Mayor: City projects nearing realityWork could begin this winter on ice sheet, library renovation.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Dirt is ready to fly on two of the city’s four major upcoming construction projects. Mayor Ken Tracy said work could begin soon on expansions at the Mitchell Activities Center (aka, the indoor ice rink) and the Mitchell Public Library. The City Council approved the creation of capital funds for the library renovation project and the MAC addition project during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night at City Hall.
Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson was authorized to create a $2.5 million fund for the MAC project and a $2.3 million fund for the library project. “Those two projects are probably a little farther along in the process,” Mayor Ken Tracy said in a pre-meeting interview. Tracy said “weather depending,” work could begin this winter.
The MAC project includes adding a second sheet of ice. The addition will share a common wall, the south wall of the current MAC.
Earlier this year, the council voted to spend $6.5 million in improvements and renovations at the Corn Palace, $2.6 million for a new City Hall, $2.5 million for a second ice rink at the MAC and $2.3 million for upgrades to the Mitchell Public Library.
The money from these funds will come from the bond sales which were conducted last week, as the city sold $10 million in bonds. Another $3.9 million in bonds will be sold in early January, and that money will eventually be placed into the Corn Palace fund.
The council placed $4.8 million of the $13.9 million into the two capital funds Monday night, and also designated $2.6 million for construction of the Corn Palace expansion project, and $2.335 million for the City Hall construction project. Capital funds for those two will be approved when those projects are ready to begin.
The City Hall and Corn Palace projects cannot get under way until plans are completed, Tracy said.
“The Corn Palace, I think they’re working now with MS&R, the architect, (Minneapolis-based architecture firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle) to get a better picture of what will be undertaken,” he said.
The plan is to shift the Corn Palace gift shop into what is now the adjacent City Hall building or into the current armory above the city offices. Exhibits would likely be placed in that space as well.
The project also includes work on the domes, and improved lighting, both interior and exterior, a better temperature control system, additional handicapped seating, and an improved entrance, Tracy said. Those plans and other details are still being hammered out by a Next Generation Corn Palace Committee and city staffers.
“I think they are trying to work with MS&R to get some estimates for any and all of those proposals and phases that they want,” he said.
Tracy said the firm has yet to submit a bill, and he doesn’t know how much it will ask. MS&R has already been paid $115,500 for Corn Palace designs that were unveiled in January and have apparently been scrapped.
“I would guess at some point they’re going to want some payment,” he said.
Tracy said all four projects should be completed by 2014 or 2015. The first two could be completed by the end of 2013 if everything falls into place.
Tracy said the new City Hall is a year or two away “certainly” before it is completed, and the Corn Palace expansion is on the same schedule. The city has closed on downtown property for the new City Hall, as well as for a parking lot.
The city is buying two adjoining properties on the northeast corner of the First Avenue and Rowley Street intersection for a total of $171,500. Two buildings will be removed to make way for a new city hall.
Work on the Corn Palace will have to be timed to not conflict with scheduled events at the city-owned facility, which hosts basketball and volleyball games, concerts and other events.
“I can envision that all of these projects, I think the projects might be simultaneously under construction,” he said. “Certainly two of them, and possibly all four of them. These are going to be the next two in line.”
Paying for all four is further along, with the city selling the bonds. Tracy said more money may be needed to complete the work.
“We don’t have a final on the city hall. The last rendering that we had was one that was estimated to cost $3.4 million,” he said. “The council only committed $2.6 million, out of which some of that was for land acquisition.”
The city will spend about $200,000 for the land, leaving it short for the plan that was introduced. Tracy said that plan could be scaled back, perhaps to about $3 million. That would leave the city about $600,000 short.
“I would believe we may need more funds to build a new city hall if one were put into perspective what the estimates were,” he said. “I’m a little hesitant to move forward on a new city hall for $2.3 million.”
He said Sen. Tim Johnson, DS.D., told him that Vermillion spent $3 million on its new City Hall. If Mitchell wants to build a new structure that will last at least 50 years, it may need to spend that much money, Tracy said.
The answer may come from the $6.5 million set aside for the Corn Palace. Tracy said there is hope that a private donation and a sponsorship for Corn Palace exhibits might supplement the city’s dollars. A major agriculture company may want to sponsor some of the exhibits, and perhaps someone from Mitchell would donate money for a new auxiliary gymnasium.
