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City Council decides to let taxi license expire

Mitchell City Hall. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Mitchell City Council decided Monday to let the taxi license for a controversial taxi service in the city expire at the end of the month, citing a number of criminal convictions and concerns about his driving.

The council voted 8-0 to deny Speedy Taxi's application for a new license in 2019, and decided to take no action on revoking the license for the remainder of 2018, which is what some citizens told the council they wanted to see when the issue first came up in September. The decision Monday was made during a regular meeting at Mitchell City Hall and Dustin Feistner, the business' manager and sole employee, was not in attendance.

"There's a lot of things that would make me feel not inclined to give permission for him to be a taxi driver," said council member Susan Tjarks.

One of the major topics from the September meeting, an alleged case of road rage from July between Feistner and a driver from Lori's Lift, was mostly a non-issue on Monday. Johnson said that the state's attorney's office had decided not to pursue charges. The council decided unanimously in September to defer action until the legal charge was resolved.

Unlike that first meeting, there was far less testimony on Monday. Council members were confused on why Feistner wasn't present, and two other local residents testified that their interactions with Feistner weren't positive.

"He gives grade-school children rides to schools. He works with the mentally challenged," said Lori Claussen, who owns the rival Lori's Lift business. "I don't think people realize what a past he has. ... I think parents need to know what these people are doing."

Larry Johnson, who owns the Rodeway Inn in Mitchell with his wife, said that Feistner has listed his address at 1313 S. Ohlman St. as the address for Speedy Taxi online. Johnson said Feistner had come to the hotel to rent a room but was acting very agitated and insisted that he pick out his own room.

The council also took issue with the application for the 2019 license for Speedy Taxi, because it listed both Wayne and Dustin Feistner as owners, with Dustin Feistner as the manager. Previously, Wayne Feistner was listed as the sole owner but Dustin Feistner said he was working all day, seven days a week, to run the business.

Tjarks and Council President Steve Rice discussed how much the city should be involved with taxi licenses. Rice pointed out that the city previously approved lists of drivers, and now no longer does that.

"I know of other people ... that also might have past convictions that work at other places in town and we don't regulate whether other businesses put them on the street to for deliveries or pickups," Rice said. "That's just up to that employer's discretion of who they hire and what they let them do."

Tjarks had previously made a motion to cancel the 2018 license but that died for a lack of second.

"Are we saying that for the next couple weeks, we're saying he's OK to drive?" Council member Marty Barington said when that motion was being considered. "If we don't think he should be driving, why should we let him drive tomorrow?"

City Attorney Justin Johnson said only the items where Feistner has been found guilty of crimes should be taken into the city's decision, not what he's been accused of doing. Nevertheless, there were a handful of crimes ranging from speeding to aggravated assault to disorderly conduct that have been pleaded guilty dating back to 2009.

"I wish this wasn't our responsibility, either," Tjarks said. "It's a matter of public safety. Is Speedy Taxi running an operation that is in the best interest of public safety in our city? To me, the answer is no."

Casey's lot purchase approved

The council also voted unanimously to approve a purchase agreement with Casey's General Store to purchase the now vacant lot at 701 N. Main St. The purchase price is $1 but stipulates that the property can't house a competing retail business for the next 15 years.

Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said following the meeting that once the city takes ownership of the lot, the city will be OK leaving the lot as is for the time being, with no plans for anything permanent there.

"Obviously, we're limited long term about what can go there but I think it will have some benefits in the short term, especially with being able to put some temporary things there, such as vendors or rides during the Corn Palace Festival," Everson said.

Everson said the city likely won't make the 100 by 75 foot lot a permanent space for parking but said he understood some people have been parking there, adding he didn't have a specific issue with it.

"I've already seen people parking there," Rice said. "That's no secret. ... The 15 years seems long but maybe something else will change before 15 years is up."

Barington said it was an opportunity near the Corn Palace that the city should not pass up.

"I just know the years we've sat here as the council, we've talked about the fear of passing up the chance to buy something across the road (from the Corn Palace)," he said. "To control what's around the Corn Palace and our city's icon and moving in that direction, for basically no expense ... I think it's important to have that in our control."

First step taken on small cell rules

The council also approved on first reading an ordinance dealing with small cell facilities, which are the equipment needed for the expansion of 5G wireless networks. Johnson, who has helped to draft Mitchell's ordinance in conjunction with the South Dakota Municipal League, said the rules are in place to try to avoid issues with providers that would end up in court.

"That's not the place we want to be and that's not the place the provider wants to be either," he said.

Rice said a number of his questions concerned the engineering and what defined a site. Johnson clarified that each antenna would be considered its own site and would require separate engineering, and likewise with each unit requiring its own noise study. Johnson said that noise studies are only needed within 20 feet of a residence, but noted that could be in play if the facilities are built in business districts or downtown.

