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Mitchell City Council Committee forms for Longhorn/VFW

A sign proclaiming Mitchell's Veterans of Foreign Wars Lounge open for business hangs near the rubble of the old Longhorn Bar on Monday afternoon. The VFW was closed for more than a month because of an unstable shared wall discovered during the demolition of the old Longhorn. (Chris Mueller/Republic)

A new committee will be formed to help the Mitchell City Council deal with the unstable shared wall between the former Longhorn Bar and Veterans of Foreign Wars Lounge.

During Monday night's council meeting at City Hall, a discussion about the unstable shared wall at the Longhorn/VFW site ended with both sides agreeing to form a committee in hopes of resolving the situation more quickly and efficiently. The committee, which will be made up of three representatives from the city and three from the VFW, will be formed as soon as possible.

After Monday night's council meeting, councilman Phil Carlson, who first proposed the idea of forming the committee, and Council Vice President Dan Allen agreed to serve on the committee, along with Mayor Ken Tracy.

Allen and Carlson will likely be officially appointed sometime today, Tracy said.

Pat Ziegler, VFW post commander, will also serve on the committee, along with two other VFW members who will likely be chosen when the group meets tonight.

The committee will allow the city and VFW to communicate better and more regularly, Tracy said in an interview after Monday night's council meeting.

"Hopefully, this will remove any concerns of not being informed," Tracy said, referring to concerns of communication problems expressed by VFW members.

Demolition of the former Longhorn building in southern downtown began May 14 but was halted two days later when it was discovered the building's shared wall with the VFW Lounge was unstable. After a period of study, demolition of the upper floor of the shared wall began last week with the hope that the removal of that portion of the wall would make the building safer and allow for the reopening of the VFW Lounge.

The lounge has now reopened, but had been closed for a month because of the situation, and VFW members have grown increasingly anxious about lost revenue. VFW leaders encouraged their members to attend tonight's council meeting, and at least 20 showed up for the meeting.

"I know it's been a long hard road for those members," Tracy said. "We certainly appreciate their patience."

Earlier in the meeting, Marvin Schuldt, a VFW member, told the council the group is desperate to keep a place to gather.

"They've fought a lot to keep that VFW," he said.

In the past, discussions of what to do with the VFW have boiled down to two options: demolish the entire shared wall and rebuild it, or have the city purchase the VFW building and demolish it entirely. Ziegler, VFW post commander, urged the council to pick which direction to take on the project. "I just think we need a direction," he said, "and we need to move forward." Ziegler also expressed dissatisfaction with the level of communication between the city and the VFW.

"A lot of times we don't feel like we're in the loop," he said. Lyle Sunderland, another VFW member, was concerned with whether the VFW has been treated fairly as the situation has unfolded. "You guys don't realize fully what you've done to us," Sunderland said. Sunderland specifically mentioned the lounge business' lost revenue and its employees' lost wages.

Progress has been slow because of safety concerns that arose because of the unstable shared wall, said local architect Larry Jirsa, who has been working with the city on the project.

"These are dangerous situations," Jirsa said, "and that's why we're overly cautious."

Preventing anyone from being injured or killed during the demolition has been the top concern, Jirsa said.

"Whether it shut you down for 10 days or 10 years, our priority was safety," he said, looking at the VFW members in the audience.

Guests at Mitchell's most famous attraction will soon have the opportunity to purchase Corn Palacelabeled wine at the facility's gift shop.

The council voted 4-3 Monday night in favor of the Corn Palace's application to obtain an on- and off-sale wine license in order to sell Corn Palace-labeled wine ALLEN in the building.

"I think it's a heck of a marketing tool," said Council Vice President Dan Allen, who voted in favor of the application.

Council President Jeff Smith and council members Marty Barington and Phil Carlson also voted in support of the application.

Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling told the council he believes tourists will jump at the opportunity to buy Corn Palace-labeled wine when they come to the attraction.

The on-sale portion of the license will allow the Corn Palace to hold special events, such as a wine tasting, inside the facility. Some council members expressed concern about the Corn Palace being given a permanent on-sale wine license.

"I just can't see that it is a good business for the city to be in," said councilman Steve Rice, who voted in opposition to the application, along with council members Randy Doescher and Susan Tjarks.

Councilman Mel Olson was out of town and did not attend the meeting.

Schilling told the council it will still be informed of any special events involving the sale or consumption of wine at the Corn Palace, and if there are any concerns, the event will not be held.

A wine tasting held last year at the Corn Palace with a special event license was a success, said Smith.

"I look at it more as a novelty," Smith said, referring to special wine-related events at the Corn Palace.

Mitchell Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg told the council that the Corn Palace will be subject to random alcohol compliance checks regularly conducted by law enforcement.

In other business Monday night, council members:

• Sat as the Board of Adjustment and set a July 1 date for a hearing on the application of Marianne McCreight for a conditional-use permit to operate a day care in her home at 605 N. Duff St.; approved the application of Tyann Eldeen Goldammer for a conditional-use permit to operate a day care in her home at 525 Charles St.; and tabled the application of Stencil Homes (applicant) and Boehnen Enterprises (owner) for a conditional-use permit for construction of multi-family dwelling buildings in Block 6 of Sunnyside Addition, which is a proposed apartment complex on Edgerton Street.

