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Mitchell city leaders talk about administrator expectations

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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Evaluation was a common theme Monday evening during a discussion about Mitchell’s city administrator.

“I think we are in a position now that we need to develop a format for duties, salary and anything else that might be associated with that,” Mayor Ken Tracy said during a regular Mitchell City Council meeting at Council Chambers at City Hall. At its last meeting Dec. 16, the council approved the city administrator proposal.

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After the meeting, Tracy said the trial to deem whether or not the creation of the position is a success will run “probably three years.”

“It’s going to take some time for that person to be in a position to evaluate and make recommendations,” Tracy said.

Council members discussed several topics related to the city administrator, who would be accountable to the mayor and have little, if any, authority to hire or fire city employees or prepare a city budget. The only authorities granted to city administrators are by a mayor or by ordinance, according to Matthew Fairholm, a political science professor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion who met with the council at a November meeting.

Council President Jeff Smith said measuring the success of the city administrator will be important.

“I think it’s not fair to future councils — and who knows who’s going to be sitting here three years from now — if we didn’t at least have some type of goals in mind or some type of expectations in writing,” Smith said. “That way future councils will be able to look back and say this is the reasoning why we could move forward. That way, you can at least measure a little bit.”

Smith said one of the important qualities the city administrator must have is the ability to work with the department heads.

Councilwoman Susan Tjarks suggested measuring department heads could be one of the city administrator’s jobs.

Lauretta Larsen, a Mitchell resident, asked the council if the city administrator would be a position of power “without having any checks and balances.”

“My question and suggestion is as we develop this, you use caution,” she said. “Is this position going to entail things that will affect the individuals of Mitchell without them having a recourse or a way of them expressing opinions?”

Council members also discussed salary and the selection process for the city administrator. Tracy said the best case scenario is to have someone hired in three months. There are 20 cities in South Dakota with city administrators, according to information presented at the Oct. 7 council meeting. City administrator salaries typically range from $80,000 to $100,000, Smith said at an earlier meeting.

Councilman Mel Olson said some people have questioned the value in the city administrator, but but they can see the value in other city departments like parks, police, public works and other departments.

“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” Olson added. “There’s only one way to settle this, and that’s to try.”

Wellness center

Tracy told the council that he does not believe a consultant needs to be hired to look at a potential new city wellness center.

At the Oct. 7 council meeting, Tom Clark, regional president and CEO of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, approached city officials to discuss the possibility of forming a partnership to build a recreation/wellness center in Mitchell.

Clark said Avera is willing to split the cost with the city for a consultant, who could identify various options and give recommendations for such a project. He estimated a consultant would cost approximately $25,000.

Tracy said there have been meetings with Clark, DWU President Amy Novak, City Council President Jeff Smith and Mitchell Parks and Recreation Director Dusty Rodiek.

“In doing so, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground that a consultant would have provided,” Tracy said. “We’re going to continue our meetings and will meet again this week.”

Dakota Wesleyan University has also approached the city to express interest in a possible partnership for the project. Tracy explained DWU is “a little bit out ahead regarding what they would like to see” with the project.

“I think they have secured some fairly prominent donations,” Tracy said. “They have taken the lead on that.

“Right now, we’re reviewing what our needs are. I have mentioned in the past and will again tonight, but it is our desire to have an indoor swimming pool in Mitchell.”

Consent agenda

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

  • The meeting agenda, council minutes from the prior meeting and minutes from various committee meetings.
  • A raffle request from the Mitchell Gymnastics Booster Club Inc., with the drawing to be held Feb. 15.
  • The Daily Republic as the official newspaper for the city of Mitchell for 2014.
  • A June 3 date for the annual municipal election in conjunction with the primary election.
  • A Jan. 20 date for a hearing on the application to transfer a retail on-sale liquor license from Steak ‘N’ More, 1801 N. Main St., to A-Z Gaming Inc., 1801 N. Main St.
  • A Jan. 20 date for a hearing on the application to transfer a retail on-sale liquor license from VFW Post 2750, 103-105 N. Main St., to Corn Palace City Post 2750 VFW, 215 N. Main St.
  • 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.
  • A change order for the construction of the second indoor ice rink at the Mitchell Activities Center, increasing project costs by $1,058.97 for door hardware changes and a door fix, for an adjusted contract amount of approximately $1.35 million to Palace City Builders Inc.
  • A list of pay estimates.
  • Gas and diesel fuel bids.
  • Bills, payroll salary adjustments and new employee hires, and the payment of recurring and other expenses in advance as approved by the finance officer.

Other business

In other business, council members:

  • Acting as the finance committee, reviewed the city of Mitchell’s future GovOffice website (www.cityofmitchell.org) that will likely be rolled out this week.
  • Sitting as the board of adjustment, set a Jan. 20 date for a hearing on the application of Wayne and Marcy Jones for a backyard variance of 19 feet versus the required 25 feet to construct an addition to their home at 1411 S. Minnesota St.
  • Sitting as the board of adjustment, set a Jan. 20 date for a hearing on the application of Ken and Mary Giblin, Mitchell Subway, for a front-yard variance of 19 feet, 6 inches, versus the required 35 feet to construct a new building located at 802 N. Sanborn Blvd.
  • Awarded a bid for a concrete pipe project to Cretex Concrete Products West Inc., of Rapid City, which was the only bidder.
  • Approved a resolution to increase the city’s recycling fee from $3 per month per residential unit to $3.30 per month per residential unit for an annual increase of $3.60.
  • Approved a resolution to approve the city’s collective bargaining agreements with its fire department employees, police department employees and general city employees.
  • Approved providing a letter of support from the city of Mitchell for the Poet ethanol plant to maintain the renewable volume obligations.
  • Approved the Moonlight Bar’s application for renewal of its retail on-sale liquor license.
  • Approved the official depositories for the city of Mitchell for 2014.
  • Heard Councilman Mel Olson ask Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling about problems people are having with remote-car starters not working while they’re in the Palace, specifically during the recent Kenny Rogers concert and Mike Miller Classic basketball event. Schilling said the Corn Palace and other local businesses have been looking into the problems after hearing several inquiries.
  • Announced Councilman Dan Allen was absent due to a vacation.
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