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Construction of a new city hall in southern downtown Mitchell could begin as soon as this fall, according to Mayor Ken Tracy.

On Wednesday night, Tracy presented the City Council with proposed plans for a new city hall, prepared by Architecture Inc., of Sioux Falls, the firm designing the project for the city. Puetz Corp., the project's construction manager, is still working to estimate a cost for the project based on the architect's plans, Tracy said. The city has set aside $3.2 million for the project.

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If construction begins this fall, it would mostly consist of preliminary work, Tracy said in an interview Thursday.

"We're not going to have the walls put up or anything like that," he said. "But, if we can get a start on it, we're just that much further ahead."

If the estimate for the project by Puetz Corp. exceeds the city's $3.2 million budget, a decision will need to be made whether to make cuts to the project or find additional money, Tracy said.

"All of that would take time," he said. "If too much time is spent making those kinds of decisions, that obviously will delay the start date."

In the plan presented Wednesday night, the new city hall would be a two-story, 17,000-square-foot structure located at the corner of North Main Street and West First Avenue, with parking lots directly west of the building, and other lots in the surrounding area.

Conference rooms and city offices, including the mayor's office, and the council's meeting room, would occupy a large portion of the first floor. There would be additional city offices and conference rooms on the second floor, as well as a staff break room. There would also be a basement, with space for storage and future expansion.

Council President Jeff Smith said Thursday that the building, based on the architect's drawings, appears as if it won't be too extravagant for the city's historic downtown area.

"To me, it looks like it's a very nice building," Smith said. "It looks like it's going to fit well, and have a functional design."

Councilman Dan Allen said Thursday he expects the cost of the proposed plan will exceed the city's $3.2 million budget, and that he wouldn't support providing any additional money for the project if that's the case.

"We're either going to build it with that much money, or we'll have to start cutting," he said.

The council brought the project's budget to $3.2 million by including additional money in last year's budget, adding to the $2.6 million originally set aside for the project.

"That's our budget, and we have to live within our budget," Allen said.

The existing City Hall building, which is attached to the Corn Palace, will be renovated to house tourism exhibits as part of the second phase of the two-phase renovation of the city-owned tourist attraction.