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Flooded with concerns: Council considers citizens' complaints regarding city's drainage issues during recent flood

Several homes in the Loma Linda neighborhood were still flooded on Monday afternoon in the western part of Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Community members sounded off Monday night in the wake of the recent rainstorm that drenched Mitchell, urging the city of Mitchell to take better action should a similar event occur again.

The handful of complaints and concerns were addressed during the public input portion of the Mitchell City Council meeting at City Hall. Absent from the meeting was Council members Jeff Smith and Marty Barington

Mike Vehle, former state senator, spoke to the council regarding his concerns of the damages caused by the flooding disaster.

Vehle owns a warehouse on East Juniper Avenue, near Corona Village. Vehle’s warehouse was one of several buildings in the area that experienced significantly more flood damage than other parts of the city.

“It got bad, and I measured the waterline on the outside of the building, which was 51 inches, but on the inside it was roughly 23 inches deep,” Vehle said. “Everything in the building is gone; all the conference room chairs, the carpet and the whole bit.”

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In addition, Vehle said the water removed his pontoon and the trailer he uses to transport it during the flood event.

“It took the boat and trailer, and the water took it right on down the street,” Vehle said. “I’m probably less affected by the flood than others, but all my mementos and valuables were destroyed.”

Considering the area where Vehle’s warehouse and Patzer Woodworking is located – which is the area between West Havens and East Juniper avenues -- suffered debatably the most severe damages from the flooding, Public Works Director Kyle Croce organized a meeting that involved some residents and business owners with buildings and homes in that area.

“While we are thankful that Kyle (Croce) was nice enough to set up a meeting today with us. We felt that you as the council needed to know just how bad this area was hit,” Vehle said. “It’s even worse for some of the other guys here.”

One of the individuals who experienced some of the worst damage from the two-day rainstorm was Tom Patzer, owner of Patzer Woodworking.

Patzer also owns two properties on East Juniper Avenue, but his 414 E. Juniper Ave. woodworking business suffered the most damage of all his buildings in the area. Patzer said the building that houses Patzer Woodworking saw roughly a foot of standing water throughout the entire structure.

“The damages are very significant. We lost all of the cabinets in our showroom, we lost cabinets in 10 offices and a warehouse full of cabinets, and that amounted to a lot of money,” an emotional Patzer said. “We don’t know how to fix it, but the city is hopefully going to take a deeper look into the drainage issues in that area.”

Patzer noted the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District that he said the city approved roughly five years would resolve some of the drainage issues, but not all.

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“We’ve been in business over 38 years, and it would be nice to see the city to take a deeper look at this, so it doesn’t happen again,” Patzer said.

Pam Wittstruck, a resident living in the area near Patzer Woodworking at the address of 316 E. Hackberry St., said the water damages her home underwent have resulted in the remodeling of her entire home. Wittstruck said she’s resided in the East Hackberry home for 31 years and has watched water seep into the basement anytime the city experiences roughly an inch of rain.

“I’m 54 years old, and I have to completely redo my house and get a homeowners loan again that I can hopefully pay off before I die,” Wittstruck said to the council. “It’s really frustrating because my husband and I have complained and complained, but every time the city says they made fixes it gets worse.”

Drew Boyden spoke on behalf of the residents living in the Loma Linda Drive Trailer Park, and said the residents asked for help during and after the rainstorm, but he alleged they received none.

“I just felt like something should have been done after the spring snow and rainstorm, but there wasn’t,” Boyden said. “This is directly related to city property and the retention ponds that the city owns, and I was told by a city employee that you haven’t been able to get a truck to check the tile out.”

On the west side of Mitchell near Montana and Minnesota streets, Joanne Geraets, a local resident who lives nearby, detailed the flooding problems the area has experienced over the years. Geraets said the drainage issues she’s witnessed are coming from the alleyway near her 317 S. Montana St. home, which have caused water to seep into her basement.

