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Funding for government lapses as short-term spending bill stalls in the Senate

Fund for new Mitchell City Hall bolstered to $3.2M in proposed budget

The city of Mitchell's proposed 2014 budget includes an additional $875,000 for the construction of a new city hall, increasing the amount available for the project to about $3.2 million.

The city has already set aside $2.6 million for a new city hall, which is planned for southern downtown, as part of $13.9 million in bonds it sold in December and January for major projects in the city.

At Tuesday night's budget hearing at City Hall, Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson told the council she included approximately $875,000 in next year's proposed budget, which will be added to the $2.6 million already set aside for the project.

That brings the total amount available for the project to about $3.2 million, pending council approval of the budget as a whole.

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.

With $3.2 million available for the city hall project, Tracy told the council the next step will be to approach an architect to find out what type of city hall can be built for that amount.

Councilman Steve Rice questioned whether the city needed to spend such a large amount of money to build a new city hall.

"Do we really need to build a building to make a statement?" Rice said.

Tracy noted it would have cost $2.1 million just to convert the building at Mitchell Technical Institute's north campus, which was discussed as an alternative to building a new city hall.

"It need not be fancy, but it still needs to be attractive enough if it's going to be at the entrance to our city," Tracy said.

The $3.2 million does not include the potential expense of purchasing the Veterans of Foreign Wars building, which was damaged during the demolition of the former Longhorn Bar. At a regular meeting on Monday, the council plans to consider offering the VFW $175,000 for the building, which, if approved, would come out of the city's general fund, Tracy said.

The council also discussed the renovation and expansion of the Corn Palace, but took no action on the project at Tuesday night's budget hearing.

In July, the council approved a $7.175 million plan for the Corn Palace, split into two phases. The city currently has $6.5 million set aside for the project.

Doug Dailey, chairman of the Next Generation Corn Palace Committee, asked the council Tuesday night if a $300,000 elevator currently included in phase two could be included in phase one instead.

Wilson informed the council that because the $6.5 million has already been set aside for the project, no action is needed from the council to accommodate the change.

With the change, phase one, which is aimed at improving the current Corn Palace, will cost approximately $4.4 million. Phase two, which involves renovating the existing City Hall building, will cost approximately $2.8 million.

The plan calls for changes to the outside of the Corn Palace, including new light-up domes, which will have LED lights with the ability to change color, plus larger murals with improved lighting and large windows that open to a walk-out balcony above the marquee, and numerous other changes.

The existing City Hall building, which is connected to the north side of the Corn Palace, will be vacated and renovated to include exhibits and a theater in the second phase of the plan.

Construction could begin on both the Corn Palace and a new city hall as early as next spring, Tracy said in an interview last week.

A budget hearing scheduled for Thursday night will no longer take place because the council addressed those agenda items Tuesday night.