City of Box Elder “profoundly disappointed” by defeat of Ellsworth Infrastructure Support Bill
BOX ELDER, S.D. — The City of Box Elder issued a statement on Wednesday following the defeat of Senate Bill 151, also known as the Ellsworth Infrastructure Support Bill, which would have funded sewer infrastructure and capacity improvements necessary to support the influx of Air Force personnel from the B-21 bomber mission.
The funds requested from South Dakota’s federal COVID stimulus funding were earmarked for upgrades to sewer trunk lines along the Highway 14/16 corridor. This upgrade would have not only supported additional development in the area, but would have helped leverage federal funding the city is seeking to reconstruct that corridor. Funds would also be used to install more than a mile of new sewer main, connecting to an area immediately adjacent to the base to support residential housing and provide further options for incoming service members and their families.
The City wrote, “[We] would like to give special thanks to Senator David Johnson, who sits on the Joint Appropriations Committee…he was one of only two West River appropriators to vote in favor [of the bill].”
The City of Box Elder continues to actively seek state and federal support, including loans or grants from the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, to help meet the needs associated with the expansion of Ellsworth Air Force Base. An application for a $32 million BUILD Grant has been submitted; the grant would fund projects to provide safer and easier access to the base and would be a “dramatic infrastructure improvement” for the base, city, and surrounding area.
According to the City, residents of Box Elder currently pay one of the regions highest sewer bills. The City has already leveraged its constitutional debt capacity to maintain and expand existing infrastructure.
“The City has dedicated itself to repairing and maintaining its existing infrastructure without further raising its sewer rates. The funds requested by the Ellsworth Infrastructure Support Bill will allow the City to prepare for the new mission without requiring its current residents to shoulder the entire cost of the infrastructure for the associated expansion,” the City added in the statement.
The Department of Defense has maintained that a net increase of at least 1,500 service members – a conservative estimate – will come as a result of the B-21 bomber mission. However, an environmental impact study estimated the net increase in uniformed service members will be more like 3,000 plus, not including their families.