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Survey: Urgent care, arena desired

LifeQuest's executive director wants to forge some new community partnerships based on the results of a survey that the nonprofit agency recently conducted about Mitchell's strengths and needs.

Officials from LifeQuest, a provider of services and support to people with developmental disabilities, spoke to nearly 100 community businesspeople last fall to gauge their views on the quality of life for all residents of the Mitchell area. The survey results were recently distributed to local officials.

Executive Director Daryl Kilstrom said LifeQuest's accrediting organization -- The Council on Quality and Leadership in Towson, Md. -- encouraged the survey.

The goal is to generate awareness of issues and build partnerships, he said.

"Through interviewing a variety of people, (you) determine where strengths are in your community and where there is some need for improvement," Kilstrom said. "When you learn that, you are better able to make connections and build partnerships."

The survey found that Mitchell is a safe place to live with a low unemployment rate, excellent education opportunities and high-quality health care. Many volunteer opportunities are available.

But results also showed that a variety of needs exist.

Urgent-care facilities and a larger entertainment venue are desired, along with more funding for enhancement programs such as art, more specialized higher-education pro- grams in engineering, and classes for those with special needs.

Concerns were cited about response times for emergency calls outside of city limits and limited space in the city Public Safety Building.

Participants wanted to see a continuation of efforts such as attracting more health-care specialists to the area and cleaning up lakes and streams.

A committee of the Focus 2020 community planning initiative recently recommended an urgent-care facility in its report and urged Avera Queen of Peace Hospital and local physicians to work to resolve that issue. In the past, such a center was located where Sanford Children's Clinic is now.

The hospital is researching how to establish an urgentcare clinic as part of its strategic plan, said Trish Delaney, vice president of marketing.

Sites and options are being considered, including combining such a clinic with a potential outpatient care pavilion, she said.

"We are meeting with physicians to determine the best course of action," she said, adding no timeline has been set on advancing beyond the research stage.

A larger events center for community entertainment also was cited as a need.

Though local residents defeated a 30-year, $625,000 property tax opt-out to build such a center for $25 million in 2007, an events center task force still continues to work on the endeavor, said Bryan Hisel, executive director of the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce and Mitchell Area Development Corporation.

But the key is defining the event center's purpose and how to pay for its construction and operating costs, he said.

"The community still sees this as a desirable, strategic piece of work," Hisel said. "It's a problem of finding the eloquent, right solution."

Regarding public safety, participants counted low rates of crime and recidivism; adequate numbers of available, paid emergency personnel; and good technology in emergency and communication equipment among the strengths.

Response times outside of city limits and limited public safety facility space for storage, classes and meeting rooms were cited as needs.

A pole barn building has been designed to store vehicles, trailers and confiscated items in a city-owned parking lot south of Navin Apartments. But historic preservationists wanted the city to use brick and a flat roof because the location was in the Historic Commercial District. The conflict has not been resolved and no building has been built.

Leon Baier, assistant police chief, said the need for more space still exists. Public safety officials had to rent space recently at Ramada Inn to conduct federally-funded advanced crisis negotiation team training.

The Public Safety Department, which has one training room, has no full basement and cannot be expanded vertically.

"To have four divisions (communications, ambulance, fire and law enforcement) try to operate and keep service trainings up, it puts a strain on the training room," Baier said.

Another result from the survey is the need for greater attention to emerging language and cultural barriers.

Kilstrom pointed out that more Hispanic workers have been moving to the area, and local officials need to help support and encourage people from other cultures to move to Mitchell and work and invest in the community.

He said he would like to see life-enrichment or enhancement programs created for people with special needs.

While DWU is committed to growing its strongest programs, it doesn't foresee adding the engineering program that some in the survey called for. The university wants to speak with LifeQuest, Mitchell Technical Institute and other local agencies about how to best provide life-enrichment courses, said Amy Novak, DWU provost and executive vice president.

"It would be important to do further market research to assess the target audience, the interest level, type of courses and models of delivery that might be most appropriate for this population," she said.

Hisel credited LifeQuest for taking the initiative to conduct the survey and said the results could be integrated with the work of Focus 2020 officials. Focus 2020 unveiled its recommendations last year.

Kilstrom is already making plans to meet with Dave Stevens, Mitchell United Way executive director, on how to work together on issues brought to light in the survey.