Mitchell City Council looks at major projectsRec Center, 'Second Generation' Corn Palace, remodeled library second ice sheet discussed during lengthy meeting.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Proposals for five major projects were under review by the Mitchell City Council on Monday night at City Hall.
They included $11.5 million for a Rec Center expansion, $11.4 million for a “Next Generation” Corn Palace, $2.4 million for a second ice sheet, $2.2 million for a library remodel and expansion and an undisclosed amount for relocating City Hall.
Councilman Travis Carpenter emphasized the council was reviewing plans and no final decisions would be made or dollars allocated.
“These are all proposals,” Carpenter said, and Councilman Mel Olson said he hoped people understood that. A flurry of cost estimates, proposals and questions filled the council room during the meeting.
The Recreation Center needs an upgrade, said Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department Director Dusty Rodiek.
“Our objective with this project is to create a family atmosphere at the Rec Center,” Rodiek said. “That’s not to say there isn’t now.”
But he said the building was designed with an emphasis on workout areas. Now, most people, especially those with children, want play areas and other places in the building for programs and activities.
The current pool is more than 40 years old, Rodiek said, and is not large enough for competitive swimming events. A new pool would offer meet specifications and have seating for crowds at meets.
A new gymnasium would also be added to the facility. There is a need for more space and programs, he said, with a 10 percent increase in membership in the last few years. The center is simply outgrowing its space, Rodiek said.
A proposal for a second Rec Center located near Cadwell Park has been introduced by a private group, Rodiek said. He had no dollar figures for it, since a submitted budget needed to be “refined,” he said, before it could be publicly discussed.
If the new center is built, the city would offer the current Rec Center to the school district, Rodiek said.
Doug Dailey, chairman of the “Next Generation” Corn Palace committee, reviewed plans for a project to enhance the building and make it more inviting and interesting to visitors.
Dailey said the goal is to “improve the visitor experience” for the Corn Palace and the downtown area while also making it more attractive to locals and instilling a greater sense of civic pride.
The plan calls for removing the second-level gym floor located above City Hall and placing exhibits there, Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said. An elevator would be added and it would be made to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Schilling said a second basketball floor would be added in another area under the plan.
Councilman Mel Olson, who worked as a Corn Palace guide in the mid-1990s, said a new Palace is needed. Olson said more than 400,000 people came through it 20 years ago. Now, it’s 250,000 and declining, and he said it will be 100,000 in another decade unless something else is done.
“The initial return on investment is not to lose any more money,” Olson said.
Councilman Marty Barington, who serves on the committee, called the plan “phase one” and said it was the minimum amount of improvements needed. Barington said there is a simple response if more is discarded to allow other city projects to move ahead.
“The answer of the committee is no,” he said.
Barington said if this proposal was scaled back, the entire thing should be dropped.
The plan released Monday is a far cry from the $35 million proposal unveiled in January, Dailey admitted. He said the committee heard the public loud and clear.
But it still calls for a streetscape around the Corn Palace, improving the façade with lights and larger murals, placing mosaic tiles on the lower area of the exterior and adding an observation area, perhaps a balcony.
Adding the second ice sheet was the last of five major projects touched on during the meeting. It would cost about $2.4 million, with a goal of one-fourth of that coming from private sources.
Under the plan, the second sheet would be located in an expanded Mitchell Activities Center, according to Mike Mohr, of the Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association. The second rink would be somewhat smaller and have less seating.
There is a need and a demand for the ice, he said. Far more kids are playing hockey locally, Mohr said. Girls’ hockey has been especially popular in recent years, he said. The men’s league is also drawing more players.
An estimated 17,000 people passed through the facility’s doors last season, he said.
“We’ve outgrown it,” Mohr said. “We’re maxed out.”
With a second sheet, Mitchell could host more tournaments, and possibly a boys’ state tourney, he said.
