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VFW asks city for $175,000

Mitchell's Veterans of Foreign Wars post is asking the city of Mitchell to pay $175,000 for the VFW's damaged Main Street building so the group can afford to move to another location.

After bids to repair the shared wall between the former Longhorn Bar and VFW building all exceeded $150,000, VFW members voted to sell their building and move to a new location.

At Monday night's Mitchell City Council meeting at City Hall, Post Commander Pat Ziegler asked the city to increase its offer for the building to $175,000 so the VFW can afford to move to a new location.

The city had already offered the VFW $150,000 for the building, but Ziegler said the group likely could not afford to go into debt in order to move.

"We just can't afford to do it all," Ziegler told the council.

The council agreed to place a $175,000 supplemental appropriation on the agenda for the next council meeting Aug. 19, at which time the council can decide whether to increase its offer for the VFW's property.

The former Longhorn Bar -- the oldest building in Mitchell -- was deemed unsafe after an interior wall collapse. The city bought the southern downtown building from the owner, who said he lacked the resources to repair or demolish the building. He moved his business across the street.

Demolition of the former Longhorn Bar building began May 14 but was halted two days later when it was discovered the building's shared wall with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lounge was unstable. The VFW was forced to close for more than a month as a result of the situation.

The city has already spent about $171,000 to remove the Longhorn and to address structural problems with the shared wall between the two buildings, and last week it was learned the bids to repair the shared wall all exceed $150,000 -- a price the city offered the VFW to sell the building or help fix the wall.

Ziegler said the VFW is looking at the former Cherrybees building, located on North Lawler Street, just east of Main Street, as a possible new location. Cherrybees, a floral shop, recently moved onto Main Street.

"That has the best potential I think," he said.

Ziegler said the VFW hopes to have the situation resolved before this winter, because heating costs and other expenses will be difficult to afford in a building with only three walls.

"We're running out of time," he said.

Councilman Dan Allen expressed concern the city is already sinking too much money into the situation.

"We are just digging ourselves in a deeper, deeper hole," Allen said.

The city, which intends to demolish the VFW building if it agrees to purchase the property, would not require the VFW to vacate the building immediately, Tracy said, because the demolition would not take place this year.

Councilman Phil Carlson said the city is obligated to help the VFW, based on how the situation has unfolded.

"We've put ourselves in a place where we've got to do something," he said.

Camp Arroya

The City Council will decide the fate of a local nonprofit's soon-to-expire lease of Camp Arroya at a future meeting following a lengthy debate at Monday night's council meeting.

Earlier this summer, the Mitchell Park and Recreation Board voted to recommend that the city not renew its 25-year, dollar-a-year lease of Camp Arroya to Camp Arroya Inc. The lease is set to expire at the end of December.

The Park and Recreation Board, as well as other city officials, feel the camp is underutilized and would be better off under city control.

Sherry Stilley, president of the volunteer board of directors for Camp Arroya Inc., agreed the camp could be utilized more, but said the nonprofit can't afford advertising.

"We would like more use as well," Stilley said. "We would appreciate the city's help with that."

According to Mitchell Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Dusty Rodiek, the Lake Mitchell Day Camp was rented for 41 days in 2012, while Camp Arroya was rented for 25 days. In 2011, the difference was 40 days rented for the day camp to 20 days rented for Camp Arroya, and in 2010 it was 34 days rented for the day camp to 25 days rented for Camp Arroya.

The 12-acre Camp Arroya, tucked away on the northern shore of Lake Mitchell, includes a main building, a picnic shelter, children's play areas, an open grassy area near the shore and nature trails. Camp Arroya Inc. rents out the facilities to youth organizations, such as scouting groups or church groups, but anyone is able to rent the camp.

New leadership at Camp Arroya Inc. has started the process of revitalizing the camp's facilities, including its buildings and nature trails, Stilley said.

Councilman Marty Barington, who is opposed to renewing the lease, criticized the state of Camp Arroya's facilities.

"The buildings in my book are totally dilapidated," he said.

Barington argued the group is only now starting to repair Camp Arroya's facilities because of the soon-to-expire lease.

"The reason why you're doing it is you're on the hot seat," he said.

