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Mitchell City Council pledges $75,000 for rodeo bleachers

The Mitchell City Council committed $75,000 toward the construction of a fourth set of metal bleachers at the rodeo grounds during the second of three nights of budget hearings Tuesday at City Hall.

The Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo Committee asked for $75,000 to help pay for the construction of a set of metal bleachers, which will replace the last set of aging, wooden bleachers at Horseman Sports Arena, located in northern Mitchell.

"We thought we were in a position to look at building our final bleacher if we're able to have a partner to help us get it done," rodeo chairman Jim Miskimins said.

The estimated total cost of the project is approximately $166,000, according to Miskimins. With $75,000 from the city, the rest of the cost will be paid for with money that has already been raised, or money that will be borrowed by the committee.

The new set of bleachers will include 20 rows of seats and be 129 feet long, which means hundreds of seats will be added to the arena, Miskimins said.

"It would really give us a chance to take this rodeo as far as we can," he said.

Councilman Marty Barington, who called the wooden bleachers a safety hazard, said the new metal bleachers are a major improvement.

"If you fall down, it's because you probably deserve to," he said, referring to the new bleachers.

During the discussion, Councilman Mel Olson suggested adding a $30,000 loan to the $75,000 the city would commit to the project to ensure the bleachers are built within the next year.

With $75,000 from the city, Miskimins said demolition could most likely be done this fall and construction of the new set of bleachers could be done the following spring.

"If the city gives us $75,000, it's going to get done," Miskimins said.

The council agreed the project should be completed by next year.

"If you do get in a bind, you can come back and give us an update," Councilman Jeff Smith said, addressing Miskimins.

Other funding requests

Mitchell Main Street & Beyond asked for a $45,000 contribution for various projects and expenses, with a three-year commitment from the city for that amount. MMS&B Board President Carrie English said taxable sales in the city's historic downtown area have increased from about $23 million to about $28 million in the past year. Meanwhile, membership in MMS&B has increased from 56 to 112.

MMS&B was budgeted to receive $42,000 from the city, which makes the group's request is a $3,000 increase.

"I am hearing from other parts of the city that we are spending more time on downtown than is warranted," Olson said.

MMS&B Executive Director Molly Goldsmith noted the group's revenue has increased in the past year.

"We're telling ourselves that we have to raise more money and bring in more memberships," Goldsmith said.

Smith suggested raising the amount the city gives to MMS&B to $43,000, based on a cost-of-living increased, and that was later approved by the council.

The council approved a $15,000 request from the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village asked to help fund a comprehensive marketing and advertising campaign.

The majority of the $15,000 will be used to pay for billboards advertising the facility, according to executive director Cynthia Gregg

"We have proven, without any doubt, that we need the billboards," Gregg said.

Approximately 13,000 people visited the Prehistoric Indian Village in 2012, an 18 percent increase, even while the facility has slashed its costs for marketing, utilities and maintenance, according to Gregg. Meanwhile, gift shop sales have increased 35 percent.

The Dakota Discovery Museum requested $7,500 to help pay for advertising and marketing, an amount already included in the budget.

Last year, the council rejected the museum's request for $15,000 to hire a part-time educational coordinator and instead gave $7,500 for advertising and marketing. In 2013, the museum has seen a 25 percent increase in visitors and nearly doubled its gift shop sales, according to executive director Lori Holmberg.

The council approved a $500 increase in the budget for the Mitchell Municipal Band, for a total of $10,500.

Mark Puetz, of the Lake Mitchell Development Committee, discussed with the council a potential project to lower the water level of Lake Mitchell to benefit shore stabilization, water quality and other aspects of the lake. Puetz also discussed the potential renovation of both the fishing dock at Kibbe Park and the west end boat ramp.

The council decided to move about $61,000 in a reserve fund for the committee into the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department's budget and put the committee under the supervision of that city department.

Capital requests

The council reviewed capital funding requests from the city's various departments.

The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department is $80,000 to replace the backstop at the east complex at Cadwell Park Sports Complex, with an identical request planned for the west complex in 2015. The department also asked for $40,000 to replace playground equipment at Pioneer Park and another $30,000 to repair the parking lot at the Lake Mitchell Day Camp.

Public Works Director Tim McGannon discussed the $200,000 budgeted for the first phase of a project for shoreline stabilization between the Lake Mitchell spillway and Kibbe Park.

Councilwoman Susan Tjarks said she has been called by residents concerned the project could mean the removal of trees in the area.

"We're all tree lovers," McGannon said. "But, the shoreline erosion is going to take care of those trees anyway."

Because of the shoreline erosion in the area, Barington said the city needs to act quickly, regardless of concerns about the trees.

"This is an area I think we need to address differently," he said.

The city's departments made a total of $4.2 million in capital outlay requests for 2014. That's slightly less than this year's total of $4.6 million.

The council also approved the hiring of an additional full-time bus driver for Palace Transit, which Senior Services Director Jessica Pickett said will decrease the number of hours required for part-time drivers.

A proposed budget will be presented at the Sept. 2 council meeting and will be voted on at the following meeting Sept. 16. Decisions made during the budget hearings will not technically be adopted until the budget as a whole is approved. Decisions made during the budget hearings will not technically be adopted until the budget as a whole is approved.