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Nearly 40 apply to lead Corn Palace

At least 39 people have applied to be the next Corn Palace director, but Mayor Ken Tracy said Tuesday the position will not be filled before possible changes are discussed regarding how the city-owned arena and tourist attraction is run.

The deadline to apply for the position was 5 p.m. Tuesday, but applications postmarked prior to the deadline will be accepted, according to Billie Kelly, the city’s human resources director.

A contract between the city of Mitchell and the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce, which operates the gift shop on the Corn Palace’s arena floor during the summer, is set to expire at the end of next year, and negotiations between the two sides for a new contract have only recently started, Tracy said.

It’s possible the negotiations could include a talk about changing the management structure at the Corn Palace, or even privatizing the management of the facility, Tracy said. That’s an option Tracy said he is not necessarily advocating at this point.

“We’re going to take a look at any and all options,” he said.

It’s also possible, though, the negotiations will result in no changes, or smaller changes to the Corn Palace, such as joint management of the concessions, Tracy said.

The current contract between the city and the Chamber is a 10-year agreement that allows the Chamber to operate a gift shop on the Corn Palace’s arena floor during the summer, and entitles the city to 16 percent of the gross sales from the gift shop, according to Tracy. It also mandates the

Chamber use 10 percent of the gross sales on advertising for the Corn Palace.

There is no set timetable for the negotiations, but Tracy said he would like to have something to present to the City Council well before the contract expires at the end of next year.

Whatever happens, Tracy said filling the Corn Palace director position will inevitably be delayed.

“I don’t want to make a move regarding personnel and then maybe change how we’re doing business, should we decide to structure it differently,” Tracy said.

The Corn Palace director position has been open since former Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling resigned March 3.

Schilling was asked to resign after a state audit of the Corn Palace’s finances found he routinely counted money from the city-owned arena and tourist attraction’s cash registers alone in his office, failed to keep and maintain proper financial records, and misused a city credit card on multiple occasions.

The 20-page audit report was released to the public about two weeks after Schilling’s resignation was announced at a March 3 City Council meeting. At the time, Tracy said he did not have evidence to suggest Schilling stole money or committed any crimes, but did confirm state investigators were already looking into the matter.