City Hall debate down to two optionsOfficials consider renovating old MTI building or constructing new facility.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
City officials hope to take major steps toward deciding the future of Mitchell City Hall during budget meetings next week, Mayor Ken Tracy said Wednesday.
Two options remain in the city’s quest to relocate City Hall: move the offices to Mitchell Technical Institute’s recently vacated north campus building or build a new city hall downtown, Tracy said.
A pair of detailed proposals shown Monday to the Mitchell City Council outlined both options.
A final decision may not be made next week, Tracy said, but the relocation will be a “major topic” as officials decide the specifics of the city’s budget for the coming fiscal year. Budget hearings are at 5:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at City Hall and continue Aug. 20.
Both proposals have their pros and cons, Tracy said.
Renovating the MTI building would cost an estimated $2.09 million, about half the cost of building a new facility, Tracy said.
Besides being less expensive, the MTI facility offers the city adequate office space and room for parking, as well as the opportunity to work with the Mitchell School District, Tracy said. The facility is being vacated as MTI consolidates at its south campus. Part of the north campus facility is being converted by the school district to a Career and Technical Education Academy.
The school district has already set aside the section of the building that could potentially become the new City Hall, Tracy said, and neither party is concerned about a lack of space in the school-owned building.
“We’ve been assured there is sufficient space for both of us,” he said.
Tracy said the city and the district would likely come to an agreement that would prevent any conflicts if the school wanted to expand.
The school district would continue to own the building, but the two entities would have a joint-use agreement. The details of that agreement have yet to be worked out, Tracy said.
But Tracy does have concerns about the city moving into the MTI building, which is 50 years old. The facility requires major work to its roof, as well as its heating and cooling system, and future spending on maintenance would almost certainly be higher than at a new facility, Tracy said.
Wayne and Mark Puetz, of Puetz Corp., said the MTI building has been maintained well, and that factored into the economic cost of the proposed renovation.
They described the difference between the two proposals as “night and day.”
“The reason why we did these two options on behalf of the city is really to give the public options,” said Mark Puetz. “One is definitely more expensive, but it’s a building that the city will own and maintain at a location closer to downtown.”
The location of the MTI building, which sits on North Capital Street in the northeast section of the city, is farther from downtown Mitchell than the council would like, Tracy added.
A $3.4 million price tag was placed on the new city hall option when it was presented to the council on Monday, but that did not include the cost of acquiring land or demolishing existing buildings. Taking those additional costs into consideration, a “safe estimate” would be closer to $4 million, Tracy said.
The cost is similar to other newly constructed civic buildings in the state, Puetz said.
Despite the cost, Tracy was impressed with the plans for a brand new City Hall.
“The housing of our city offices sends a statement, and this would be a positive one,” he said. “I don’t think it’s extravagant, but it’s a very attractive option.”
The architectural plans presented to the council show the potential new facility located on the north side of First Avenue between Duff Street and Rowley Street, across from the Mitchell Public Safety Building. The site is currently occupied by the Garden of Eden Garden & Landscape building and The Hair Affair, and a parking lot owned by the city.
No decision has been made regarding where a new city hall would be located, Tracy said, though the search has been narrowed to the downtown area.
“We have two to three options right now that we’re looking at,” Tracy said. “I’m hopeful that one of them will come through and that we can then have the definite location as well as price to present to the council.”
Two spots downtown where the city owns vacant property also remain possible locations, Tracy said. The first is a parking lot on the west side of North Main Street located just north of The Depot, and the second is another parking lot northeast of the current City Hall on North Lawler Street.
“We’re going to keep our options open,” Tracy said.
Finding adequate parking at other locations downtown has ruled out several other locations in the area, he added.
Once city officials decide which proposal to move forward with, they must then decide how to pay for it. The city has approximately $1.7 million set aside for special projects like the City Hall relocation, but other projects, including a Corn Palace expansion, city library renovation and adding a new ice sheet at the Mitchell Activities Center, will all have to be considered before that money is spent, Tracy said.
The motivation for moving City Hall is to free up space in the existing City Hall building, which adjoins the Corn Palace, for tourism-related exhibits or activities.
A new city hall could also help revitalize Mitchell’s downtown area, Tracy said.
“There are certainly a lot of positives in having a new building that are somewhat intangible, but are important.”
However, if the city could grow the $1.7 million it has set aside, Tracy said it might be possible to relocate city offices to the MTI building without bonding.
“They’re tough decisions to make,” he said.