There are other options, including summer hockey, and possibly a professional team. Aberdeen has a minor league hockey team and Brookings has added one. The Aberdeen Wings play before large, enthusiastic crowds, he said.
The library renovation plan was unveiled by Library Director Jackie Hess.
Architect Larry Jirsa, of Mitchell, and Dick Freske, of Professional Construction Services, of Huron, prepared a plan for the $2.2 million project. Hess went through a 22-point proposal to update and improve the facility.
It called for a new circulation desk, improved computer equipment, enhanced lighting and doubling the size of the meeting room, since popular events there have forced people to stand or sit in the hallway, Hess said. Other improvements are part of the plan, such as designated areas for children’s reading and summer programs, used book sales, and South Dakota history as well as literature and adding a coffee bar.
Three additions, adding about 5,000 square feet to the building, would be required, Freske said.
McCurry questioned what a library will look like in 20 years, as fewer people use print products. Hess said people who use electronic devices will use the library and it is increasingly a popular spot for meetings and gatherings.
The city wants to improve and possibly expand the Corn Palace, and the first step to do that is to move city offices out of the adjacent City Hall and use that space for tourism attractions and other facilities.
Puetz Corp. is “fine-tuning” plans to move City Hall to Mitchell Technical Institute’s north campus, according to Councilman and Mayor-elect Ken Tracy, who chairs the relocation committee.
On June 25, Puetz will provide costs estimate for refurbishing the building, Tracy said. Space will be available in the building soon when MTI consolidates on its south campus.
The Council Chambers were packed throughout most of the meeting. It was the final full regular meeting for Mayor Lou Sebert and Councilman Travis Carpenter, who are departing from city government July 2.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion on some great projects,” Sebert said. “Can we do them all? Probably not.”
But Sebert said it was important to set goals and to get the community excited and keep them informed.
No park renaming
The council decided not to move to change the name of Northridge Park to honor Iszabella “Bella” Morgan, who was killed in a two-vehicle collision earlier this year.
The council had planned to discuss a naming policy for municipal facilities, which was brought to the fore after Councilmen Tracy and Olson suggested renaming the park for Morgan, who was 9 when she died.
Rodiek said the Park Board issued a statement recognizing the tragic loss of Morgan and other people but did not want to alter park names.
“The board is not in favor of renaming existing parks on these events,” he said.
Instead, it favored designating some areas of the park as a memorial for the family. A spot that may be known as “Bella’s Butterfly Garden” would honor all children who have been lost, Rodiek said.
He said he has visited with members of the Morgan family, including a representative who attended the board meeting. The family is honored by the thought behind it and would accept the butterfly garden concept, Rodiek said.
In other business, council members:
• Heard reports from the Public Health & Safety Committee and the Traffic Commission, which meet prior to the council meeting.
The Traffic Commission discussed adding signage on one-way streets and at intersections.
Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg, the chairman of the commission, said he favored an effort to “beef up” some of the signage, adding additional wrong way signs and stop signs as well as painting white arrows in intersections. It would cost $1,600 for signage.
The commission, and Olson, who does not serve on it but sat in on the meeting, said stop signs on the “wrong” way at intersections might confuse people and lead them to believe the streets were two-way. Instead, it favored adding wrong-way signs and the painting in the intersections.
Doing that instead would cut costs to about $800.
The commission also approved a parade permit for the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo on July 21. It’s an annual request.
It approved a request from Mitchell Main Street & Beyond to block off the Fifth and Main parking lot on June 21, July 19, Aug. 16 and Sept. 20 for a planned “Third Thursdays” event.
The commission approved a parade permit request for a Sehnert family benefit poker run starting at 1 p.m. July 7. Intersections will be temporarily closed as the poker run passes through the city. The Sehnerts were forced from their home by a fire this spring and Jaxson Sehnert died from smoke inhalation.
• Set a July 2 date for a hearing on the application of Jack and Jamie Wipf for a variance for a front yard setback of 4 feet instead of 30 feet at 1123 S. Duff St.
