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Mitchell City Council adds city administrator

The Mitchell City Council has approved a proposal to add a city administrator to the city’s government, and council members want to hire one as soon as possible.

The council voted 5-3 in favor of the proposal at its meeting Monday night at City Hall.

For months, city officials have discussed the idea of adding a city administrator, who would oversee the city’s department heads on a day-today basis and essentially act as an aide to the mayor.

“In short, they are going to administer the day-to-day operations of the city departments,” Tracy said at Monday night’s meeting.

Council President Jeff Smith, Council Vice President Dan Allen and council members Marty Barington, Steve Rice and Susan Tjarks voted in favor of the proposal. Council members Mel Olson, Phil Carlson and Randy Doescher voted in opposition.

As presented by Mayor Ken Tracy at the outset of Monday night’s meeting, the decision to add a city administrator would have been formed as an ordinance to be approved by the council, which means it could have been referred to a public vote.

“We are not going to try and pull anything that the people don’t have a say and consent on,” Tracy said.

However, the motion approved by the council, which was made by Allen, will allow the city to hire a city administrator the same way it hires any other city employee.

“I’d like to get this guy hired as soon as possible,” Allen said.

As a result, the proposal, as approved Monday night, cannot be referred to a public vote.

At the Dec. 2 council meeting, several Mitchell residents, including Innovative Systems CEO Roger Musick, spoke in favor of adding a city administrator.

The proposal to add a city administrator is different from one put forward to add a city manager to the city’s government that was rejected by Mitchell voters in 2011.

Unlike city managers, city administrators are not the chief executives of the cities they serve, and instead are accountable to the mayor; they have little, if any, authority to hire or fire city employees or prepare a city budget; and only have the authorities granted to them by a mayor or by ordinance, according to Matthew Fairholm, a political science professor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Fairholm met with the council at its last meeting Nov. 18.

There are 20 cities in South Dakota with city administrators, according to information presented at the Oct. 7 council meeting.

Marlys Schuster, of Mitchell, spoke Monday in opposition to the proposal, claiming the dictionary definitions of mayor, manager and administrator are similar and the positions are therefore identical.

Carlson explained the definitions of the positions of mayor, city manager and city administrator are set out in South Dakota’s laws as “three distinct and separate positions.”

Smith said hiring a city administrator will benefit the city.

“We’re missing a huge opportunity if we don’t follow through with this,” he said.

Tjarks said all of the people who contacted her about the proposal are in favor of it.

“I think this is something that is going to be nothing but beneficial for our city,” she said.

Carlson opposed the proposal, largely because the salary involved in hiring a city administrator could make that person the highest paid city employee. Informational examples provided at past meetings have listed city administrator salaries from $80,000 to $100,000.

“It seems to me that this would be an increase in government, an increase in bureaucracy,” he said.

Doescher said he favors adding a city administrator, but voted against the proposal because he feels it should be able to be referred to a public vote.

Corn Palace street closure

The Traffic Commission approved a request that would convert much of the 100 block of East Sixth Avenue, directly south of the Corn Palace, into a pedestrian area and green space.

Part of the existing street would be replaced with green space and lined with multiple pedestrian paths, according to a plan presented Monday night by Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling. The 100 block of East Sixth Street is already closed for three months each summer to allow for the Corn Palace’s murals to be replaced.

A one-way exit onto nearby Lawler Street would remain and would run from an alley that runs north between the Scoreboard Pub & Grille and NorthWestern Energy, and allow traffic to flow out of a parking lot in that area.

Deputy Public Works Director Terry Johnson said curb and gutter would be installed along the entire west side of the block.

“There will not be an opening here anymore,” Johnson said. “Basically, you’ve got a nice, big pedestrian courtyard.”

Schilling said construction in the area likely won’t take place next spring, as the Corn Palace itself is expected to be under construction at that time. Instead, Schilling said, the block could be renovated next fall or spring 2015.

Johnson said no cost estimates are available for the project at this point.

