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VFW move hits obstacle

Mitchell’s Veterans of Foreign Wars members have already started moving into a building at 215 N. Main St., but at least two nearby business owners are concerned the move could have a negative impact on their businesses.

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“I strongly believe our veterans deserve a nice place,” said Jim Johnston, owner of Harve’s Sports Shop, located at 213 N. Main St. “We just don’t think right now they have picked the right place.”

Johnston spoke during a hearing on the transfer of the VFW’s retail on-sale liquor license to its new address during the Mitchell City Council meeting Monday night at City Hall.

Johnston said he is concerned a bar moving in next to his business could have a detrimental effect, especially with bar patrons smoking outside the VFW, forcing his customers to walk near cigarette smokers.

“We have a very healthy retail environment in downtown Mitchell right now,” he said. “It would be a travesty to put a bar in that district, knowing the problems a bar brings.”

The council eventually elected to delay its decision on the transfer until its next meeting Feb. 3, to allow the VFW’s leadership to meet with any concerned business owners.

The VFW’s old building, located at 105 N. Main St., was damaged during the demolition of the old Longhorn Bar. The council approved the city’s purchase of the VFW’s old building for $175,000 in September.

The VFW’s membership voted in September to approve the purchase of a building located 215 N. Main St., which at the time contained the Prairie Breeze Gallery. According to discussion at Monday night’s meeting, VFW members have already started renovating the property.

Johnston said the VFW declined to meet with downtown business owners on three separate occasions. He also said other nearby business owners are reluctant to speak out against the VFW.

“This is not an easy thing for me to do,” he said. “It’s difficult to stand in opposition to something the VFW wants to do.”

Jan Christensen, owner of Ben Franklin Crafts, located at 223 N. Main St., also addressed the council with concerns about the VFW’s new location. Christensen said the VFW should have had to present a business plan before the city agreed to purchase its damaged property.

Despite the objections, Councilman Mel Olson pointed out that state law only allows liquor license transfers to be denied based on the holder’s character, or the location where the license is being transferred.

Arguing the location is a problem could be difficult because another bar, Dr. Lucky’s Bar and Grill, is already located nearby at 205 N. Main St., Olson said.

Council Vice President Dan Allen expressed frustration with the situation, saying the VFW misrepresented to the city which property it intended to buy with the money gained from the sale of its old building.

“I think the VFW took us,” Allen said.

Council President Jeff Smith said he was disappointed the VFW declined to talk with downtown business owners.

VFW Post Commander Pat Ziegler attended Monday night’s meeting but did not address the council.

City administrator

A resolution passed by the council Monday night sets the recently created city administrator position at a salary of at least $90,000 and up to a maximum of $110,000.

The salary range was approved by a 6-2 vote, with Phil Carlson and Olson voting in opposition.

A proposal to add a city administrator to city government was recently adopted by the council. Nobody has been hired for the job.

The city administrator will manage the day-to-day affairs of city government, but will be accountable to the elected mayor. There are 20 other cities in South Dakota with city administrators, according to information presented at a past council meeting.

Consent agenda

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

  • The meeting’s agenda, council minutes from the prior meeting and minutes from prior Planning Commission and Finance Committee meetings.

  • Various department reports for November and December.

  • An application to transfer a retail on-sale liquor license from Steak N’ More, 1801 N. Main St., to A-Z Gaming Inc., 1801 N. Main St.

  • Property tax abatements for 2013 taxes payable in 2014 as listed.

  • A quote from a salvage company for recyclable and scrap materials for the landfill and Street Department.

  • An application from the Palace City Lions Club for a special event malt beverage and wine license at the Corn Palace and City Hall on March 8 for Parmalee.

  • Pay estimates.

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

Other business

In other business, council members:

  • Acting as the Public Works Committee, during a 6:20 p.m. meeting, recommended the purchase of a sewer cleaner truck; approved widening a walking/bike path on the spillway side of a highway bridge for $139,000; discussed rebuilding Spruce Street from Rowley to Ohlman for approximately $2.2 million; discussed rebuilding Fifth Avenue from Burr to Main streets for approximately $1.1 million; discussed replacing the West End fishing bridge; discussed a pedestrian bike path bridge; discussed a no-interest statewide investment bank loan to help complete both the Fifth Avenue and Spruce Street projects.

  • Acting as the Traffic Commission, during a 7:05 p.m. meeting, did not approve a request to place a four-way stop sign at the corner of First and Foster.

  • Approved Public Works, Traffic and Finance committee reports.

  • Set a Feb. 3 date for a hearing on the application to transfer a retail on-off sale malt beverage license from Village Bowl/Spare Change Casino, 1500 N. Duff St., to Village Bowl/Spare Change Casino, 1500 N. Duff St., after removing it from the consent agenda to allow Councilman Marty Barington to abstain.

  • Approved an application from the Palace City Lions Club for a special event liquor license at the Corn Palace and City Hall on Feb. 22 for Rockfest.

  • Set Feb. 3 for a hearing on the application of Pat Clark for a front yard variance of 17 feet, 6 inches instead of the 35 feet as required for construction of a storage building at 109 S. Edmunds St.

  • Set Feb. 3 for a hearing on the application of Brian and Joanna Bierema for a conditional use permit for an automotive repair business at 1500 Eitel Drive.

  • Approved the application of Wayne and Marcy Jones for a backyard variance of 19 feet instead of 25 feet as required to construct an addition to their home at 1511 S. Minnesota St.

  • Approved the application of Ken and Mary Giblin (Mitchell Subway) for a front yard variance of 19 feet, 6 inches instead of the 35 feet required to construct a new building at 802 N. Sanborn Blvd.

  • Noted the withdrawal of the application of Mike and Elaine Rieck for a side yard setback variance of 3 feet instead of the 8 feet required to construct an addition to their attached garage at 2901 Dailey Drive.

  • Heard a 2013 Lake Mitchell Campground utilization review.

  • Adopted a resolution authorizing the purchase of a code enforcement vehicle off a state bid.

  • Adopted a resolution authorizing the purchase of a waste water jetter vac truck, which is used to clean sewer lines, for $377,740 off a Minnesota state bid, and adopted a resolution approving and authorizing the execution of a governmental lease-purchase equipment agreement and supplements, and related documents and certificates.

  • Adopted a resolution authorizing Terry Johnson as city representative for Fifth Avenue street improvements.

  • Adopted a resolution approving a contract for architectural services between Mitchell and Architecture Inc. for the Mitchell City Hall project.

  • Adopted a resolution approving engagement of construction manager at risk for the new city hall project.

  • Adopted a resolution for a plat of Lot 2 of Georgella Second Addition in the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 24, Township 103 North, Range 60 West of the Fifth P.M., Davison County.

  • Approved the first readings of supplemental appropriations ordinances that include about $60,000 for improvements to Camp Arroya, which the city recently reclaimed control of from a nonprofit group that had been operating it for many years.

  • Approved appointing Dave Margheim to the Mitchell Public Library Board of Trustees.

  • Authorized the finance officer to close out capital project funds on the soccer complex project and the Abbott House dormitory project.

  • Authorized the Mitchell Police Division to order new patrol vehicles for $1 below state bid from Vern Eide.

  • Approved a request from Mitchell Marlins Hockey to conduct a raffle, with the drawing to be held Feb. 23.

  • Conducted a non-public, closed-door session on a contract with the Mitchell Rural Fire Association, and took no action afterward.