• Set a July 2 date for a hearing on the application of Kay L. and Boyd A. Reimnitz Sr. for a conditional use permit to build mini-storage buildings at the 400 block of West Birch Avenue.
• Held a hearing on and approved the application of Joe Schlimgen for a variance to construct a garage, with the side yard setback 1 foot instead of the required 3 feet at 308 W. Fifth Ave.
• Set a July 2 date for a hearing on the application of Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village for a special event malt beverage and wine license on Aug. 4 at 3200 Indian Village Road for the August Moon Festival.
• Set a Sept. 13 date for the city of Mitchell’s surplus auction The original date was Sept. 11 but Olson said that date should not be crowded with other events.
• Approved Resolution 3001, the plat of Lots F and G of J.A. Harris First Addition.
• Approved Resolution 3002, plat of Lot A-1, a subdivision of previously platted Green’s Outlots 1 and 2.
• Approved Resolution 3005, an emergency procurement for repairs, without advertising, for the repair of the Corn Palace roof pursuant to SDCL 5-18A-9. The roof of the city-owned building was damaged by hail this spring. It will cost about $175,000, with the city’s insurance carrier expected to cover the bill.
• Held the first reading of Ordinance 2407, supplemental appropriations of $130,000 for street construction and $7,200 to purchase a water line leading to BankWest.
• Permitted the Department of Public Safety to apply for an $18,441 grant from the South Dakota Department of Highway Safety to fund the South Central Alcohol Task Force, with no matching monies required.
• Voted to allow the Department of Public Safety to apply for a grant from the South Dakota Department of Highway Safety for speed enforcement overtime of $11,520 with no matching monies from the city of Mitchell, and $5,065 for a speed board which is an 80/20 match with the city of Mitchell paying $1,013.
• Approved an automatic supplement to the Special Revenue Fund-Parks & Recreation in the amount of $1,000 for the purchase of benches.
• Approved an automatic supplement to the Special Revenue Fund-Parks & Recreation in the amount of $1,571 for shelter repair expenses from donations of funds.
• Approved the application of the Exchange Club of Mitchell for a special event malt beverage and wine license at Cadwell Park for Aug. 1-12 for the state amateur baseball tournament.
• Approved the application of the Exchange Club of Mitchell for a special event malt beverage and wine license at the Horseman Sports Arena on Aug. 22 for the Bull Bash.
• Approved raffle requests from the Safe House Foundation Board with the drawing to be held in February 2013 and the James River Gobblin-National Wild Turkey Feed with the drawing to be held Oct. 22.
• Approved the Norway lift station improvement project, which is contracted to SPN & Associates. It’s pay estimate 3 in the amount of $7,600.
• Heard Marc Bernard speak out against relocating the east boat ramp at Lake Mitchell, which, he said, could mean the removal of more than 60 adult trees and the addition of a great deal of pavement.
Claiming to speak for “a large number of people,” Bernard said removing even one tree would be an error and reducing habitat is wrong as well. He said there has been a lack of communication with the public on the matter as well, which bothered him.
While the matter has been discussed by the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee and the Park Board, there are no minutes of 2012 lake committee meetings on the city website and just sketchy minutes of Park Board meetings, Bernard said.
“Furthermore, curb and gutter around a few hundred feet at the lake?” he asked rhetorically. “Who are we kidding, folks?”
Bernard said he favors improving the wild area around the lake and not working to “commercialize it.”
Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Dusty Rodiek said the project is still just proposed and no trees will be removed at this time. It is still under review, he said.
Rodiek said one thing did bother him: “None of the opponents of this project have come to me or the lake or park committee to get information on this project,” he said.
Sebert said the matter has just been up for discussion and no funding has been found for it. He said people should not jump to conclusions and seek to cast blame the city.
• Bob Porter offered the “top nine questions” about the SolarBee, which he repeatedly noted costs $27,000 but is not being used for some reason.