Consent agenda

Council members approved the following items as part of a consent agenda:

  • The meeting agenda, council minutes from the prior meeting, minutes from various committee meetings and reports from various city departments.
  • Raffle requests from Second Chance High Interact Club, with the drawing to be held Feb. 21; Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary’s PTA, with the drawing to be held March 29; My Fishing Pond Inc., with the drawing to be held May 23; and Heart and Sole Cancer Walk, with the drawing to be held Jan. 26.
  • The application of the Palace City Lions Club for a special event liquor license for the Avera Winter Party on Jan. 17 at the Corn Palace.
  • The application of the Palace City Lions Club for a special event malt beverage and wine license for the Abbey Road concert on Feb. 1 at the Corn Palace, and the Diamond Rio concert on Feb. 9 at the Corn Palace.
  • Set a Jan. 6 date for hearings on the application transfer a package off-sale liquor license, an on- and off-sale wine license and a malt beverage license from Amstar, 100 S. Main St., to Casey’s General Store, 100 S. Main St.
  • Bills, payroll salary adjustments and new employee hires, and authorization for the payment of recurring and other expenses in advance as approved by the finance officer.
  • A list of pay estimates.

Other business

In scheduled business, council members:

  • Discussed, during a 7 p.m. Traffic Commission meeting, a proposal for fourway stop signs at the intersection of First Avenue and Foster Street; signage at an existing crosswalk on Ash Avenue and Burr Street and an existing crosswalk on Ash Avenue and Minnesota Street; approved a request from Tessier’s Inc. to prohibit parking on the west side of North Lawler Street from First Avenue north to the first driveway; and approved a request from Ron Olson to expand the District A snow removal area to include the 500 and 600 blocks of North Kimball Street and the 600 block of North Rowley Street.
  • Sat as the board of adjustment and tabled the application of Mike and Elaine Rieck for a side yard setback variance of 3 feet versus the required 8 feet, to construct an addition to their attached garage located at 2901 Dailey Drive.
  • Heard an update and discussed the expansion and renovation of the Corn Palace, specifically regarding the State Historic Preservation Office giving its blessing to the project.
  • Awarded a bid for the city’s recycling contract to Dependable Recycling for $238,560 per year for three years.
  • Authorized Deputy Public Works Director Terry Johnson to act as a representative of the city and sign documents involving rightof-way and easements near Spruce Street.
  • Authorized the execution of a quit claim deed to end the city’s easements on property owned by Chad Larson.
  • Dissolved the city’s tax increment financing district No. 4, which was established in 2005 and helped finance infrastructure near the AKG Midwest plant in southern Mitchell.
  • Approved a resolution to transfer $3,500 to the city’s 2013 budget for professional services, for newspaper publication fees.
  • Approved a resolution setting salaries for city employees for 2014, as previously determined during city budget hearings.
  • Conducted the second reading and approved an ordinance to supplement the City Council portion of the general fund with $2,500 for legal publications, the municipal buildings portion of the general fund with $7,000 for building repair at the James Valley Community Center, the police portion of the general fund with $2,000 for utilities, the traffic portion of the general fund with $2,500 for light maintenance and $7,000 for street light utilities, all from the general fund cash balance; the culture and recreation portion of the general fund with $40,000 for sports authority promotion from business improvement district tax collections; the ProBuild TIF portion of the debt service fund with $10,500 for bond interest from property tax revenue; the sports complexes portion of the special revenue fund with $2,500 for part-time salaries, $2,000 for repair and maintenance and $1,000 for fuel, all from the park fund cash balance; the parks portion of the special revenue fund with $1,700 for repair and maintenance and $3,000 for fuel, both from the park fund cash balance; and the landfill portion of the enterprise fund with $5,000 for state garbage tax and $4,000 for sales tax, both from the sanitation fund cash balance.
  • Approved a paramedic clinical agreement between Avera Queen of Peace Hospital and the city of Mitchell.
  • Tabled the application for the renewal of a retail onsale liquor license for the Moonlight Bar & Lounge.
  • Approved an extension of the current agreement for fire services with the Mitchell Rural Fire Association until the end of February, to allow a longterm agreement to be negotiated in that time.