Report to council: Palace numbers surgeThe number of tourists who visited the Corn Palace this summer increased by about 42,000 over last summer, according to a report delivered Tuesday to the Mitchell City Council at City Hall.
By: Seth Tupper, The Daily Republic
The number of tourists who visited the Corn Palace this summer increased by about 42,000 over last summer, according to a report delivered Tuesday to the Mitchell City Council at City Hall.
Dale Odegaard, of the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, gave a presentation on the financial performance of the gift shop that the Chamber operates each summer on the arena floor of the city-owned Corn Palace. A council member’s question about total summer attendance prompted Odegaard to announce the 42,000-visitor increase, but he did not provide any other visitation numbers.
The gift shop achieved total sales of $822,693.37, of which $131,630.95 was paid to the city as rent. No comparison numbers from previous years were provided.
The Chamber spent $93,599.15 to advertise the Palace, and the Chamber and city shared about $24,000 worth of expense to produce a video about the history of the Corn Palace, install a theater to show the video, install a permanent greeters’ booth and erect a “Cornelius” statue in the pedestrian mall area across the street. Odegaard said 30,000 to 35,000 people watched the video in the theater.
“As long as I’m here, we’re going to make every effort we can to make the Corn Palace a better place and increase tourism,” Odegaard told the Council.
In addition to the new video, theater, greeters’ booth and Cornelius statue, the city also unveiled a new Web site this year for the Corn Palace and closed the street on the south side of the Corn Palace to allow better viewing of the decorating process. The local Convention and Visitors Bureau also unveiled a new Web site and came under the leadership of a new director.
The report on the Corn Palace was only one of many items on a full City Council agenda Monday night.
Sewer rate may go up
Public Works Director Tim McGannon told the council’s Public Works Committee that he plans to propose an increase in the city’s sewer rate. The increase would be 15 cents per unit, and the average customer’s monthly bill would increase by about $1, McGannon said. He said the increase is needed to make future payments on a new Foster Street lift station and to build up a fund to maintain the city’s aging sewer system.
McGannon cited a survey that indicated Mitchell has the third-lowest sewer rate among the state’s largest cities.
Some council members said they are hesitant to raise a rate during bad economic times, but others said the increase seems justified. A vote will likely come at the next council meeting.
Pool money shifted
The council voted to shift a $30,000 appropriation from the Mitchell Middle School pool to a temporary pool in an as-yet unidentified location.
The council appropriated the money earlier this year when the Mitchell Aquatic Club said it needed help to save the Mitchell Middle School pool from closure. The Mitchell School District is now closing the pool, and the club has shifted its focus to buying and installing a temporary, above-ground pool in a building somewhere in Mitchell. Club representative Lori Bork told the council she is hoping for a contribution of $17,800 from the school district.
The pool would cost about $36,000, she said, and the club would incur additional costs for decking, lighting and the lease of a building. The club hopes to have a pool by Dec. 1. In the meantime, the club is practicing in the Recreation Center pool some days and is driving its 85 members to a pool in Huron other days.
When asked how long the club plans to use the proposed temporary pool, Bork said “Until you build us a new facility.” She was referencing the much-discussed idea to join the city and local college and hospital in a partnership to build a combination wellness center, arena and indoor pool on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University. She also said the temporary pool will have a five-year warranty.
Council member Marty Barington said the community needs to support the club.
“We need to get these kids in the water to keep this group alive,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re going to lose this group.”
Police grant rejected
Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg announced that his department was approved for a federal stimulus grant to hire a community resource officer, but the council, in what appeared to be a 5-2 voice vote, rejected the grant.
The grant would have covered the cost of the extra employee for three years, but the city would have been required to cover a fourth year and any future years that the city might have elected to retain the position. Several council members said they do not want to be stuck with an extra employee after the grant runs out and do not want to add an employee at a time of economic uncertainty.
“We can’t justify hiring somebody right now,” said Councilman Doug Backlund. “That’s my opinion.”
The grant was worth $192,356. Overweg said the job description would have included operating a citizens’ academy, coordinating neighborhood watches, and promoting a community crime-andweather notification system, among other things.
Council members Mel Olson and Geri Beck appeared to be the only members who voted to accept the grant (no roll-call vote was taken — just a voice vote). Olson said a community resource officer might free up other officers to do other policework, and he fears that rejecting this grant might negatively affect the city’s chances to be approved for future grants. Beck called the grant an opportunity to “get somebody doing good stuff in the community for four years at the price of one.”
The council approved the creation of a tax increment financing district to aid the development of student housing on the south campus of Mitchell Technical Institute.
MTI is in the midst of a multi-year effort to move all of its operations to its south campus. The hope is that student-recruitment efforts will benefit from consolidating the school onto the highly visible location along Interstate 90. MTI also hopes to build up to four student apartments on the south campus to further aid in recruiting.
Because state law prohibits MTI from building its own student apartments, MTI’s plan is to let Puetz Development LLC build and operate the apartments. The City Council consented to placing a tax increment financing district over the south campus that will capture the new propertytax revenue generated by the student apartments. For up to 20 years, that tax revenue will be used to pay off a nearly $1.5 million bond that the city will issue in order to pay for immediate infrastructure improvements on the campus, such as streets and utilities.