NBA star Mike Miller, a member of the champion Miami Heat, grew up in Mitchell and played his high school games at the Corn Palace.
“That’s the name that has been often dropped,” Tracy said.
If new dollars could be found for the Corn Palace, some of that $6.5 million could be moved over to pay for the new City Hall, he said.
In the meantime, the nearly $9 million in cash the city received for the sale of bonds that is dedicated to City Hall and the Corn Palace will remain in the bank, where it will draw less than 1 percent interest.
A final piece of the fiscal pie is a proposed business improvement district (BID), which would place a tax on hotels and motels, with the money devoted to the ice sheet project. Tracy said he has been told that is coming along well, with most hotel/motel owners supporting it.
Liquor licenses approved
The council approved applications for renewal of liquor and wine licenses, including retail (onsale) licenses, which include Sunday sales; a convention center license, also including Sunday sales; package (off-sale) licenses; and retail (on- and off-sale) wine licenses.
The licenses of three businesses were put under a spotlight, although all were approved after a 15-minute discussion.
Whiskey Creek and Shay’s Restaurant & Lounge at the Ramada Inn both failed a pair of alcohol stings for selling to minors. Both were asked to come up with improvement plans.
Councilman Mel Olson, without mentioning it by name, asked about the fights and other problems at another bar.
Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg mentioned the bar Thirsty’s by name, and Olson said that was the business he was referring to when he spoke. The chief said police have responded to 10 assault calls to the bar in one year; he did not have statistics for other bars.
Thirsty’s has enacted an improvement plan, he said.
Mitchell lawyer Tim Bottum, representing both Thirsty’s and the Ramada Inn, said harsh state laws are designed to regulate bars and prevent such violations, and both bars are well aware of that.
Bottum said the Ramada hired a new manager, fired both employees who served minors, and is sensitive to this problem, since one more violation could cost the hotel its liquor license.
Thirsty’s put together an improvement plan, tripled its security budget and hired a private security firm in June, and has seen assault calls go down to just three in six months, a sharp reduction, Bottum said.
A pair of Sioux Falls bars that serve a comparable amount of alcohol each have had more than 100 calls in a year, to show a comparison, he added.
“The owners certainly take these seriously, don’t want them to occur and are taking steps to ensure that they don’t,” he said.
Whiskey Creek General Manager Josh Soulek said the bar takes the problem very seriously. The two employees who sold to minors were fired, and two more lost their jobs when they failed in-house stings. The issue is discussed in daily meetings, he said.
Overweg said he was pleased there was “some movement” and believes the bars are making efforts to improve.
Fast draw request
The Powderhorn Ranch Regulators made a request for $5,000 in financial support for the national cowboy fast draw championships, which will be held at Cabela’s Aug. 14-18.
A group of club members spoke to the council and asked for the $5,000, as well as to have city bleachers placed at the shooting site temporarily.
The group received $250 for advertising from the Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The group left without a commitment from the council, but Jacki Miskimins from the CVB, and Councilman Greg McCurry, who is the council liaison on the CVB board, said they would be willing to hear a presentation on the event.
Lake Mitchell rip rap
The council heard from Tracy, who said round rock will not be placed around Lake Mitchell to serve as rip rap to reduce shore erosion because it cannot be located.
“I understand maybe the disappointment,” Tracy said. “Because I made that promise. But we have made a lot of improvements out there.”
Other, less decorative rocks will be put into the water instead.
Public Works Director Tim McGannon said the city worked hard to locate the round rock.
“I had no luck,” McGannon said.
The council approved Resolution 3054, dealing with a South Dakota Office of Emergency Management-Federal Emergency Management Agency grant for the construction of surface drainage facilities in conjunction with Avera Queen of Peace Hospital.
The city and Queen of Peace will both pay $250,755 to land a $1,504,530 million grant for the project. The council adopted Ordinance 2419, a supplemental appropriation of $2,006,040 for this project.
The council also approved a project management agreement for Avera Queen of Peace with city.
The council held the first reading of Ordinance 2420, numerous supplemental appropriations for city departments and divisions in excess of $400,000.
