Mitchell City Council: Don’t list City Hall as historicIce sheet plans chilled, Party Bus permit OK'd.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
The Mitchell City Council argued against designating City Hall as a historic place during its meeting Monday night.
The council, meeting inside City Hall, voted 6-1 to urge the South Dakota Historic Preservation Office not to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places.
“To me, there’s no upside,” said Council President Jeff Smith.
The council’s primary concern is that making City Hall, an art deco building built in 1937 as an armory and converted to a site for city offices in 1960, a historic site could risk all the city’s plans for the improvement of the adjacent Corn Palace.
“One individual in the community could hold this up if this is on the register,” Councilman Mel Olson said.
The city has planned to relocate city offices to a new City Hall, and convert the current city space into part of the Corn Palace expansion. There is also a chance the building could be demolished. South Dakota Historic Preservation Office Historic Preservation Specialist Liz Almlie spoke to the council and engaged in spirited back-and-forths with Olson at times. Almlie repeatedly told the council it would have the final say on the future, but the councilmen clearly doubted her and said so.
“We have ‘a say,’ but we do not have ‘the say.’ ” Olson said. “I’m struggling to understand what the advantage is to us.”
Almlie said the city can submit a report, which will be reviewed before a decision on the new boundaries of the Historic Downtown Commercial District will be set. The state board will set the borders at a Dec. 7 meeting and then submit them to the National Park Service, which can accept them or ask for them to be redone.
Mayor Ken Tracy asked if the city could be delayed at length in any efforts to modify or demolish City Hall, as the Holy Family Catholic Parish was a few years ago when it sought to tear down the old Notre Dame School, which was also on the Historic Register, but had major boiler problems.
It was a “debacle,” said Smith, who was on the Holy Family parish council at the time. Both local Catholic parishes, the South Dakota Catholic Diocese in Sioux Falls and the Mitchell Area Historical Society approved the plans, but some alumni of the school, with the assistance of the state Historical Society, fought it in court, delaying the project for six years.
City Attorney Carl Koch asked several questions about that same topic. Koch suggested announcing plans to tear down City Hall before the state history board meets, but Councilman Phil Carlson, who is also a lawyer, said the city’s plans aren’t far enough along yet.
Carlson also noted that someone could file a lawsuit even if City Hall was not on the historic list, but Koch said he didn’t feel that would be a serious legal issue. The matter could also be referred to a public vote, Carlson said.
That could block the Corn Palace project as well, and since that building is already on the list, such a challenge could occur at any time.
Almlie said the Historic Downtown Commercial District will grow smaller, and the council agreed with that evaluation.
Some properties and addresses currently in the district would be removed, and the district extended to include City Hall. The addresses that would be dropped either have been demolished or have undergone such alterations that they have lost historical significance.
She began her presentation on a positive note, emphasizing the positive attributes of a historic district. Almlie said such designations are a “useful tool,” and not just for “super-nerds” like herself.
But the mood quickly swung as the council, which had expressed concern about the City Hall designation at its Oct. 15 meeting, started up on the topic again.
“What’s historical to what you see right here on a basketball court?” asked Olson, who is a Mitchell High School history teacher.
He said if City Hall was added to the district, the city would need permission to do virtually anything to the building.
Public bodies can only comment when their buildings are added to the register, Almlie said, but cannot object. Private property owners can object and fight it in a more strenuous manner.
Once the vote had been taken, with only Carlson objecting, the mood shifted again, with Olson congratulating Almlie for entering “the lions’ den” for the discussion.
He also said the council’s efforts may be for naught.
“This will do absolutely no good,” Olson said, comparing it to manning the ramparts at The Alamo. He also said it provided the city with a paper trail if that is needed down the road.
Ice sheet plans chilled
Plans for a second sheet of ice at the Mitchell Activities Center were cooled down.
The council tabled an architectural/engineering agreement for the Mitchell Activity Center addition with Puetz Corp. as well as a construction management agreement with Puetz.
The $2.5 million project would add a second sheet of ice to the arena. Local hockey supporters have pledged to raise $500,000 and are reportedly well on their way to meeting that goal.
City Attorney Carl Koch said the city was “getting the cart before the horse” and said he was in part to blame for that. The city will have the bonds for the project sold before its next meeting and should pick up the issue then, he suggested.