• Approved the application of the Palace City Lions Club for a special event malt-beverage and wine license July 18-21 for the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo at Horseman's Sports Arena.

• Approved the application of Time at the Table for a special event wine license from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 20 at 201 N. Main St. for an Outdoor Education Center fundraiser.

• Approved the application of Phoenix & Dragon Chinese Restaurant, 1522 W. Havens Ave., for an on- and off-sale wine license.

• Approved the application to transfer an on- and off-sale wine license from Graham's Interstate BP-Ty's Casino, 1610 S. Burr St., to Graham's Interstate BP-Ty's Casino, 1610 S. Burr St., because of a new configuration of the business.

• Set a July 1 date for a hearing on the application to transfer an on- and off-sale liquor license from Jackpot Gamblin Inc., 511 N. Main St., to Bryan A. Rickel, 421 N. Wisconsin St., which, according to Mayor Ken Tracy, will allow the owners of Jackpot Gamblin to keep their inactive license at the new address after the Moonlight Bar and Lounge moved into Jackpot Gamblin's former Main Street building.

• Adopted a resolution appointing Stanley Rietveld, Steve Willis and Mark Vaughn Jr. to a board that will appraise a ladder fire truck that the city plans to sell after the recent purchase of a newer ladder truck.

• Set 1:30 p.m. June 25 in the mayor's office at City Hall to receive and consider bids for an Avera Queen of Peace Storm Sewer Improvements Project.

• Reset 1:30 p.m. July 9 in the mayor's office at City Hall to receive and consider bids for a surplus ladder fire truck.

• Held a second reading and approved an ordinance that would supplement the economic/industrial development portion of the budget with $27,500 from the general fund cash balance to acquire the former Jitters Coffeehouse property in the block south of the Corn Palace, with the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce providing the other half of the purchase price; and with $26,435 for the RSVP-thrift store portion of the budget from thrift store sales revenue, for part-time, OASI, advertising, rent, supplies and utilities expenses.

• Approved on first reading an ordinance that would supplement the storm drainage portion of the general fund budget with $30,800 from the general fund cash balance to hire HR Green, a Sioux Falls company, to review the city's drainage ordinances related to what was described as an unfunded EPA mandate; the health and welfare portion of the general fund budget with $30,000 from the general fund cash balance for work at the former Longhorn Bar/VFW, including the removal of the upper portion of the shared wall; the airport enterprise fund budget with $5,300 from the fund's cash balance for a hydromatic lift station pump; and the health insurance budget with $200,000 from a general fund transfer for medical expenses, which, according to Mayor Ken Tracy, will cover the cost of several large claims against the city's insurance in recent months.

• Approved on first reading an ordinance that would create a business improvement district (BID) for the imposition of a $1 tax on occupied hotel and motel rooms in the city to help fund the addition of a second indoor ice sheet to the Mitchell Activities Center and the creation of a local sports authority.

• Approved on first reading an ordinance that would rezone the east 95 feet of Lot 12-A, in the southwest quarter of Section 10, Township 103 North, Range 60, west of the Fifth Prime Meridian, from Highway Oriented Business to Medium Density Residential.

• Approved a $3.9 million automatic supplement to the Corn Palace special revenue fund from bonds issued for renovation expenses, which, according to Mayor Ken Tracy, will put the city in a position to expend those funds once a plan for the renovation and expansion is approved.

• Approved Addendum No. 1 and named the mayor the authorized representative for signatures on an agreement with the state Department of Transportation for an appraisal review and negotiation work regarding a project on Spruce Street.

• Approved an agreement with a company named HR Green, of Sioux Falls, for a Storm Water Management Plan update, including fees totaling $30,800.

• Approved an application from Leader Sporting Goods for a renewal of its malt-beverage license.

• Approved requests to conduct raffles from the Davison County Democrats, with the drawing Nov. 19, and the James River Gobblers, with the drawing Oct. 27.

• Approved a list of pay estimates, including $3,911 to Horsley Specialties for the demolition of the 116-124 properties on West First Avenue, the future city hall site.

• Approved nine written reports from city departments.

• Heard an invocation from a representative of the Word of Life Church.

• The Public Works Committee met at 6:25 p.m. and heard a presentation from Jeff McCormick, of SPN and Associates, on options for protecting part of the eastern shore of Lake Mitchell north of the existing spillway from erosion, which could include one or a combination of three options: rock riprap, which involves piling rocks to protect the shore from water erosion; concrete block matting, which involves concrete blocks cabled to the shore to protect it; and a vinyl seawall, which holds the soil back to keep it away from the water to prevent erosion.

• The Traffic Commission met at 7:10 p.m. and approved a parade permit request from the Outkast Car club for Sept. 21 for a parade from the 1800 block of North Main Street to Seventh Avenue; and approved a parade permit request from Dave Epp for the Neil Epp Memorial Poker Run on June 29, for a route from The Depot north on Main Street to the city limits.

• The Finance Committee met at 7:15 p.m. and voted to recommend the council approve the supplemental appropriations later addressed at the council meeting.