The alleyway Geraets referenced is located between West Birch and West Ash avenues, and she said the lack of drainage has inflicted significant water damage to her home for years.

“Water comes down Birch, which is elevated, and it turns into the alley and washes everything out,” Geraets said.

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Geraets pitched several suggestions that she believes could help resolve the drainage issues in the alleyway.

“We got a lot of water in our basement and a lot of damage, but when the water comes down Birch there is nothing in between like a sewer system to catch that water,” Geraets said. “I don’t understand why we can’t get something done, either engineering or regrading the alley?”

Upon the handful of concerns brought forth by the citizens, Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson encouraged all residents affected by the severe flooding – which was a result of the city experiencing 7 to 10 inches of rainfall in a two-day span on Wednesday into Thursday – to report any damages to Davison County Emergency Management Director Jeff Bathke. Everson said those damages would then be reported to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which could help aid residents with financial assistance for those who qualify.

“If you would, please report any damages and the costs that may occur from those so he can have those to report to FEMA,” Everson said. “And he has some of that information online at the Davison County website.”

In addition, Public Works Director Kyle Croce said the city is currently working on the drainage issues in Loma Linda Drive.

“Last meeting, the council approved the southwest area drainage preliminary plan – which includes the Loma Linda area – and I think we will look into that area,” Croce said. “We will continue to work with Mike Vehle and Patzer Woodworking and any of the residents that would like to work with us.”

Croce said the city will look into what’s included in the TIF, and how far it extends.

“Once we get that design, we’ll see if it does alleviate some of the drainage issues in that area outside of the TIF, and if not, we’ll look into a full-blown drainage design for that area to get a plan together,” Croce said.

Council approves drainage ordinance change

In response to the recent flooding disaster, the city has recently shifted its attention to a provision in a drainage ordinance that city officials believe is partly responsible for the drainage issues the community experienced.

Croce laid out the details of the provisions in the city’s Drainage Plan Submittal Requirements ordinance, which previously lacked the requirement that all commercial developments regardless of size required a drainage plan to be submitted to the city.

Under the newly amended ordinance, any commercial developments, regardless of size, shall provide the city with a drainage plan. In addition, any and all other developments, including residential developments that are over 1 acre in size will now have to submit a drainage plan that is then approved by the city.

“What we have seen in the last few days is a result of some of these not being done,” Everson said.

Croce said he thinks the amended changes are a step in the right direction for the city to improve the ongoing drainage issues.

Council member Dan Allen asked if a resident looking to build a home on an acre and a half of land would be required to get the city’s stamp of approval before building a home on the respective land?

In response, City Attorney Justin Johnson said that would apply to the scenarios Allen referenced.

“I’ll approve the first reading, but I won’t at the second one,” Allen said.

Consent agenda

The following items were considered and approved as part of the consent agenda:

  • Approved the minutes of the September 3 council meeting.

  • Approved the minutes of the August 26 Planning Commission; August 19 Traffic Commission meeting.

  • Approved department reports.

  • Approved the following raffle permits: Longfellow PTO with the drawing to be held on Oct. 4, 2019; Mitchell Catholic Foundation with the drawing to be held on Oct. 16, 2019; James River Gobblers NWTF with the drawing to be held on Oct. 31, 2019.

  • Set the date for the following bid opening: Oct. 8 2019, for Corn Palace basketball backstops project.

  • Appointed the following members to the nuisance appeals board: Joe Schlimgen for a term to run from July 2019 to July 2022; Larry Jirsa for a term to run from July 2019 to July 2022; Jay Larson for a term to run from July 2019 to July 2022; Doug Molumby for a term to run for July 2019 to July 2022.

  • Approved the following new taxi cab licenses: Logan Smith, Devin Dethlefsen and Eric Zilla, all doing business as Lyft drivers.

  • Approved request to apply for Walmart community grant.

  • Approved automatic supplement to the Special Revenue Fund in the amount of $2,500 for fireworks cleanup, which is from a donation of funds.