Koch said it would be illegal to make the plans without the money in place, and that could have legal repercussions for the city’s elected officials if they did so.
Another issue came to the fore as well, as the idea of Puetz wearing two hats in the project was questioned.
Larry Jirsa, a Mitchell architect who said he was speaking as a citizen and was not seeking the ice arena job, said he had a concern about the project.
“You don’t have that third-party watchdog,” Jirsa said.
That’s usually a role played by the architect, he said.
Jirsa said Puetz is a “great” company with “great” employees, but he didn’t like the idea of it filling both the architect and construction manager roles, especially as the construction business grows more complicated.
“I really think they need to be separated,” he said. “I think you need a threeparty contract. I really think so. There’s a lot of things in those contracts that really leave an open checkbook.”
He said Puetz usually operates in this manner, and it works fine with private businesses when speed is a factor. In this case, he said the city should consider another option.
Mark Puetz, of Puetz Corp., said while he respects Jirsa, he disagrees with him.
There is a distinct advantage to his company’s method, he said, since things won’t be missed when the architect and the general contractor are working together, as Puetz proposes. The company is liable for all parts of the process, so there will not a battle between separate entities who might disagree on the building plans.
“We eliminate that issue,” Puetz said.
The council will revisit the issue in two weeks.
Budget, Indian Village grant
The council heard reports from two city committees that met before the council meeting.
The Finance Committee reviewed the 2013 budget, which it had approved two months ago, and approved a request from the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village for grant funding.
The Indian Village received $4,000 to provide matching funds to buy a foundation research program, which helps uncover funding sources. The current process to seek such dollars is “mostly a shot in the dark,” according to a letter to the city from the village.
Executive Director Cindy Gregg said the village wants to buy a five-year contract for the program at a cost of $8,000. She has raised $4,000 so far, and sought the city match.
Village visitation and gift shop sales are up, Gregg said, and they are “very, very busy.”
Obtaining the program to seek funding sources would be a great aid, she said, and the first grant she would seek would be to cover the cost of hooking up to the city sewer system. That is a $25,000 expense, she said, and she hopes to cover at least half of it with grant money.
Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson made a presentation on the budget. The $34,033,703 city budget is an 8.43 percent increase from the 2012 budget, which was $31.3 million.
The increase reflects an increase of expenditures on new capital projects planned in the city, including $6.5 million in improvements and renovations to the Corn Palace, $2.6 million for a new City Hall, $2.5 million for a second ice rink at the Mitchell Activities Center and $2.3 million for upgrades to the Mitchell Public Library.
Another reason for the increase is paying off current bonded debt to prepare to issue new bonds to pay for the new projects, she said. The operating budget remains similar to the previous year, while assessments increased 3 percent.
The council unanimously approved an application for a taxicab driver’s license from Party Bus Rock’n.
James Gibbs, of Mitchell, is the owner of the firm, and Jessica King, of Mitchell, is listed as the manager. The business is also seeking a state alcoholic beverage carrier license. The company would be allowed to dispense alcoholic drinks to its passengers.
King said a 15-passenger van/bus has already been bought, and the company plans to specialize in wedding parties, bachelor parties, and similar events, and not focus on bar business.
Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg said the state licenses cost $100 and any business that carries passengers, including airplanes, buses and taxis, can apply for one from the state. The city has no say on the issuance of that license, Overweg said, and if it’s awarded, the company could sell all forms of liquor on the bus.
Board of Adjustment
The council also sat as the Board of Adjustment to:
Approve the application of Sheena Vawser for a conditional use permit to operate a child care center in her home at 211 W. Douglas Ave.
Approve the application of Jason Carpenter for a backyard variance of 14 feet instead of 30 feet for a garage addition at 1709 Bridle Drive.
Approve the application of Margaret Bollack for a front yard variance of 22 feet instead of the mandated 30 feet for a garage extension at 1215 W. Fifth Ave.
Approve the application of Lois Swenson for a front yard variance of 18.5 feet instead of the required 30 feet to install a carport at 720 W. Sixth Ave.
In other agenda items, the council:
Approved, sitting as the Traffic Commission, Earl Giedd’s request to make the west side of the 700 block of North Langland a no-parking zone.
