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Chris Mueller

COLUMN: Apartment search in Mitchell: 'Do I even want to go in there?'

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

I moved to Mitchell about six months ago.

At least, I intended to move to Mitchell about six months ago.

After being offered a job at The Daily Republic in September, I had about three weeks to move from my hometown of Appleton, Wis. Despite a distance of 535 miles, I was more than happy to make the move after having spent more than a year looking for a job in my field since graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in May 2010.

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My first priority quickly became finding a place to live. My needs, I thought, were not overly complicated. I was moving alone, so any decent one-bedroom apartment with reasonable rent would suit me.

As distance prevented me from looking in person, my apartment hunt began on Google and continued on the phone. This led to numerous phone calls, many of which ended quickly after I was told no apartments were available, or wouldn't be until months after my move.

After a frantic few days of searching, and with plans to be in Mitchell for the coming weekend, I managed to set up three appointments to view apartments, two in Mitchell and another in Salem, more than 30 miles from my eventual workplace.

Once I arrived, with my windshield mounted GPS calmly guiding me as I was still completely unfamiliar with Mitchell, my first thought at seeing the outside of my first potential apartment was likely not one many landlords strive for -- "Do I even want to go in there?"

The tour was brief. Through an enclosed entryway featuring unfinished interior walls was a stairway up to a tiny studio apartment, where the current tenant was still asleep in bed. After peeking around, I decided I would move on.

Later that afternoon, I arrived in Salem and toured by far the best apartment I had seen so far. It was clean, with fresh paint on the walls and was affordable -- if it had been closer to The Daily Republic, I would have taken it without a second thought. But with a day left to spend in Mitchell, I decided to wait.

My third tour began with a descent. Set in the basement of an apartment building, with a tangle of pipes running overhead, tiny basement windows and a musty smell, it was the only apartment available in the building. Still, it was the best I had seen in Mitchell so far.

After following up another lead, a fourth, unscheduled apartment tour in Mitchell was quickly arranged. Though it appeared a number of hasty renovations were under way at this last stop, the poor quality was obvious. Couple the price -- nearly equivalent to the rent at the far better quality apartment in Salem -- with a bizarre layout featuring more stairways than should be allowed in a one-bedroom apartment and a spent shotgun shell sitting ominously in the gutter outside, and I left quickly without looking back.

After weighing my options, I decided I would rather commute from Salem than accept what I was presented with in Mitchell.

I know my experience is not unique among those who have moved to the Mitchell area from out of state. And while I'm sure the vast majority of Mitchell's property managers work tirelessly to maintain their properties and satisfy their tenants, there simply are not enough quality apartments to go around.

Mitchell needs to address this problem as a community or risk losing its great potential for growth.

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