Happy Monday! Megan here.

Weather check: Very January-y

Status check: It's 2024! I've got some big goals for 2024, including a big giveaway. Keep an eye out for Friday's issue when I'll share how you can win a three-night stay (a more than $2,200 value) at a literal castle in the Black Hills over Presidents Day weekend – but spoiler: you have to be a paying member of Sioux Falls Simplified to be eligible to win.

This week, I've got a lot of city news for you – including the latest on the ongoing childcare discussions and the long-term plans for McKennan Park. Plus, find lots of Super Simplified Stories, as well as a roundup of what I feel are the best stories from 2023.

And now, news:


How an app could help connect parents with childcare

Simplified: A number of city councilors on Tuesday expressed interest in helping the Helpline Center create an app that would give parents an easy way to see which childcare providers in the state have openings.

person holding using iPhone X
Photo by Yura Fresh / Unsplash

Why it matters

  • The Regulatory Oversight Committee – a group of councilors chaired by Councilor Alex Jensen – met Tuesday afternoon to get a more in-depth look at the childcare crisis in Sioux Falls.
  • The recent almost-closure of Apple Tree childcare centers added a sense of urgency and importance to the meeting. At one point, Jensen remarked, "We should've done this five years ago," in the context of talking about developing the app to share childcare openings.
  • The Helpline Center shared its work on developing an app in which providers can share openings, and parents can get real-time information. Additionally, Michelle Erpenbach, representing the Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative, shared a number of other specific ways the city could be a part of solving the ongoing crisis.
"At this point, we can't wait," Erpenbach said. "We have to, as a city, as a community, we have to come up with solutions of our own."

Tell me more


Get a look at long-term plans for McKennan park

Simplified: The Sioux Falls City Council on Tuesday got a look at the latest master plan for McKennan Park, which is set to get a new wading pool in the next year. Here's a look at what else may be on the horizon.

Why it matters

  • On Tuesday, councilors got a look at new master plans for McKennan Park, including a new zero-depth entry wading pool with more shade features. They also got to see updated future plans, including a refrigerated ice rink, a fire feature and more walking paths connecting the park to the neighborhood. Councilors also got an updated look at the plans for Family Park.
  • The updated design also includes plans for a new pool house/warming house, as well as plans to create an unrefrigerated ice rink until the money is in place for a refrigerated ice rink – which could cost as much as $6 million, Parks Director Don Kearney said.
  • McKennan Park's master plan was last updated in 2020. Parks staff worked closely with the neighborhood to develop the master plan, Park Development Specialist Mike Patten told councilors.
"A key point that came out of McKennan was that the history of the park is very important to the neighborhood, and so preserving and reflecting that history was very important," Patten said.

Tell me more about the master plan


Super Simplified Stories

  • Extremely good news. The Sioux Falls Area Humane Society set an adoption record in 2023 with 3,776 adoptions. That's the most adoptions in a single year in the entire 119 year history of the organization, and also a marked increase from the 2,801 adoptions in 2022. Get a little more background on the organization and what it did differently this year in this story. (Side note: Did you adopt a pet you saw on my "what I'm falling for"?? Please let me know, because I would love to tell that story...)
  • Juvenile Justice Center gets official price tag. The Minnehaha County Commission on Tuesday voted to authorize the guaranteed maximum price of $50 million for the new juvenile justice center. More background on that project here.
  • Minnehaha County Commission selects new leadership. The Minnehaha County Commission voted on Tuesday to select Dean Karsky as its new chair and Gerald Beninga as vice chair. Commissioners also voted to give themselves a 5% pay raise.
  • Ain't no party like a pad party. Because a pad party helps combat period poverty and provide menstrual products to women in need. The 14th Annual Pad Party period product drive runs Jan. 6 through 15. Get more details on how to donate here.


What I'm falling for this week


What made headlines last year (aka my favorite/best reporting of 2023)

In community news:

Even if Apple Tree stays open, the childcare crisis will remain
Even if funders are found to save the Apple Tree centers in the short-term, childcare advocates agree more long-term, systemic solutions are needed to address the ongoing crisis in Sioux Falls.
How a lost kayak found its way home
Tyler Northrup was starting to think he’d never see his kayak again. But don’t worry, his story has a happy ending.
Why people struggle to find mental health support in Sioux Falls
A lack of providers, transportation challenges and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are some of the barriers people in Sioux Falls face to finding adequate mental health care, according to a study released Tuesday by the Augustana Research Institute.

In city news:

Crime isn’t going up, but it is getting more complicated
The rate of crime is relatively flat (and in some cases, decreasing) in Sioux Falls, but Police Chief Jon Thum says that doesn’t mean cops’ jobs are getting easier.
Sioux Falls’ long-term spending plan has more than doubled in a decade
Mayor Paul TenHaken late last week released a plan to spend more than $1.1 billion on city capital improvement projects over the next five years.

In school news:

Why hundreds of kids are at risk of going hungry at school
The Sioux Falls School District will no longer be serving food to kids who have a negative balance of $75 or more on their lunch account. It’s a tough decision, officials said, but the alternative could be up to half a million dollars in debt by the end of the year.
Why enrollment is leveling off in Sioux Falls schools
Enrollment numbers in Sioux Falls show the start of an overall plateau as the districts hits its capacity.

In regional/county news:

Get a look at the new Juvenile Justice Center design
Initial designs shared this week show a more than 72,000-square-foot facility
There’s a lot of big feelings about plans to build a new prison near Harrisburg
The state announced last week that a new state penitentiary will be built south of Harrisburg. Here’s what we know (and what folks have to say about it).
How the county is trying to get full ownership of the fairgrounds
The Minnehaha County Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to take legal action to figure out if there’s a way around the restrictions on what the county can do with the W. H. Lyon Fairgrounds


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Reach out

What story do you want to see simplified? Falling for something local? Send any news tips, attaboys, missed typos or burger battle burgers to megan@sfsimplified.com.

Thank you

Thank you to Sioux Falls Simplified sponsors, including the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, Sioux Empire United Way, the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, Barre3 Sioux Falls, Midco, the Great Plains Zoo, the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance and Voyage Federal Credit Union. When you support them, you're also supporting Sioux Falls Simplified.