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A barricade blocks access to the old Veterans of Foreign Wars building Wednesday at the corner of First Avenue and North Main Street in Mitchell. The building was damaged during the demolition of the old Longhorn Bar, with which it shared a common wall, and has sat in a state of disrepair for months. The city plans to demolish the building. (Chris Mueller/Republic)

VFW settles into new home as city moves toward demolition of old building

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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

It’s been almost four months since Mitchell’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post moved to a new location just a few blocks from its old, forlorn building, where ripped plastic tarps still cover parts of the crumbling structure.

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Still, Pat Ziegler, a former post commander who recently stepped down, said the eventual demolition of the old building will be an emotional moment for many of the group’s longtime members.

“When you’ve been in a building for so long, you kind of fall in love with it,” he said.

It will be at least a few weeks before any work can be done to demolish the old building, since the Mitchell City Council last week voted against awarding a bid for the demolition to the lone bidder for the project, Ironman Construction, of Tyndall.

The majority of the council questioned whether the lone bid, at $216,742, was too expensive and worried that having only one bid made it impossible to compare prices to ensure they were fair. Council members Mel Olson and Marty Barington voted in favor of awarding the bid, and Councilman Randy Doescher was absent during the vote.

A new round of bids will be opened at 1 p.m. July 28 in Council Chambers at City Hall, according to Terry Johnson, the city’s deputy public works director.

“We’re hoping for more bids,” Johnson said. “We’ve had more calls and we’ve sent out more plans than before, so hopefully we get some people that are interested.”

After those bids are opened, the council will again have to decide at a future meeting whether to award a bid, Johnson said. It’s been troublesome to see the old building sit in a state of disrepair for so long, Ziegler said. “It’ll be a sad day, but we all know that thing has to get torn down,” he said. “It’s past due.”

The old VFW building was damaged during the demolition of the old Longhorn Bar, with which it shared a common wall.

The old Longhorn — believed to be the oldest surviving building in Mitchell — was deemed unsafe after a wall collapse in November 2011. The city bought the building for $1 from the owner, who said he couldn’t afford to repair or demolish the building on his own. He moved his business across the street.

The city bought the old VFW building last September for $175,000. The VFW Post moved to a building at 215 N. Main St., which was previously occupied by Prairie Breeze Gallery, an art gallery and gift shop.

Gloria Hanson, the VFW Post’s current commander, said the renovation of the first floor of the new building is complete.

“We had a lot of volunteer help and that’s what helped us out tremendously,” she said

Work was expected to begin Thursday on a patio to the rear of the building and the group will start fundraising soon to renovate the unfinished upper floor of the new building, Hanson said.

Much of the work on the patio will be done on a volunteer basis by members of the VFW who also still serve in the National Guard, Hanson said.

It’s been a long, sometimes tedious process, Ziegler said, but finishing the move and many of the renovations has been a welcome relief.

“We’re back in business and making money,” he said. “We lost a lot of square footage, but we gained a shiny new building.”

And Ziegler said the new building’s decor is especially meaningful, as much of it is intended to honor veterans.

“You walk in there and you really feel it’s about veterans,” Ziegler said. “It’s not just a bar.”

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