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Mitchell City Council to consider repealing city's texting ban

The Mitchell City Council plans to take an initial vote Monday night on a measure that, if approved, will repeal the city's ban on texting while driving once a new statewide ban takes effect later this year.

The agenda includes a 6:20 p.m. Public Health and Safety Committee meeting, a 6:25 p.m. Public Properties Committee meeting, a 6:50 p.m. Traffic Committee meeting, a 7:15 p.m. Finance Committee meeting and the 7:30 p.m. City Council meeting, all in Council Chambers at City Hall, 612 N. Main St.

Nearly a year ago, the council approved the city's ban on texting while driving, which took effect in May 2013.

A bill to ban texting while driving in all of South Dakota was signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard late last month and will take effect July 1. The state's ban does not explicitly forbid local governments from passing or enforcing their own stricter texting bans. But, according to a draft the ordinance repealing the city's ban, city officials are apparently concerned about the city's ban being challenged in court after the state's ban takes effect, which could "lead to extensive, significant and unnecessary expense" for the city.

According to Mayor Ken Tracy, it was Councilman Phil Carlson, an attorney, who asked for the item to be placed on Monday's agenda.

Tracy said he still prefers the city's ban to the state's ban.

"I think the state law is so weak that, for the most part, it's unenforceable," Tracy said in an interview Sunday with The Daily Republic.

The city's ban, which is stricter than the state's ban, makes texting while driving a primary offense, which means law enforcement is able to stop a driver thought to be texting even if no other offense is suspected. The city's fine is $120.

The state's ban will make texting while driving a secondary offense. That means law enforcement is only allowed to ticket a driver for texting while driving if that driver was stopped for another offense. The fine would be $100.

In addition to Mitchell, seven cities and one county in the state have already enacted their own bans on texting while driving. They are Aberdeen, Watertown, Box Elder, Huron, Vermillion, Brookings, Sioux Falls and Pennington County.

If the council votes in favor of repealing the city's ban tonight on first reading, it must go to a second reading at the council's next meeting, scheduled for April 21. The vote on the second reading is the final vote.

Consent agenda

Council members plan to consider approving the following items as part of a consent agenda:

• A raffle request from Students for the Safe House, with the drawing to be held April 11.

• An application for a special-event malt beverage license from the Palace City Lions Club for the Red Green show April 23 at the Corn Palace.

• An application to transfer a retail on-off sale malt beverage license from Highland Travel Plaza, 2160 Highland Way, to D'luxe Casino, 1510 S. Burr St., Suite C.

• An application to transfer a retail on-off sale malt beverage license from Aces and 8's Pub & Grub, 505 N. Main St., to Xtreme Golf Inc., 221 E. Third Ave.

• Set an April 29 date to receive and consider bids for additions and renovations to the Mitchell Public Library, including furniture and miscellaneous shelving; and for an ambulance for the Public Safety Department.

• A request to apply for a grant through the South Dakota Attorney General's Office for the acquisition of a drug dog and related equipment.

• A request to apply for and receive a grant from Highway Safety for $18,423 to fund the South Central Alcohol Task Force for 2014 and 2015.

• A request to apply for and receive a grant from Highway Safety for $22,388 for speed enforcement for 2014 and 2015.

• Declare as surplus two rooftop heating and cooling units from the James Valley Community Center.

• Appoint Mike Blaalid and Mike Kuchera to the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee, as recommended by Mayor Ken Tracy.

• Appoint Billy Lurken and Stacy Giblin to the Corn Palace Committee, as recommended by Mayor Ken Tracy.

• Appoint Amy Hildebrandt to the Mitchell Housing Authority Board, as recommended by Mayor Ken Tracy.

• Approve property tax assessment abatements for 2013 taxes payable in 2014, as listed.

• Gas and diesel bids.

• A list of 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 scheduled business tonight, council members plan to:

• Sit as the board of adjustment and set an April 21 date for a hearing on the application of Doug Krantz, doing business as Krantz LLC, for a conditional-use permit for additional self-storage units at 2316 S. Ohlman St.; set an April 21 date for a hearing on the application of Lyn Rysavy for a side-yard on a corner variance of 17 feet, 6 inches, instead of the required 20 feet; conduct a hearing on the application of Larry Koster and Peggy VanOverschelde for an over-size variance for a 2,000-square-foot addition to their existing 1,600-square-foot building at 2341 W. 23rd Ave.; conduct a hearing on the application of Laura Picek for a conditional use permit to operate a day care in her home at 1100 E. Sixth Ave.; and conduct a hearing on the application of Liquid Designz, owner Ken Setness, for a conditional use permit for a light manufacturing business located at 135 S. Kimball St.

• Hear a presentation by American Legion Post 18, which will be presenting community awards.

• Discuss the Imagine Guild Memorial Day Event.

• Award bids for the demolition of the Garden of Eden building; sidewalk projects; curb, gutter and concrete paving projects; paving and overlay projects; the design and construction of a third landfill cell; and the acquisition of a motor grader.

• Conduct a hearing on and consider a resolution for the construction of base course, concrete paving, accessories, engineering fees and other expenses for an alley in the 100 block of South Main Street.

• Consider adopting a resolution authorizing the execution of a lease purchase for a sewer jetter.

• Consider a resolution for a contingency transfer of $13,500 for property acquisition.

• Consider a resolution to plat Lots 3A and 4A, a subdivision of Lots 3 and 4 of Menard's Addition in the west one-half of the northeast one-quarter of Section 34, Township 103 North, Range 60 West of the fifth P.M., Davison County.

• Conduct a second reading and consider adopting an ordinance to supplement the E-911 portion the special revenue fund with $30,000 from conference registration fees for E-911 Conference Host Expenses.

• Consider adding Kimball Street, from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue, to the city's emergency snow route, and Kimball Street, from First Avenue to Fifth Avenue, to a snow removal district.

• Conduct the first of two required readings of an ordinance to supplement the wastewater treatment portion of the enterprise fund with $17,000 from the sewer fund cash balance for pump repair and landfill portion of the sanitation fund with $45,000 from the sanitation fund cash balance for landfill cell construction.

• Conduct the first of two required readings of an ordinance to amend Title 3, Chapter 1 of the Mitchell City Code by changing the time for appointment of persons to the boards, commissions and standing committees of the city.

• Consider authorizing the finance officer to transfer $80,000 of unrestricted cash assets to the Mitchell Regional Landfill Closure/Post-Closure reserve fund.

• Consider approving the selection of a construction manager at risk for the new city hall project.

• Conduct an executive session for the purpose of consulting with legal counsel or reviewing communications from legal counsel about proposed or pending litigation or contractual matters.