  • Approved automatic supplement to the Special Revenue Fund in the amount of $500 for baseball equipment, which is from a donation of funds.

  • Approved automatic supplement to the General Fund in the amount of $700 for the Police Department’s ERU and Police training.

  • Approved September 16 pay estimates.

  • Approved bills, payroll, salary adjustments and new employee hires.

Other business

  • Met with the traffic commission at 6 p.m.

  • Pledge of Allegiance, received invocation from Salvation Army, roll call, heard citizens’ input.

  • Considered entering into an executive session regarding economic development legal discussion.

  • Approved consent agenda.

  • Approved Traffic Committee report.

  • Held hearing and take action for the following hearing: Corn Palace Shrine Club’s application for a special event liquor license for a September 7 birthday party to be located at the Masonic Hall.

  • Met as Board of Adjustment.

  • Set the date for the following hearing: Oct. 7, 2019, Terry & Frances Rietveld’s application for a back-yard (road side) variance of 22 feet vs 30 feet as required for construction of a new home at 95 S. Harmon Dr., legally described as Lot 48 & 49, Indianhead Addition, city of Mitchell, Davison County, South Dakota. The property is zoned (RL) Single Family Residential District.

  • Held hearings and approved the following applications: Lamar Advertising owners David and Connie Deinert’s application for a conditional use permit/variance to replace the off-premise billboard sign that was destroyed by a storm. The new sign will exceed the 300 square feet signage area, (approximately 400 square feet) standard. The property is legally described as; southwest quarter of Highway 4 south of Interstate-90. The property is zoned Historic Business Highway District; Selena Thomas’ application for a conditional use permit to operate a massage business at 622 S. Wisconsin St. in the city of Mitchell. The property is zoned R2 Medium Density Residential District; Christy Duba and Long Brothers, LLC application for a conditional use permit to operate an indoor recreational facility within the existing building located at 113 W. Douglas Ave. in the city of Mitchell, Davison County, SD. The property is zoned R3 Medium Density Residential District;

  • Held a hearing and denied Jason and Ramy Norgaard’s application for a conditional use permit to operate a family residential child care center in their home located at 1220 E. Havens Ave., lot 103, Brendan Mobile Village, in the city of Mitchell.

  • Reconvened as City Council.

  • Approved and award bid for Burr Street median landscaping project No. 2019-51.

  • Approved to adopt the finding that all feasible and prudent alternatives to demolish the 305 and 307 N. Main St. Buildings have been considered, along with ensuring the demolition contractor will comply with certain conditions. The corroding Third Avenue and Main Street building is deemed historic, and the city had to allow the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to complete its review on the building. Upon the completion of the review, the SHPO approved all feasible and prudent alternatives were considered, clearing the city to demolish the building.

  • Approved resolution that levies special assessments for Business Improvement District No. 3.

  • Hold a hearing and take action on the assessment roll for 2018 construction and 2018 nuisance abatements.

  • Approved a resolution that would allow the city to apply for grant funds from the South Dakota Department of Water and Natural Resources, which would go toward the city’s single stream recycling program.

  • Approved a resolution agreement that allows the city and the South Dakota Department of Transporation to share design costs for upgrading the Rowley Street and Intersate-90 bridge crossing. The estimated cost for the city is $4,803.75.

  • Held second reading on ordinance No. O2019-13, amending BID 2 to extend SEA funding.

  • Held second reading of 2020 annual appropriation ordinance, which will be the final ordinance for the city’s proposed 2020 budget that includes all of the changes discussed by council during the previous work sessions that took place through August.

  • Held first reading on Ordinance No. O2019-21, revising Mitchell City Code Title 4, Chapter 4, vehicles for hire, by reorganizing, renaming and amending the sections.

  • Held first reading on Ordinance No. O2019-22, amending the city chapter codes for the Corn Palace Entertainment Board.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSBOB EVERSON
Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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