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OUR VIEW: Have patience with fundraising efforts

It seems many people are working the streets of Mitchell lately, fundraising for various facilities and activities, or considering options to raise public money for high-dollar projects.

Is this a trend that's becoming more prevalent? Or is it just high tide in a coincidental time of great need?

We say it's probably a little of both. Mitchell really has not had a big-money public project happen for a few years now, and Mayor Ken Tracy has focused his first year in office on what he considers civic needs. Meanwhile, youth-related activities are only getting more expensive, and fewer public dollars are available to fund them.

Tracy and the City Council have issued $13.9 in bonds to help pay for a Corn Palace renovation, an addition of a second ice sheet to the Mitchell Activities Center, an expansion and renovation of the Mitchell Public Library and the construction of a new city hall.

Perhaps the top attention-getter lately is the quest to build a second sheet of ice at the MAC. The $2.5 million project will receive approximately $2 million in public funding, with another $500,000 coming through fundraising.

This is a necessary project. The Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association was born in the early 1990s when a handful of people started a local hockey program. Today, approximately 200 youth hockey players use the MAC throughout the winter, playing in eight levels of competition. That doesn't include four men's league teams that use the arena, or the dozens of people who simply use the ice for recreational skating.

The popularity of hockey and skating in Mitchell has created an interesting Catch-22. Boosters are excited about the numbers but have to deal with the headaches of trying to schedule ice time for everyone. At the same time, Mitchell is missing out on tournaments -- lucrative to the local economy -- because we just don't have enough ice to host large events.

Speaking of scheduling headaches, a similar problem is occurring at Mitchell High School. An aged weight room is succumbing to the pressures of higher participation rates, prompting a private group to begin fundraising for what will become a public project. The Weight Room Improvement Committee is currently in the process of raising $120,000 and then using the money to purchase and donate new and modern equipment to the school.

One question: Why doesn't the school pay for this project?

The answer: The school already has provided a basic weight room for students to use, but it's outdated and inefficient. And considering the fiscal environment of South Dakota education, using school dollars on a weight room project just isn't a prudent course.

Indeed, it does seem like a high-water time for fundraising, but we urge residents to have patience and understand that community improvement sometimes requires philanthropic efforts.

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