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Mitchell City Council keeps texting ban

The Mitchell City Council has decided to keep a ban on texting while driving that is stricter than a statewide ban set to take effect this summer. (File photo)

With members of the Mitchell City Council deadlocked, Mayor Ken Tracy cast the deciding vote Monday night in favor of keeping the city's current ban on texting while driving.

After giving initial approval at its last meeting April 7 to a repeal of the city's texting ban once a new statewide ban takes effect later this year, the council split with a 4-4 vote on the issue Monday night at City Hall.

That left Tracy to cast the tie-breaking vote.

"I think that our ordinance is a better ordinance," Tracy said, prior to casting his vote in favor of keeping the city's texting ban.

The city's ban, which is stricter than the state's ban, makes texting while driving a primary offense, which means law enforcement can 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, which means law enforcement is only allowed to ticket a driver for texting while driving if that driver was stopped for another offense. The state's fine is $100.

The state's ban does not explicitly forbid local governments from passing or enforcing their own stricter texting bans.

Dave Tronnes, Randy Doescher, Mel Olson and Susan Tjarks voted in favor of a motion not to advance the ordinance to repeal the city's texting ban to a second reading, effectively voting to keep the city's current texting ban.

Doescher said he prefers the city's ban because it makes texting a primary offense.

"To me, it's a tool the officers have to help promote safety," he said.

Steve Rice, Marty Barington, Phil Carlson and Jeff Smith voted against the motion, effectively voting to repeal the city's texting ban.

A repeal of the city's texting ban was proposed by Carlson after a bill to ban texting while driving in all of South Dakota was signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard late last month.

Carlson said Monday night that he would still prefer for the law against texting while driving to be consistent everywhere in South Dakota.

"I don't want a patchwork of laws across the state," he said.

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.

Public dock

The Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee was asked Monday night to look for a new location for a proposed public dock program, away from a new picnic shelter being built by Mitchell's chapter of Pheasants Forever near the Sportsmen's Club.

At a public input meeting prior to Monday night's council meeting, several members of Mitchell's Pheasants Forever chapter objected to the proposed location of a public dock program between the Sportsmen's Club and the Sportsmen's Boat Ramp. That's near a $25,000, 20-by-30-foot picnic shelter being built by the chapter at the Sportsmen's Club, as part of the organization's "No Child Left Indoors" program.

Brad Zimmerman, of Pheasants Forever, said the group isn't necessarily against the public dock program in general, but does oppose the proposed location.

"I think it takes away from the purpose of that location," Zimmerman said. "I believe it's not the right fit."

Marc Bernard, also of Pheasants Forever, said he worries problems could arise if the city allows a public dock program and also moves ahead with plans to install a fishing pier at that location.

"We want to promote kids and parents to get out and use our lake," he said, arguing allowing docks at that location would detract from fishing in the area.

According to a draft of the proposed public dock program, anyone who lives in the city, or within 30 miles of the city limits, would be allowed to apply for a spot on a section of shoreline, where they would be allowed to install a dock and store a boat at their own expense.

Mark Puetz, a member of the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee, said the committee sees the public dock program as a way of expanding public access to Lake Mitchell.

"We try to maximize those opportunities for folks in the region," he said.

The annual fees would be set at $300 for Mitchell residents and $400 for non-residents. Those in the program would also be responsible for paying to have a dock built within specification set by the city and installed at the site, as well as maintaining the site and providing at least $300,000 of liability insurance for the dock.

Another location discussed to allow a public dock program was a section of shoreline near the West End Boat Ramp.

Consent agenda

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

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

• A raffle request from Abbott House, with the drawing to be held Nov. 15.

• A raffle request from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mitchell area, with the drawing to be held Aug. 20.

• An automatic supplement of $11,837 to the water treatment enterprise fund from an insurance claim reimbursement for roof wind damage.

• Set a May 5 date for a hearing on the application of Imagine Guild Inc. for a special event malt beverage license, a consumption permit and a noise permit for the Memorial Weekend in Mitchell and Barbecue Cook-Off, to be held May 24.

• 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, council members:

• Approved, during a Public Health and Safety Committee meeting, a request for a fireworks permit from Jennifer Starr for May 9.

• Did not approve, during a Sidewalk Committee meeting, a sidewalk waiver for the 2200 block of South Mentzer Street.

• Tabled, during a Public Works Committee meeting, urban boundary changes and functional class changes for certain roads.

• Recognized Councilman Phil Carlson, who officially resigned from the City Council on Monday, so he can accept a position as the attorney for the Consumer Protection Division of the South Dakota Attorney General's Office.

• Sat as the board of adjustment and approved the application of Lyn Rysavy for a side-yard on a corner variance of 17 feet, 6 inches, instead of the required 20 feet; and approved 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.

• Approved the first of two required readings of an ordinance to rezone property at 2316 S. Ohlman St. from Urban Development District to Highway Oriented Business District.

• Held a discussion about panhandlers in the city, and City Attorney Carl Koch agreed to research the issue.

• Set a May 5 date for a hearing on a proposed resolution of necessity for the 1400-1700 blocks of East First Avenue.

• Approved a contingency transfer of $14,500 to the general fund for professional services for the financial audit conducted at the Corn Palace.

• Approved a resolution to plat Lot 9A, a subdivision of previously platted Lot 9 of D. Odegaard's First Addition, a subdivision of previously platted Lot 5 of Fiala's Addition, city of Mitchell.

• Tabled a resolution to provide the South Dakota Department of Transportation with a map depicting the city of Mitchell's urban boundaries, as approved by state and local officials pursuant to the Federal Aid Highway Policy Guide of 1991.

• Tabled a resolution updating the functional classifications of certain roads in the city of Mitchell based on recommendations from the South Dakota Department of Transportation.

• Approved a work order for the West End Bridge project, increasing project costs due to scope.

• Approved an ordinance to add 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.

• Approved 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.

• Approved 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.

• Approved the first of two required readings on an ordinance to amend Chapter 8, City Personnel, by eliminating the personnel policy handbook requirement for employee termination, discipline and grievance and appeal provisions, which City Attorney Carl Koch said could conflict with at-will employment, which allows employees to be dismissed for any reason, or without just cause.

• Approved the first of two required readings on an ordinance to allow golf carts, including electric golf carts, to travel on roads in the city.

• Approved the first of two required readings on an ordinance to supplement storm drainage portion of the general fund with $22,000 from the general fund cash balance for storm drainage improvements on West Second Avenue; the water treatment plant and the water distribution portions of the enterprise fund with $5,000 for roofing repairs, $17,000 for water utilities on East 10th Avenue and $12,000 for water utilities on West Second Avenue, all from the water fund cash balance; and the waste water collection portion of the sewer fund with $20,000 for sewer utilities on West Second Avenue and $12,000 for sewer utilities on East 10th Avenue, all from the sewer fund cash balance.

• Approved an agreement to transfer entitlements with the South Dakota Department of Transportation for SRE equipment for the Mitchell Airport in the amount of $125,000.

• Approved a work order for annual bridge inspection agreement for consultant with South Dakota Department of Transportation utilizing Brosz Engineering.