Under the ordinance, Mitchell's Public Works Department would handle all of the applications and review the requests of those to be put in place. If there's a dispute, the Mitchell Planning Commission would conduct a special review.

Under FCC rules, antennas being placed on a new structure have 60 days for a decision on approval, while new structures have a 90-day window for a decision. Johnson also clarified that the rules only apply to dealing with public entities, and that negotiating with private companies or entities would not be subject to the rules.

Johnson said that at Mitchell's highest concentration of antennas, Mitchell would probably have about 700 of the small cell facilities in the city.

"Just to speculate, I'd be very surprised if we ever got close to that number," he said, following up.

"The one thing that we have in our favor is that we have fiber infrastructure all over the city and can tap into that network pretty easily," Johnson said, before joking: "I plugged that a lot when I was on the phone with the people at Verizon and AT&T."

The City Council will have to take up a resolution in January to set its specific fees for what it will charge. The goal is to have the rules in place for once the FCC's order on small cell facility rules goes into effect in January.

"Whether you believe the hype or don't believe the hype, it's coming," Rice said. "If we don't have this in place, we're going to be behind the 8-ball."

Consent agenda

The following items were approved at once as part of the consent agenda:

• The minutes of the Dec. 3 council meeting and the Nov. 13 Planning Commission meeting, and department reports.

• The following raffle permits: MTI Mavericks Rodeo Team with the drawing to be held on January 12; James River Gobblers Chapter NWTF with the drawing to be held on February 2; Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association with the drawing to be held on February 24; LifeQuest (Dancing for Dreams Event) with the drawing to be held on March 22; Mitchell Lions Club with the drawing to be held on April 6.

• Set the date for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 17 for Sanborn Boulevard Phase II and III and Sanborn bridge improvements construction project bid opening.

• 2019 taxi license applications.

• A change order for 2018 sidewalk project, schedule B to Top Grade Concrete. A change of $2,320.29, bringing the overall contract price to $54,215.29.

• An application for state grant for landfill compactor.

• Authorized the purchase of a 3/4-ton pickup, a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado at the cost of $31,109, replacing a 1995 Ford pickup in need of $6,000 in repairs.

• The write-off of 2017 delinquent utility billing accounts and 2018 ambulance mandatory accounts.

• Gas and fuel quotations, pay estimates, bills, payroll, salary adjustments and new hires.

Other business

The council also:

• Held a 6 p.m. Sidewalk Committee meeting and updated the five-year sidewalk plan.

• Heard public input and the Sidewalk Committee report.

• Set the date for the following hearing: Jan. 7 for the transfer of a retail (on-sale) liquor license from M.G. Oil Company's location at 1801 N. Main St., Suites 3-6, doing business as EZ$ Pub, to the location at 1500 N. Duff St., Suite F, doing business as EZ$ Pub and Village Bowl. The item was taken from the consent agenda and approved separately at the request of Barington, who abstained due to a conflict of interest.

• Approved of the renewal of the liquor license for V.V. Inc., doing business as The Hideout.

• Held a hearing and approved the application of the Corn Palace Shrine Club for a special event liquor license at the Masonic Hall on Jan. 11 for the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce banquet.

• Meeting as the Board of Adjustment, approved the following applications: a variance application from Boyd Reimnitz (620 W. Fifth Ave.) for a side yard on a corner variance of 12 feet vs. 20 feet for a detached garage. The property is zoned single-family residential; a conditional use permit application from West Havens Storage LLC to construct self-service storage facilities at 1522 W. Havens Ave. The property is zoned highway-oriented business.

• Awarded a bid for used scraper from VanderPol Dragline, of Mitchell, for $61,000. It was the only bid received.

• Approved Resolution No. 2018-65, a plat of Tract 1 of Odland's First Addition in Section 18 in Mitchell Township in Mitchell.

• Approved an agreement for Sanborn Boulevard Phase II and III engineering agreement.

• Approved an amendment to extend the existing wildland fire contract with the South Dakota Dept. of Agriculture. The extension will only be until May 15, 2019, and another extension will likely be needed in early 2019.

• Approved an agreement with Lakeview Golf Course Clubhouse Manager Eric Hieb for 2019 and 2020.

• Authorized the mayor to sign a state utilities certificate and right of way certificate for the Sanborn Boulevard Bridge Improvement Grant project. At this time, no utilities or easements are expected to be required.

• Held second reading and adopted Ordinance No. 2018-16, which would adopt new District A boundaries for snow removal.

• Held second reading and adopted Ordinance No. 2018-17, which authorizes supplemental appropriations.

• Met for 55 minutes in executive session, citing legal discussions. No action was taken.