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Council formally approves VFW purchase

After months of discussion, the Mitchell City Council has authorized the city to purchase the damaged Veteran of Foreign Wars building for $175,000.

At a meeting Monday night at City Hall, the council voted 7-1 in favor of a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a purchase agreement with the VFW for the building, which is located at 105 N. Main St. and was damaged during the demolition of the former Longhorn Bar, with which it shared a common wall. Council Vice President Dan Allen was the only council member to vote against the purchase.

VFW Post Commander Pat Ziegler told the council that a small portion of the wall collapsed Friday, but fell into the nearby fence and did not create an opening in the building.

"It only tells us we need to hurry up," Ziegler said.

The purchase agreement itself has yet to be finalized and will still need to presented to the council for approval at a future meeting before the transaction can be completed, the resolution says. City Attorney Carl Koch told the council the agreement will almost certainly be ready in time for the next council meeting Oct. 6.

At its last meeting Sept. 3., the council voted 7-1 to allocate $175,000 for the purchase of the VFW building, with Allen voting against.

The former Longhorn -- which was believed to be the oldest surviving building in Mitchell -- was deemed unsafe after a wall collapse in November 2011. The city bought the building for $1 from the owner, who said he couldn't afford to repair or demolish the building on his own. He moved his business across the street.

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

The city intends to demolish the VFW building, which is located near the proposed site of a new city hall.

Another resolution authorizing the city to purchase the former Jitters Coffeehouse building, located at 512 N. Main St., for $55,000 was also approved by the council Monday night. Half of the cost of that purchase is being by paid by the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce.

Capital Street closure

A proposal to permanently close a portion of Capital Street near Mitchell High School will come to the council Oct. 21 as a result of a Traffic Commission meeting Monday night.

Mitchell School District Superintendent Joe Graves has asked the commission to permanently close a portion of Capital Street between Mitchell High School and the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy building, Mitchell Technical Institute's former north campus.

The street is becoming a safety hazard as more students walk between the two buildings to attend classes, Graves said, addressing the commission at Monday night's meeting.

The problem is the result of drivers not looking for pedestrians, Graves said, and students not paying attention -- he mentioned texting as a factor -- when crossing the street.

"They're doing everything except watching for traffic," he said. "So we're seeing a lot of incidents where pedestrians and cars are mixing."

To eliminate the risk of students or other pedestrians being hit by a vehicle, Graves has proposed closing a portion of the street and installing, at the district's expense, a green space and sidewalks to better connect the two buildings.

Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg, who serves as chairman of the Traffic Commission, said a traffic count performed on Capital Street found 2,507 cars used the area in question from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.

Councilman Phil Carlson, who lives in and represents the ward containing the part of Capital Street in question, said he opposes the closure because the street serves as a main thoroughfare for residents in the area.

Councilman Steve Rice said he understood why the closure was being proposed, but that he also feels students need to understand personal responsibility.

"It's their responsibility to be safe," he said.

Rice also questioned whether it is wise to close the street for a safety problem that disappears during the summer, when students are on break. Mel Olson, who is a Mitchell High School history teacher, noted the facilities are still used by summer school and sports programs during summer break.

"I don't want the public listening in to think that it's ghosts and tumbleweeds until September 1," he said.

Council President Jeff Smith said the issue is important enough -- and likely controversial enough -- that it should be heard by the full council.

"I truly believe there should be some concern and I would hate to just throw this up on a shelf," Smith said. "I guarantee you there are kids who are in danger and they don't even know it."

The commission, which met at 6:35 p.m., prior to the 7:30 p.m. council meeting, agreed to place the proposal on the council's agenda for the Oct. 21 meeting. The commission members are Overweg, Smith, Allen, Carlson and Rice.

The Mitchell Board of Education was informed of Graves' request at its meeting Sept. 9.

When Graves presented plans to build a new fine arts center by 2016 and a new high school by 2025 to the school board last November, the plans included a campus concept that would require Capital Street to be closed.

Consent agenda

Council members approved the following items as part of a consent agenda:

• The meeting agenda, council minutes from the prior meeting, minutes from various committee meetings and reports from various city departments.

• Raffle requests from John Paul II's parent-teacher organization with the drawing to be held Oct. 12; Tea Storm Chasers with the drawing to be held Sept. 22; Trinity Lutheran Church with the drawing to be held Oct. 6; and Mitchell Technical Institute's wind turbine technology program with the drawing to be held Nov. 4.

• An application from the American Legion for a special event liquor license for the Bull Bash on Oct. 4-5, at the 600 block of North Main Street, including the parking lot north of City Hall.

• A $24,779 automatic supplement to the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department's special revenue fund from an insurance claim reimbursement for roof damage repair.

• A list of pay estimates.

• Gas and diesel fuel bids.

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

Other business

In scheduled business, council members:

• Toured parts of the city to observe existing and future sidewalk projects.

• Approved, during a 6:35 p.m. Traffic Commission meeting, a request from Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling to close the 600 block of North Main Street from 1:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 15 for POD immunization training; and tabled a request to place a four-way stop signs at First Avenue and Foster Street.

• Approved, during a 7:05 p.m. Public Health and Safety Committee meeting, a fireworks permit for All Star Shows for Mitchell High School's homecoming.

• Approved, during a 7:10 p.m. Public Properties Committee meeting, a request to install a light pole at 1040 N. Ohlman St.

• Reviewed city bond issues during a 7:15 p.m. Finance Committee meeting.

• Sat as the board of adjustment and approved the application of Troy Helleloid for a conditional-use permit to construct an accessory building located across from 25 West Harmon Drive; and the application of Rodney Klinger for a backyard variance of 17 feet rather than the 25 feet as required for installation of a roof and overhang of an existing deck located at 1411 Sharpstone Drive.

• Discussed the architect and construction manager at-risk delivery method for public construction projects with representatives of Puetz Corp.

• Heard recommendations for committee appointments from Mayor Ken Tracy.

• Adopted a resolution to plat Lot 2A, Block 3 of Westwood First Addition, a subdivision of the southwest quarter of Section 16, Township 103 North, Range 60 west of the fifth P.M., city of Mitchell.

• Adopted a resolution to plat Lots 5A and 6A of Enemy Creek Estates, a subdivision of previously platted Lots 5 and 6 of Enemy Creek Estates in the northeast quarter and in the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 14, Township 102 North, Range 60 west of the fifth P.M., Davison County.

• Adopted a resolution to plat Lot 7, in Tract J, Wild Oak Golf Club Addition, city of Mitchell.

• Adopted a resolution to approve a developer's agreement for a tax increment financing district involving an apartment development on West Eighth Avenue near Mitchell Middle School.

• Approved the annual appropriations ordinance for 2014.

• Approved an ordinance to supplement the health and welfare portion of the general fund with $175,000 from the general fund cash balance for demolition of the VFW building; and the Antach/Mitchell High School TIF portion of the capital projects fund with $66,000 from the general fund for infrastructure construction.

• Tabled a request for a lottery game of chance for the Mitchell Area Safehouse to be held on Feb. 22.

• Approved Mayor Ken Tracy's appointment of Council President Jeff Smith and Councilman Randy Doescher to the City Hall Relocation Committee.