After the TIF district expires, the tax revenue generated by the student apartments will go to local taxing entities such as the school district, city and county.
2010 sidewalk projects considered
During a tour prior to the council meeting, the council’s Sidewalk Committee viewed sidewalks built this year along Hanson and Norway streets and discussed potential projects for next year.
Deputy Director of Public Works Terry Johnson said he is targeting two areas that are largely lacking in sidewalks: a roughly nine-block area north of Foster Street that includes Wallace, Ash, Birch, Taylor and Marshall streets, and an area roughly described as around the high school and LifeQuest facility. Johnson said he’ll ask the council members to make a decision soon about which area to target next year.
Two other areas that Johnson said the city hopes to target for sidewalk projects are the area near Patton-Young Park and the stretch of Norway Avenue between Ohlman and Edgerton streets.
During the citizens’ input portion of the City Council meeting, Mitchell Schools Superintendent Joe Graves thanked the council for forcing the installation of sidewalks along Norway Avenue this summer in the area of L.B. Williams Elementary.
“It’s a lot safer now,” Graves said.
In other business, council members:
• Heard a request from residents of the Woodland Heights area in extreme southern Mitchell for the construction of a north-south road that would connect the west side of the development with Spruce Street and provide an alternative to the development’s only current entrance off state Highway 37.
• Were informed, during citizens’ input, about an award won recently by the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department for its work with older employees.
• Temporarily adjourned to sit as the Board of Adjustment and deny the application of Candi Blasius for a conditionaluse permit to operate a dog-grooming business at 809 E. Hanson Ave.; approve the application of Abbott House for a variance to construct an addition at 918 Court Merrill; and approve the application of Doug Gehrke for a conditionaluse permit to operate Custom Plus Collision Center at 960 Commerce St.
• Still sitting as the Board of Adjustment, set Sept. 21 as the date for hearings on the application of Raquel Decker for a conditional-use permit to operate a daycare center in her home at 709 N. Rowley St., and the application of Amber Quinn for a conditional-use permit to operate a daycare center in her home at 212 E. Seventh Ave.
• Heard oral reports from the Sidewalk and Public Works committees.
• Awarded a $457,494 bid from Mueller Lumber for Phase II work on the Pepsi Soccer Complex.
• Approved the application of the city of Mitchell on behalf of Abbott House to the state of South Dakota for a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant to assist with an addition.
• Approved a petition from Mitchell Wesleyan Church to vacate a public alley right-of-way to accommodate a planned expansion of the church.
• Approved a resolution to provide $53,333 in interim financing for the soccer complex until such time as the money is received from revenues.
• Approved a resolution aimed at lowering the rate of the bonds that financed the city’s water pipeline from the Missouri River.
• Adopted a plat of Tracts 1 and 2 of C. Glanzer first addition; a plat of Lot 1 of Backlund Second Addition; and a plat of Lots A-2, A-3 and D-1 of K&L Ranch Addition.
• Conducted the first of two required readings of the 2010 city budget and were told by Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson that the total budget is $29.7 million, a reduction from $32.8 million in 2009.
• Set Sept. 21 as the date for hearings on the application to transfer an onsale liquor license from Boehnen Corporation to Chopper LLC, doing business as Peppers at 1525 W. Havens St.; the application to transfer an off-sale liquor license from Boehnen Corporation to Chopper LLC, doing business as Peppers at 1525 W. Havens St.; the application to transfer an on-off-sale malt beverage license from Robert Folkerts to American Legion Coacher-Goetsch Post 18 at 107 N. Main St.; and the application to transfer an on-sale liquor license from American Legion Coacher-Goetsch Post 18 to American Legion Coacher-Goetsch Post 18 at 107 N. Main St.
• Set Oct. 13 as the date to receive and consider bids for a bike-path historic bridge project.
• Authorized the acceptance of a 2009 Office of Justice program grant in the amount of $45,612 for the public safety shooting range under construction near the landfill south of Mitchell.
• Authorized the mayor and finance officer to enter into contract for municipal bond insurance and municipal bond rating as may be necessary for the salestax refunding bonds authorized by Resolution No. 2726, as amended, (the pipeline bonds) and to take such other actions as they deem appropriate.
• Approved a financial agreement that will allow the state to use the city’s share of airplane fuel taxes to cover the city’s 3 percent share of a 2008 airport construction project.
• Approved a list of surplus auction items.
• Authorized some light poles from the Traffic Division to be sold as scrap.
• Approved the applications of Tamara Workman and Christopher Bowden for taxicab driver’s licenses for Palace Transit.
• Approved requests from Mitchell Ducks Unlimited, James Valley Community Center, Mitchell Skating and Hockey, and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church to conduct raffles.
• Approved the paying of estimates and bills.
• Entered a closed, “executive session,” described on the agenda as “permitted by SDCL 1-25-2(4) – requested by City Attorney Randy Stiles” (SDCL 1-25-2-(4) is a state law that allows executive sessions for “preparing for contract negotiations or negotiating with employees or employee representatives”).