Stilley said she is concerned that if Camp Arroya is turned over to the city, it will be "stripped bare of vegetation," which she claimed has happened at other city-run campsites.

Rodiek said the city would expand the usage of the camp and add some of its own programs.

"We're not looking to cut all the trees down," Rodiek said. "It does need to be preserved as a natural area."

Without Camp Arroya Inc.'s volunteers, Stilley claims the maintenance and operation of the camp would become an additional expense for the city.

"They wouldn't have the volunteers that we have," she said. "It would cost money."

About 15 people attended the meeting in support of Camp Arroya Inc.

Councilman Mel Olson said there is no chance the city will simply renew the 25-year lease.

"That's just not going to happen," he said.

Councilman Randy Doescher expressed some sympathy for Camp Arroya Inc.'s members amid the heated argument.

"These people have done what they could with the money that they've had," Doescher said.

Olson said the city should think twice before leasing a city asset to a private group, which takes it completely out of the city's control.

"You're too close to the trees to see the forest," he said, addressing Stilley.


Mitchell Main Street & Beyond presented its recently unveiled $5.8 million downtown streetscape plan at Monday night's council meeting.

"There was a charm and an excitement about downtown that we've somewhat lost," said Mark Puetz, who worked with MMS&B on the project. "I think this is one way of ramping that up and maybe bringing back that excitement."

The plan, which encompasses 32 acres in downtown Mitchell, would add curb extensions, with trees and native landscaping, on Main Street from First Avenue to Sixth Avenue. Other proposed additions on Main Street include benches, sitting walls, bike racks, information kiosks and public art displays. Traffic lights at Second, Third, Fourth and Sixth avenues would be replaced with stop signs, and extra parking spaces would be gained by adding diagonal parking to one side of Main Street.

A downtown plaza, which would be at the south end of Main Street where a public parking lot is currently located at Railroad and Main, is also part of the plan. The plaza would include an outdoor amphitheater and natural playground, plus water features, public art displays and seating areas. The area could be used for outdoor concerts, festivals and other events, in addition to day-to-day use by residents and tourists, the group said.

"It means a more vibrant and welcoming Main Street for all of us to enjoy and celebrate," said MMS&B Board President Carrie English, addressing the council.

The project could be completed in phases, starting with the plaza at a cost of $2.1 million. After that, individual blocks on Main Street from First Avenue to Sixth Avenue could be completed for $425,000 each. In that same five-block area of Main Street, the east-west blocks between Lawler Street and Rowley Street could be renovated for $270,000 per block.

MMS&B is in the process of finding funding sources for the project, according to MMS&B Director Molly Goldsmith.

Councilwoman Susan Tjarks was enthusiastic in her support for the streetscape plan.

"You've got to start somewhere," she said. "You have to start somewhere and I think this is a great place to start."

Sports Authority

A committee tasked with creating and advising a local sports authority was formed at Monday night's meeting.

The council approved a resolution to create a sports authority events committee, which will create and then monitor a local sports authority. The goal of the sports authority will be to create and attract more events to get more people staying overnight in Mitchell.

The committee is made up of Mayor Ken Tracy, Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling, Curt Hart, Tim Smith, Dave Helleloid, Kevin DeVries, Jim Johnson, Craig Stuckey, Councilman Jeff Smith, Emily Oswald, Matt Culhane, Geoff Gross, Jacki Miskimins (non-voting member) and another member who is yet to be named.

Members will serve three-year terms and will be allowed to serve successive terms.

The sports authority will be funded using half of the revenue generated by the city's newly imposed $1 per night tax on rented rooms at all of the city's 17 hotels and motels. The tax, which the city started collecting Aug. 1, is imposed through a business improvement district.

A BID is a self-taxation arrangement in which businesses agree to pay a fee, with the money going toward specific developments.

Mitchell's BID will help fund the construction of a second indoor ice sheet in the city in addition to funding the sports authority. The half of the BID tax for the sports authority will expire after three years.

Tracy said the committee will meet as soon as possible to begin the process of creating the sports authority, which could mean hiring a new city employee to run the sports authority or having the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce involved in running it.

"I'd like to get the group together and get some decisions made on how we're going to spend the money," Tracy said in an interview before the meeting.

