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City manager petitions to be turned in today

Today is the deadline to submit petitions with enough signatures to place the question of hiring a city manager for Mitchell on the June 7 ballot. Mark Buche, who is leading the effort, said they have more than enough signatures to qualify for th...

Today is the deadline to submit petitions with enough signatures to place the question of hiring a city manager for Mitchell on the June 7 ballot.

Mark Buche, who is leading the effort, said they have more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Buche said they had about 1,550 names by Friday and collected more during the weekend.

"We just wanted to make sure we have a little cushion there," he said.

The city manager supporters need the names of 1,465 registered voters in the city to place the question on the June 7 ballot, according to Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson. That's 15 percent of the number of registered voters in Mitchell at the time of the most recent general election, Nov. 2, 2010.

Greg McCurry, of Mitchell, was part of a group that collected some signatures during a door-to-door effort Saturday, said the windy, cool conditions made it a challenge.

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"We got a few," McCurry said. "It was a tough day with all the wind."

Buche said more signatures were gathered during a dance recital at the Corn Palace Sunday afternoon. He said more names will be accepted today.

Buche said he will inspect the names and do other last-minute checks before turning the petitions into City Hall.

Wilson originally set a May 1 deadline but changed it to 5 p.m. today after it was realized that May 1 was a Sunday.

Buche served on a Focus 2020 committee that recommended hiring a full-time city manager or administrator.

An effort to place the question on the Nov. 2, 2010, ballot failed when timelines were found to be poorly structured, prohibiting local supporters from gathering enough names in time.

A proposal to have the City Council place it on the ballot was halted when it was learned state law forbids such an action. That sparked the idea of a petition drive, which will conclude today. Buche said he hopes it's a satisfying conclusion and there are no problems, such as what happened when opponents of a beer license for a local convenience store had most of their petitions tossed out due to technical flaws.

"We've gone to a lot of work to get this many," he said.

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Five South Dakota cities have city managers: Yankton, Vermillion, Brookings, Sturgis and Canton, according to the South Dakota Municipal League.

Yankton and Vermillion have long had city managers, Municipal League Executive Director Yvonne Taylor said.

Voters in Brookings, Sturgis and Canton approved changes in their city government formats in recent years, Taylor said.

At least one South Dakota city, Madison, once had a city manager form of government but abandoned it.

Mitchell has considered the concept once before. On Feb. 17, 1948, voters rejected the proposal 1,790-1,509.

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