Council increases funding for downtown groupCity officials approved a $12,000 increase in funding to Mitchell Main Street & Beyond during the second of three nights of budget hearings Tuesday at City Hall.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
City officials approved a $12,000 increase in funding to Mitchell Main Street & Beyond during the second of three nights of budget hearings Tuesday at City Hall.
Representatives from Mitchell Main Street & Beyond appeared before the Mitchell City Council to request $42,000 from the city to help fund the organization’s work improving and revitalizing the downtown area. The city has provided the group with $30,000 annually since at least 2009. The group also requested assistance from the city to water flower pots downtown, which it equated to a $3,000 in-kind grant.
“We aren’t asking because of bad times,” said Carrie English, the group’s secretary. “We’re asking because we’ve grown too large.”
A portion of the funds will be used to hire a part-time employee to do administrative work to free others up to do other project-related work. The group hopes to increase its membership among businesses and individuals in Mitchell from 73 to 100.
“We will be working on hitting the pavement a little bit more,” said Billy Mawhiney, the group’s treasurer.
Mitchell Main Street & Beyond funded its own $33,000 study regarding a streetscape project intended to improve the aesthetics of downtown Mitchell. The group was also involved in bringing farmers markets to downtown Mitchell, an effort that earned the group praise from council members.
“You’re on the right track and you’re increasing traffic downtown on weekends,”” said Councilman Greg McCurry, of the farmers markets.
The council unanimously approved the $42,000 request.
“I think it would be hypocritical of us to talk about renovating the Corn Palace and downtown improvement and not fund this,” said Councilman Mel Olson.
The group also approved requests for funding from Dakota Discovery Museum, Dakota Heartland Development Association and the Mitchell Area Safehouse.
Dakota Discovery Museum Executive Director Lori Holmberg asked the council for $15,000 to hire a part-time educational director. The position would involve working with the community to develop and present educational programs at the museum.
Holmberg also notified the council of the dramatic decrease in advertising funds the museum has experienced. Advertising funds have been slashed dramatically, and were down to $2,200 last year, she said.
The council did not back Holmberg’s proposal to hire a part-time educational director, but chose instead to give $7,500 to fund advertising for the museum.
“If you don’t have people coming through the door, I don’t care how good your educational programs are,” Olson said. “Advertising is where it’s at.””
Dakota Heartland Development Association, a rural economic development group, requested and received $20,000 from the city for economic development projects in the small towns around the Mitchell area. The organization has received $10,000 from the city each of the last two years.
Olson acknowledged that funding the group would mean sending money from taxpayers in Mitchell to other towns, but he said it would act as an investment in the region.
“Mitchell depends on a strong region around us,” Olson said.
Councilman Jeff Smith agreed. “In reality, we are supporting Mitchell because we are the hub in the center of this trade area,” he said.
Mitchell Area Safehouse Executive Director Wendy Figland requested and received $3,000 from the city, an increase from the $2,500 the group has received in past years.
Figland attributed the increase to the nearly doubled use of the service. It is the organization’s first funding increase request since 2000.
“Mostly, what we have a need for is toward the upkeep of the shelter, as far as the supplies that are needed for the victims,” Figland said.
For the remainder of the night, the council discussed special revenue funding requests from the city’s various departments. Notable requests included $350,000 to continue updating water meters around the city, $300,000 to the wastewater treatment plant to replace the Norway Street lift station and $75,000 toward the design phase of a proposal to construct a new landfill cell estimated to cost about $850,000.
Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling appeared before the council to discuss his requests for $265,000 to upgrade the Corn Palace’s temperature control system and another $92,500 to purchase new corn exhibits from the Indiana State Museum. Though other requests were outlined in his budget proposal, he explained that if the council moves forward with the plan to renovate and expand the Corn Palace, those requests would be included in that project.
The council will meet again Monday for the third and final hearing on the city’s proposed 2013 budget of roughly $29 million. Monday’s hearing will include a discussion of the proposed Corn Palace project, as well as the proposal to add a new ice sheet at the Mitchell Activities Center, relocating City Hall, renovating the public library and expanding the Mitchell Recreation Center.