Consent agenda

As part of a consent agenda, council members:

• Approved the meeting agenda, council minutes from the prior meeting and minutes of committee meetings held July 8 and July 15.

• Set an Aug. 19 date for a hearing on the application of the American Legion for a special event liquor license, for an Oct. 4-5 rodeo event at the Corn Palace and City Hall.

• Set an Aug. 19 date for a hearing on the application of Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Dakota for a special event malt beverage and wine license for Summer's Last Dance, Sept. 7 at Hitchcock Park.

• Set an Aug. 15 date to receive and consider bids for the Mitchell School District's storage shed project.

• Set an Aug. 27 date to receive and consider bids for a landfill compactor project.

• Approved an automatic supplement to the street and sidewalk construction portion of the general fund with $1,934 from an insurance claim reimbursement.

• Approved an automatic supplement to the parks and recreation portion of the special revenue fund in the amount of $1,362 for fence repair from an insurance claim reimbursement.

• Approved a raffle request from the Corn Palace Shriners Club, with the drawing to be held on Oct. 10.

• Approved a list of pay estimates.

• Approved a change order of $35,220, including construction additions and plan changes, for the Capital Street improvement project to H&W Contracting, bringing the total contract amount to $758,937.80.

• Approved bills, payroll salary adjustments and new employee hires, and authorized the payment of recurring and other expenses in advance as approved by the finance officer.

Other business

In other business, council members:

• Invited citizens' input on non-agenda items, during which time Lauretta Larsen, owner of one of the city's oldest surviving homes, spoke briefly about her attempt to save her home, which has been declared a public nuisance, from demolition.

• Approved the application of the Mitchell Exchange Club for a special event malt beverage and wine license for the Bull Bash, Aug. 21 at the Horseman Sports Arena, which was removed from the consent agenda.

• Sat as the board of adjustment and set an Aug. 19 date for a hearing on the application of Samantha Menning for a conditional-use permit to operate a day care in her home at 712 W. Third Ave.; for a hearing on the application of Jessica Skinner for a conditional-use permit to operate a day care in her home at 1028 W. Cedar Ave.; and for a hearing on the application of Josh Phillips and Amy Hoeltzner for variances for the construction of a duplex at 615 S. Rowley St.

• Heard committee appointment recommendations from the mayor.

• Authorized the landfill to accept a grant from the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a landfill compactor appropriation grant.

• Approved a comprehensive funding agreement between the city of Mitchell and the South Dakota Department of Transportation for Fifth Avenue from North Main Street to Burr Street for a surfacing and grading project.

• Adopted a resolution authorizing the mayor as signatory for the regional landfill appropriation grant.

• Approved an ordinance rezoning property at 908 S. Duff St. from a medium density residential district to a highway oriented business district for a nearby business purchasing land in the area.

• Approved on first reading an ordinance to supplement the finance portion of the general fund with $5,000 from sales tax collections for a fabricators sales tax refund; the culture and recreation portion of the general fund with $6,690 from the general fund cash balance for MSHA weed spraying; the TIF 13-MTI south campus portion of the debt service fund with $75,000 from property tax revenue with principal; and the sanitation landfill portion of the enterprise fund with $475,000, of which $230,000 will come from grant funds and $245,000 will come from the sanitation fund cash balance, for a compactor.

• Approved on first reading an ordinance to supplement the Sanborn County Transit portion of the special revenue fund from a reimbursement from Sanborn County including $12,000 for salaries, $50 for miscellaneous expenses, $200 for OASI, $150 for retirement, $600 for group insurance, $100 for drug testing/physicals, $250 for advertising, $700 for repair and maintenance, $450 for accident repair, $150 for garage and maintenance repair, $300 for supplies and materials, $2,000 for gas, oil and tires, $100 for postage, $500 for travel conference dues, $200 for utilities and $1,100 for garage utilities, as a result of the city taking over management of Sanborn County's transit system at the county's expense following the retirement of the county's previous transit manager.

• Tabled the first reading of an ordinance to adopt the 2012 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code to the Aug. 19 meeting.

• Rejected bids for a surplus ladder fire truck, which both came back at much less than half the appraised value of $12,500, and instructed Mitchell Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg to investigate whether the truck could be sold online for a minimum price of $12,000.