OUR VIEW: Look to Brookings for exampleIn Mitchell, our city, county, state and federal government offices are seemingly scattered to the four winds.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
In Mitchell, our city, county, state and federal government offices are seemingly scattered to the four winds.
There’s the Davison County Courthouse, City Hall, the city Public Safety Building, the county Public Safety Center, the state Highway Patrol squad office, the city street shop, the county highway shop, the county nurses’ office, the state driver’s license station, the state Department of Social Services, and the federal USDA Service Center, just to name the ones we can think of quickly. There will be yet another local government location when the county takes ownership of the soon-to-be-vacated Central Electric headquarters on North Main Street.
For local residents wondering where to go for a particular government service, it’s a complicated and confusing jumble of offices.
For local, state and federal governments, it’s an unnecessarily large system of buildings and grounds to maintain.
Wouldn’t it be better to have some sort of large, centralized complex for most, if not all, of the government offices in town?
Leaders in Brookings have confronted that question and developed a solution. Work is under way in that city on a $14 million “intergovernmental center” that will house most of the city and county offices. The county courthouse will be remodeled for the exclusive use of the court system.
It’s a steep price tag, but one we suspect will ultimately be worth it for the increased efficiencies and the better service that will be offered to the public. Furthermore, the building will be strategically located next to Brookings’ already vibrant downtown, within walking distance of many shops and restaurants, the courthouse and the new Children’s Museum of South Dakota.
In recent years, we’ve often looked to Brookings for examples of visionary leadership at the city level. This project has to be one of the most visionary undertaken by any local government in South Dakota’s recent history, and it surely took a lot of gumption on the part of city and county officials to make it happen.
We hope our locally elected officials are going beyond the routine business of the day to strategize and plan for such visionary projects, but we’re afraid it’s not happening. Our city has been mired for years in debates about the future of the Corn Palace, for example, with little to show for all the talk. We hear a stream of complaints every year about the inability of our county officials to maintain county roads. And our downtown area is largely stagnant, with ever more vacant lots where historic buildings and businesses once stood.
Brookings is no doubt helped by the remarkable growth of South Dakota State University and the annual economic jolt the city receives from the arrival of about 13,000 extra residents each fall.
But Brookings’ city and county leaders have also done their part, as evidenced by the intergovernmental center. It’s that kind of progressive thinking that has pushed Brookings past Watertown into the No. 4 spot on the list of the state’s most populated cities.
We think Brookings is setting a great example for other cities to follow, and we hope our local officials take note.