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Mitchell City Council gives first OK to buying VFW

A Mitchell architect does not foresee another shared-wall issue creeping farther north on Main Street.

Larry Jirsa, of Jirsa L L Architect, told the Mitchell City Council on Monday night at City Hall that the structure of a wall between the city's Veterans of Foreign Wars building and the American Legion building is fine and would only need minor work if the VFW is demolished.

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The council is considering purchasing and demolishing the VFW building after its shared wall with the former Longhorn Bar -- the oldest building in Mitchell -- was deemed unsafe during the Longhorn's demolition. The Longhorn was the VFW's southern neighbor. The Legion building is on the north side of the VFW.

The council on Monday voted 6-1, on first reading, to acquire the VFW building for $175,000. Dan Allen was the only council member to vote against it. Councilwoman Susan Tjarks was absent. The ordinance will be read for a second time and could be formally adopted at the council's next meeting.

"Generally, the structure of the wall looks fine," Jirsa said. "Comparing this to what we went through before, this is going to be a whole lot simpler."

At an Aug. 6 council meeting, Mitchell VFW Post Commander Pat Ziegler asked the city to increase its offer for purchasing the building from $150,000 to $175,000. The VFW asked for more money after bids to repair the shared wall between the former Longhorn and VFW all exceeded $150,000. Then, VFW members voted to sell their building to the city and move to a new location.

Jirsa, along with a structural engineer from Worthington, Minn., toured the buildings and found there are only minor connections between the VFW and the American Legion buildings. He said the roof beams in the backside of the building are the biggest tie, but there is a 3-foot separation for the first 81 feet between the buildings, making it easier to tear the VFW's wall down than the shared wall between the old Longhorn and the VFW. The western part of the VFW shares a common wall with the Legion.

"If the front looks good and the back is good, I don't see any reason why the middle wouldn't be good, but you just can't see it," Jirsa said. "It all looks plum. It's not bowed or bulged out."

The city bought the old Longhorn building for $1 from former owner Jason Bates, who said he lacked the resources to repair or demolish the building. He moved his business across the street.