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County, Extension begin talks on regional center in Mitchell

As the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service considers where it will house a regional office in Mitchell, Davison County commissioners visited with a representative Tuesday about using the county's 4-H fairgrounds.

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The Davison County Commission proposed to the state Tuesday to use the current Extension office for the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service's regional center in Mitchell. Here, John Claggett, commission chairman, explains the possibility of adding on to the west side of the building to Joanne Haase, district Extension director. (Anna Jauhola/Republic)

As the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service considers where it will house a regional office in Mitchell, Davison County commissioners visited with a representative Tuesday about using the county's 4-H fairgrounds.

Joanne Haase, district Extension director, told the commission that SDSU is looking to lease property for the office. Extension's goal is to have the best location for foot and car traffic; however, the commission advised the best place to continue Davison County's Extension service is at its current location.

"I feel the synergy is best out there to have all the (Extension) people in one spot," said John Claggett, commission chairman.

If the Extension Service chooses the fairgrounds as its Mitchell Regional Center, the building would house 10-12 field specialists, support staff, technology staff and a 4-H adviser, should the county choose to hire one. The need for a regional center flows from statewide budget cuts to Extension that have resulted in a reorganization effort.

The current building may have to be renovated in order to comfortably house the proposed staff.

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"My biggest concern is how much is it going to cost?" said Denny Kiner, commissioner.

The county would have to cover any capital improvements to the building, but South Dakota State University would cover any cosmetic improvements, like furniture. Haase said SDSU is looking into surplus, donations or leasing furniture.

After Tuesday's meeting, Claggett and Kiner took Haase to the fairgrounds for a tour, accompanied by Mark Ruml, county maintenance supervisor, and Larry Schmitt, groundskeeper at the fairgrounds. Haase said the building could work as-is for the amount of staff needed for a regional center, but there would be a few rearrangements. The Extension building has enough space to accommodate 10-12 specialists, and there is enough room for other regional center requirements like two classrooms for 30-70 people.

The building is also equipped or has potential for other requirements like wireless Internet, broadband access, conference phones, mail room, copy machine area, two restrooms, handicap accessibility, a kitchen and break room, and ample storage space.

More room will be needed in the future, and Claggett explained to Haase the possibility of adding on to the west side of the current Extension building. This would provide more office space and connectivity to the exhibit hall and activity center.

"There are a lot of possibilities since you have a nice flat space," Haase said.

Extension officials could use extra space throughout the complex until improvements are possible, Haase said.

The regional office has to be in place by Oct. 21, which doesn't leave much time for any construction, Claggett said. Any capital improvements would have to begin by the end of June.

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"It's a matter of how quickly we can make decisions and get paperwork signed," Claggett said, referring to bidding and awarding any construction projects.

Commissioner Jerry Fischer said if the Extension Service were to lease a building from the county and needed to make any improvements or add on, it would have to be no less than a 10-year lease agreement.

Haase assured the commission that Extension would have to bring a lease agreement of more than five years to the Board of Regents.

"We have to find something that is mutually beneficial," she said.

She compared the commission's proposal to Watertown's current facility, which is a cooperative between the city and Codington County. While most regional centers will be built new, she said Watertown and possibly Mitchell's will be placed in existing buildings.

"We're trying to find places where people congregate," she said.

The commission will continue to be in touch with the Extension Service on a final decision.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

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* Approved a malt beverage license for the Mitchell Exchange Club to sell beer at this year's mud races.

* Asked Mark Ruml, maintenance supervisor, to look into a better exhaust system or way to move air through the jail showers to remove moisture, which has caused damage.

* Heard from Jackie Horton, executive director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), that the staff will be moving into 200 E. Fifth St. as the program is growing. The new office space across the street from the courthouse will accommodate two full-time and two part-time employees along with five Retired Senior Volunteer Program participants, Horton said. Horton expects the program to be moved out of the courthouse by June 15. n Heard a request from Sheriff Dave Miles to approve a new deputy position to provide more security for the courthouse. Miles proposed moving Tammy Herrick to the sheriff's office from the jail, who would continue with the civil paper service. Deputy Ben Gant, who just finished law enforcement training as a state certified officer in Pierre, would serve in the new position. Each would receive a 50 cent pay increase. Miles would move a sheriff's office employee to the jail into Herrick's position.

The sheriff's office is currently over budget, so there isn't any extra money to fund a new position, according to Auditor Susan Kiepke.

"I can see the point 100 percent, but we need to see where we can get the dollars first," said Commissioner Gerald Weiss.

The commission decided to table the decision for a week to look into where the county can find funding for the position.

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