Wilson said rules enacted in 2010 state that a department, even if it is in the black, must submit each changed budget line item as a supplemental request. For example, a department that is under budget overall cannot shift money from one over-funded line item to another under-funded line item with a supplement to the budget approved by the council.
She said city departments and divisions are careful with public money. Wilson said $2.3 million of the 2011 general fund was returned to the city after it was unspent. Olson said he thinks this new system works well.
He asked Overweg to point out that most of the Fire Division’s request for overtime payments will come from hours Mitchell firefighters spent fighting fires in western South Dakota and Nebraska, and the city will be reimbursed by the state wildlands fire agency. The city will actually get $8,000 more than was spent, since it will be paid for the use of fire engines, Overweg said.
McGannon noted that the city spent $150,000 more than was budgeted on B-Y pipeline water, but bought it for 75 cents per 1,000 gallons and sold it for $4 the same amount.
The “profit” is put toward paying off the B-Y water bonds and to cover other expenses.
In other business, the council:
Adopted Resolution 3048, authorizing an application for a loan of up to $800,000 from the state Board of Water and Natural Resources for improvements to the Norway Street lift station. The 30-year loan, with a 3.25 percent interest rate, will be repaid with wastewater system revenue.
Approved Resolution 3053, rescinding Resolution 2707, which required commercial driver’s license medical certification for Palace Transit drivers. The city recently settled lawsuits with three former Palace Transit drivers who cited the tests in claims of discrimination against city government. Councilman Olson said while he supported the change, he didn’t think it was unreasonable to ask drivers to undergo such testing.
Held a required public progress hearing on a community development block grant for Mitchell School District’s workforce development project. The grant dollars flow through the city to the agency that uses them.
Held a required public progress hearing on a community development block grant for Abbott House’s dorm construction project.
Approved reports from the Traffic Commission’s and Finance Committee’s Nov. 19 meetings.
Heard an annual report on the Davison County Local Emergency Operation Plan from Davison County Emergency Manager Jim Montgomery.
Heard an update and a report on a revised sign ordinance. City Planner Neil Putnam said he is trying to consolidate the city’s signage rules into one section of the city code. Putnam will make it easier for city staff and the public to determine what the rules are, and he also plans to update some of the terminology.
Putnam and City Attorney Carl Koch sent a letter to the South Dakota Historic Preservation Office asking for Mitchell City Hall not be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, Tracy announced. The building is being considered for a historic designation, but the council has expressed concern that if that happens, it could prevent the city from modifying or demolishing the building as part of its Corn Palace improvement plans.
Set a 1:30 p.m. Jan. 7 time and date to receive and consider bids for a one-year supply of class III concrete pipe, city project 2013-8, at City Council Chambers.
Adopted Resolution 3049, the plat of Lots 1 and 2, Block 4, of Westwood First Addition.
Adopted Resolution 3050, the plat of Lot 9-A, Block 10, of Fullerton Properties First Addition.
Adopted Resolution 3051, the plat of Lot 8 in Tract J, Wild Oak Golf Club Addition.
Adopted Resolution 3052, the plat of Lots 1, 2, 3, 4-A, 5, 6, 7 and 8, Block 1, and Lots 3, 4, 5 and 6-A, Block 2 of the Woods First Addition. This will be the site for a new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) church.
Held the second reading of and adopted 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’s official zoning map.
Renewed the city’s self-funded health insurance plan for 2013, and authorized Tracy to sign it today. Employee premiums increased 10 percent, dental insurance went up, and their deductibles went up from $500 to $750. Retiree rates were adjusted to reflect a change in 2010 from a three-tier plan to one tier. The COBRA rate for departing employees increased to the Dakota Care maximum, and the stop-loss, designed to protect the city from catastrophic claims, increased from $60,000 to $75,000. “It’s not unusual to see an increase in rates,” Tracy said. “This is a necessary move to keep funded.”
Approved an automatic supplement to the Special Revenue Fund, Parks, Recreation & Forestry, in the amount of $34,318 for building repair from hail damage from an insurance claim reimbursement from the May hailstorm.
Acknowledged the volunteer listing on file with the Human Resource Office.
Declared a 1986 F150 Ford truck from the Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department as surplus property.
Approved applications for taxicab general licenses from Palace Transit, E-Z Ride Taxi Cab and Becky’s Vans-Designated Drivers.
Approved pay estimates.