The Nov. 16 City Council may have adjourned in a matter of 11 minutes, but many recent developments in the city include increased funding for a program targeting low-income residents in the area and a multi-million dollar renovation in Vermillion’s Prentis Park.
Funding for food pantry
With the harvest season coming to a close, produce donations to the Vermillion Food Pantry are taking a drastic downturn. An approved $2,500 funding request by City Council may make all the difference, though, said the pantry’s director.
“We want our clients to have the most fresh and healthy options possible, so keeping our pantry stocked with produce is important to me. The city’s funding will allow us to do just that,” said Jessica McKenzie, who took over the director position in October.
This is the first time the Vermillion Food Pantry board of directors requested money from the city, City Manager John Prescott said. But the request does not come unwarranted. In the last five years, the use of the food pantry’s services has increased by 330 percent.
An initial funding request of $5,000 was received the day the City Council was considering to adopt the 2015 budget. Prescott said these requests are typically made in July, so extended discussion was needed to review the amount. The final amount, half of what was initially requested, was approved at the Nov. 3 Council meeting.
Next year’s funding will go toward the purchase of frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, McKenzie said. With a third of Vermillion living below the poverty line, McKenzie said this food assistance helps “bridge the gap” between the income they make and what they need to provide for their families that might be a stretch from their income, such as fruits and vegetables.
Prentis Park construction
Vermillion voters overwhelmingly approved a $3.1 million bond issue earlier this month for Prentis Park improvements by a 3-to-1 margin. The bond is a main part to the $5.25 million project, which includes an estimated $4 million for a new swimming pool.
Mayor Jack Powell said he was “proud” of the number of residents who voted in favor of the park’s improvements at the first regular City Council meeting since election day.
The proposal calls for paying for the renovation with $2 million in city funds, $3 million borrowed by issuing bonds and $250,000 from fundraisers. The bonds would be repaid over 20 years from the general fund and revenue from the city’s second penny of sales tax.
South Dakota allows cities to levy up to 2 percent sales tax on top of the 4 percent that is statewide. In Vermillion, the first penny goes to the general fund and the second penny is set aside for debt service, capital projects and major improvements.
Park renovations are expected to be finished by May or June of 2016, Prescott said. The next two or three months will focus on getting a final design produced, he said.
The current Prentis Park pool will re-open next summer, while work on the new pool will not likely begin until August. Other noticeable improvements, such as construction on the asphalt courts, will begin earlier in the year.
“In the next few months, you’ll see more procedural-type items coming through about the renovation in City Council. We’re just moving forward one step at a time,” Prescott said.