Approved, sitting as the Traffic Commission, a request to make a no-parking zone on the east side of Edgerton Street just south of the walking path extended another 125 feet, which was requested by County Fair.
Approved engineering design services with SPN & Associates for Capital Street utilities and street improvements, city Project 2013-6, for $134,000.
Approved a work order for City Project 2015-1, the East Fifth Avenue STIP with SDDOT and SPN & Associates for consultant services. It will be funded by a tax increment financing district.
Held the first reading of Ordinance 2419, a supplemental appropriation of $2,006,040 for the Avera Queen of Peace storm drainage project. Three-quarters of the money, $1,504,530, is from a federal grant, with the city and the hospital each kicking in $250,755. Smith said downpours at that end of Mitchell have caused extensive damage to the emergency room, so this was a good time to move ahead with this project.
Approved Resolution 3047, contingency transfers of $10,000 for the recently completed North Ohlman/Sawgrass storm drainage project, and $4,000 to the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village. The $10,000 addition is to cover a clerical error, Public Works Director Tim McGannon told the mayor during a morning meeting, Tracy said. McGannon was not present Monday night.
Set a Dec. 17 date to receive and consider sealed bids at 1:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers for surplus city property. The city appointed a three-man appraisal board that set the value of the land at $110,000. It is legally described as Lots 1-3 and 10-12, less the abutting vacated Davison Street and less H1 and H2, Block 49, Cooley & Guernsey’s Addition to the city of Mitchell, subject to easements, reservations and restrictions of record.
Set a Dec. 17 date to receive and consider bids for Cemetery Hayland-City Project 2013-5 at 1:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers.
Adopted Resolution 3045, a developer’s agreement for Tax Incremental Financing District 18, for the South Point Village Project.
Approved Resolution 3046, the plat of Tract 1 of Rice’s Addition.
Rejected, in a unanimous vote, holding the second reading of Ordinance 2415, which would have rezoned Lots 9 and 10 in Block 92 of Lawler’s Second Addition, in the city, from Single Family Residential (R-2) District to High Density Residential (R-4) District and amending the city zoning map. A structure from 112 N. Rowley St. had been planned to be relocated to the property. The Planning Commission had recommended the property not be rezoned, and some neighbors opposed it as well.
Held the second reading of and adopted Ordinance 2416, rezoning real property legally described as the north 1,000 feet of Lot 8, except the east 14 feet thereof in the northwest quarter and except H2, Section 33, Township 103 North, Range 60 West, Davison County, from Urban Development District (UD) to Highway Oriented Business District (HB) and amending the city zoning map.
Held the second reading of and adopted Ordinance 2417, supplemental appropriations of $59,215 on bond principals and fees for TIFs 5, 9 and 15; $83,000 for a dump truck chassis; $20,000 for liability insurance; $1,400 for books and manuals for the Public Works Department; and $25 for construction, an expense to close out Tax Improvement Financing District 13 fund.
Held the first reading of Ordinance 2418, rezoning real property legally described as the north 800 feet of the east half of Lot Six and the north 800 feet of Lots Four and Five, except for those portions thereof contained in Lots A and B, Section 33, Township 103 North, Range 60 West, Davison County, from Urban Development District (UD) to Highway Oriented Business District (HB) and amending the city zoning map. It will have a public hearing at noon Monday at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at City Hall.
Awarded a contract for competitive sealed proposal to Play & Park Structures for playground equipment for Cadwell and Hitchcock parks in the amount of $91,778.02. The firm was the low bidder.
Declared two Henderson sanders, both Model FSH-14, from the Street Division as surplus property and decided to trade one in on a snowplow for a loader that was purchased this summer.
Approved an automatic supplement to the General Fund-Economic Development in the amount of $107,500 for the MTI Mitchell workforce equipment purchase from community development block grants funds.
Approved an automatic supplement to the Enterprise Fund-Airport in the amount of $122,270 for the AIP-25 snow removal equipment building project from grant funds.
Approved two raffle requests: American Red Cross with the drawings to be held on Dec. 18, and My Fishing Pond Inc. with the drawing to be held on May 24.
Noted the absence of Councilman Greg McCurry, who is in Washington, D.C., on business.