SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Sioux Falls has opted to move forward with a $50 million construction project despite critics questioning the partnership with a developer connected to a 2016 building collapse.

The City Council voted 5-3 on Tuesday to reject the repeal of its agreement with Legacy Developments to build a hotel, commercial space and parking garage downtown.

But Mayor Mike Huether's administration said a private guarantor on the agreement who's at the center of the controversy won't be associated with the project any longer.

The moves followed emotional testimony from the father of a woman injured in the building collapse, which also killed one person and left another trapped in rubble for hours.

"When this body voted to partner with Aaron Hultgren (owner of Hultgren Construction) ... we were bewildered, angry and frustrated," said Mike Fodness, whose daughter was in a residence above the Copper Lounge when it collapsed.

Hultgren Construction, the company involved in the Copper Lounge collapse, is now under federal criminal investigation by the Justice Department. Owner Aaron Hultgren also serves as director of operations and development for Legacy Developments.

The Community Development Office announced that a new limited liability company, Village River Group, will take over the project from Legacy Developments. Village River Group formed last week.

City Council member Pat Starr said he believes Village River Group was formed in reaction to support for the repeal proposal, which he co-sponsored.

"I think the solution to a problem is to face it head on and not form another LLC," said Starr.

Village River Group's manager, Jeffrey Lamont, will replace Hultgren as a guarantor on the project as well.

Other Legacy Developments officials will remain on the contract.

Starr said the city could make another repeal attempt should more information surface about Legacy Developments officials before project bonds are sold this spring.


Information from: Argus Leader,