Mitchell's library could become new City HallThe Mitchell City Council is considering relocating City Hall to the current city library building.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
The Mitchell City Council is considering relocating City Hall to the current city library building.
Under the plan, the Mitchell Public Library would share space with a Mitchell School District library in a building on what is currently Mitchell Technical Institute’s north campus. MTI is soon scheduled to vacate the north campus as it consolidates operations at its south campus along Interstate 90.
Moving city offices out of City Hall could be the first step in expanding the adjacent Corn Palace, and moving to the library is just one of the options on the table. The council weighed numerous ideas and listened to public input on revitalizing the city-owned Corn Palace during a wide-ranging special council meeting Monday night at City Hall.
Councilman Ken Tracy said the Corn Palace Relocation Committee has met five times and has considered a variety of sites for a new City Hall. It meets again next week.
Some have been ruled out, Tracy said, as the committee feels it should be located somewhere in the downtown area. Size requirements helped narrow the list, he said.
The current City Hall is about 10,000 square feet, and a new facility would need to be larger — around 15,000 square feet — to allow for offices, storage and expansion, he said. Access to adequate parking also helped reduce the number of possible buildings, Tracy said.
The committee has done some tours of possible locations, he said.
The Mitchell Public Library is in a good location and is the right size, Tracy said. Parking may be an issue, but it could be dealt with.
“It’s certainly worth considering,” he said. “We are pursuing that further.”
Tracy said Superintendent Joe Graves has attended one of the City Hall Relocation Committee meetings and is very receptive to the idea.
Council President Jeff Smith said he discussed a shared library space with Graves last year and they toured a possible site. A study has been funded to investigate a shared library, and its report should be returned soon, Smith said.
Another option for a new City Hall is the Central Electric building, which is owned by Davison County.
It is big enough, in the downtown area and has enough parking, Tracy said. But the city’s interest in the building has sparked interest by the Davison County Commission, which is considering the space for the community health nursing staff, he said.
“There might be an opportunity for some sharing of that space for the city and the county,” Tracy said.
If the nurses are instead located elsewhere, the building moves near the top of the short list, he said.
Commissioner John Claggett, who is running for mayor and was in the audience, said there’s “a good chunk of land” at the site, so adding a building there for the nurses, while the city moves into the Central Electric building, is another option.
Claggett said he was speaking for himself, and not the other commissioners. He said the commissioners want a larger space for their meetings, and the county courthouse is out of space and more is needed for county offices.
The third and least-considered option is building a new City Hall, Tracy said. Cost estimates for a new building and altering an existing building will be key in examining that option, he said.
No other locations are on the “top burner,” he said. “We’re still open.”
Councilman Dan Allen recommended having relocation plans completed by August before the council holds budget hearings and sets financial priorities.
The committee may hire an architectural firm to prepare designs for a new City Hall.
The council gave initial approval to budget $10,000 to hire a firm for a conceptual design of a new City Hall. A second and final reading of that proposal is set for Monday night’s regular council meeting.
Funding for Palace
The city has set aside $1.72 million for a city arena or the Corn Palace, according to Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson.
The city also has $2.1 million in uncommitted funds, Wilson said, but the council is determined to maintain a $1.5 million reserve at all times and wants to keep the additional $600,000 on hand as well, she said.
The council will discuss its bonding capacity and how much it could borrow for a Corn Palace expansion project at future special meetings, the council agreed.
The next Corn Palace meeting is set for Monday, April 9.
Councilman Travis Carpenter said he knows other projects need to be considered, and Sebert said he will review requests from city department heads for other capital projects.
“You can’t put everything into one entity,” Carpenter said.
Public input on Palace
Hannah Walters and Doug Dailey of the Next Generation Corn Palace Committee made a report on the community response to the plans that were unveiled earlier this year.
People have appreciated the opportunity to speak out and to hear of the plans, they said.
While there have been “mixed reviews” on some parts of it, such as the proposed Corn Tower, there has been an almost unanimous belief that the cost, which is $35 million or more, is too high.
However, Dailey said people seem generally supportive, but have concerns and questions.
“The big question was, what and how much?” he said. “A $35 million price tag gave a lot of people sticker shock and that is certainly understandable.”
Dailey said adding seating to the building may not be needed, and Smith noted that the Corn Palace rarely sells out.
Dropping the additional seating and other major renovations can reduce the cost by $12 million or more, Dailey said.
The committee continues to listen to the public and work with the council to “develop this vision” for the Corn Palace and the area around it, Dailey said.
“We’re trying to plan for the future of our community,” he said.
Councilman Greg McCurry said he would like hear how much it will cost to buy the buildings across the street from the Corn Palace.
That was not included in the $35 million concept unveiled in January.
Walters said the committee is working on appraisals of the property. Councilman Smith said there is another side of the discussion to consider. He said he has talked to a lot of people about the Corn Palace, and some said they want it left alone. “They say, ‘I kind of like the Corn Palace the way it is,’ ” he said.