be published in the legal section of the Hot Springs Star citing snow removal and property maintenance requirements and will include the means to appeal. With that notice already having been given to all citizens of Hot Springs, sidewalks that remain un-shoveled after a snowfall will be cleared of snow and the property owner will be billed. For property maintenance violations such as excessive grass or weed height one notice to abate will be issued giving a reasonable amount of time to comply. Upon failure to correct the violation the City will have the violation corrected and the property owner will be billed that cost. Other nuisance items that hinder the cleanup, such as discarded appliances or rubbish, will be removed. Only one notice will be issued to a property per year, upon repeat violations the Code Enforcement Officer will have the violation corrected and the property owner will again be billed. If a property owner fails to pay the bill(s) the costs will be accessed to the property.

Hot Springs residents will see a more visible approach to Code Enforcement through increased enforcement activities and more proactive enforcement of nuisance and property maintenance codes. Written complaints will be fielded as they have in the past, but where blatant or gross violations exist, action can be taken by the Code Enforcement Officer as deemed necessary. So, in answer to the City Council’s request, the residents of Hot Springs can expect to see an uptick in Code Enforcement activities in 2014.

-City Building Inspector Scott Simianer

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From City Hall: Time to be heard

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The Veterans Administration has finally made a statement regarding its plan for the future of the VA in Hot Springs. Their statement was misleading when they said they were going to continue with the process of closing our local VA facility.

The truth of what happened was that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be prepared. The EIS will determine various aspects of relocating veteran care, and will include the potential closing of the local VA. The EIS will look at the cost and/or benefits of closing and relocating the current VA services, and other factors, to include the economic impact to our area.

The EIS is supposed to be a fair and impartial look at the VA administration’s desire to close this facility, and to look at other options that may be presented as alternatives. If the process works correctly, only after the EIS report is done can a decision be made.

It is obvious to me that the VA administration has set out with one goal in mind, and never seriously looked at the proposal from the Save The VA group or any other proposals. Even after telling the public and the area veterans they would be looking at other options presented, and revising their plan if other options were warranted, no other options appear to have been seriously considered. I wish I could say I trust our government and the VA administration, but the events over the last couple of years have made me very skeptical.

When the EIS process starts, it is important for the veterans and the public to be heard. Whether you are a proponent of maintaining the Hot Springs VA, or you agree with the decision proposed to restructure and relocate services, make sure your opinion is included in the EIS process. Preparation of this document should lead to the final decision regarding the closing of our local VA center.

The care available to our veterans is at stake.

-Mayor Don De Vries

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Construction contractor licenses for 2014

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As Hot Springs enters another construction season the City Building Department would like to issue a reminder of the City’s contractor licensing requirement.

Individuals and companies who wish to provide contracting services within the city are required to obtain a City contractor license.

This local requirement shouldn’t be confused with the State Excise Tax License requirement through the South Dakota Department of Revenue, which is a State requirement for all contractors for the purpose of collecting excise tax.

The purpose of the local licensing requirement is to ensure that all contractors meet the State and local requirements for conducting business within this jurisdiction, including insurance and excise tax requirements. New applicants must provide a physical address and a copy of a government issued identification card.

These requirements provide a layer of protection for the local consumer.

Contractors who fall under the local licensing requirements are construction contractors and sub-contractors, to include roofing and siding installers, paving contractors, HVAC contractors, tree trimming services, dry wall/sheetrock installers, and underground sprinkler installers (when connecting to the municipal water supply).

Contractors who work within the city cemetery and excavation contractors who work within the city right-of-way are also required to be licensed, insured and bonded. Permits are required. Cemetery and Excavation Contractors are considered Prime Contractors when hired directly by the consumer, but are considered sub-contractors when listed as a sub-contractor on a permit.

License cards are issued to construction contractors. The card bears the name of the individual or company licensed, the license number and the license year is prevalently posted at the top of the card. The face of the card changes with each license year to be readily identified as being current and the 2014 license card is a color picture of a coyote.

The coyote was adopted as the official state animal of South Dakota when Governor George T. Mickelson signed legislation on March 5, 1949.

It is always prudent, for your own protection, to ensure that the individual or company you are entering into a contract with is legally licensed to conduct that business.

It is common practice and good business to request a copy of the contractors own insurance if they are working on your premises.

Licensure can also be verified through the local Building Department at 745-4104.

Good luck and good building.

-Scott Simianer, City of Hot Springs Building Inspector

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From City Hall: Plans for 2014

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Everybody gets extra busy during the holidays, and most holidays occur late in the year. We have just celebrated several holidays, and now we will have some time without holidays to get routine things done.

I try to write this article regarding city matters and sometimes I have trouble coming up with a topic to write about that I think will be interesting. The holidays we just had make a difference in my time available for city projects, and other than the routine business, not a whole lot of other projects or new projects get attention.

In the near future, we will continue to work updating and revising ordinances as time permits. We are also working on a revision of our personnel manual for the city employees. Another topic that has come up more recently has been regarding our city policies. Our city policy of maintenance and improvements to city infrastructure, streets, sidewalks, etc. should be consistent and fair.

As city council change, there is always a difference in priorities and the amount of city taxes that should be paid for any project. Our policies do change, and always have, depending on the people elected to city government. Do we pay a portion of none, every, or some projects, and if we pay some, how much? This question of policy is something I will be working on early this next year.

Even if I suggest policies the city council likes and approves, policies can change quickly with future city councils. Perhaps some of our major policies should be included in our ordinances, so they would take more time to change, and would be more public when they would change in the future. This will be challenging to get something in place this spring, but I will be working to get this accomplished.

-Mayor Don De Vries

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