Proposed $260 million Wastewater Treatment Center expansion causing rift between city leaders

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Sioux Falls, S.D. - Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken is firing back at city council member Theresa Stehly for a comment she made about a proposed $260 million wastewater treatment expansion.

In an email sent Friday night, TenHaken said Stehly broke a sacred trust elected leaders have with their constituents to present factual information to the public, but Stehly is standing behind her comments and said she is not backing down.

“Our current wastewater treatment facility, it’s at capacity,” TenHaken said. “Without expanding it, and investing in it now, we're literally just going to stop growing in Sioux Falls.”

$260 million would expand Sioux Falls' current wastewater treatment facility and maintain it.

“Sioux Falls continues to grow at three, four percent a year,” TenHaken said. “In fact this year we may even be a little bit above that.”

“Totally in support of infrastructure improvements and being able to flush your toilet, wash your clothes,” Stehly said. “Having that water processed is so important.”

But the high price tag is causing tension between two city leaders.

“I do not want to see our sewer bills rise to $300 a month,” Stehly told KSFY on November 15th.

Her concern? What happens if the city stops growing?

“This is twice the cost of the events center,” Stehly said. “What the heck are we going to do when we've got that thing staring us in the face in five or 10 years?”

But TenHaken said a $300 sewer bill would never happen.

“So even for that very small group that is very heavy water users, they would see a $6.00 increase per month based on their heavy consumption,” he said.

TenHaken said he's disappointed Stehly would spread false information.

“We as elected officials have the responsibility to share accurate information with consumers and with taxpayers and so that's why we are very deliberate when we share information, make sure its factual, make sure it’s based on the right projects, and the right numbers,” he said.

But Stehly said her comments were meant to raise questions not as matter a of fact.

“I got the sense the mayor was trying to shut me down and also sending a threatening message to my colleagues that if you cross over what he wants to do, he’s going to somehow publicly try to scold you,” she said. “I stand by what I said.”

Under the proposal, water and sanitary landfill rates will not go up between 2020 and 2023. Stehly is proposing a resolution to use the second penny as a fall back in case city growth doesn't happen.

The first reading for the proposed new wastewater treatment plant is Tuesday. A second reading is in December.