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County, Chamber discuss community direction

Davison County North Offices. (Republic file photo)

Leaders of the Davison County Commission and Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation discussed what they'd like to see in the community and region during the commission's board meeting Tuesday.

That in itself is a step forward, officials noted, with the county commission historically having a frosty relationship with the city of Mitchell and some civic-minded organizations.

Mark Vaux, executive director of the Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce since last September, said he plans to issue quarterly reports to the city and county governing bodies. Chamber Director Sonya Moller was also on hand at the meeting, held at the Davison County North Offices.

"We feel it's really important to be here," Vaux said. "One of the things we spent a lot of time on is a new communication strategy and part of that is me being here today. ... We need everybody to know that Mitchell is back on the map and what we're going to do and where we're going to take our community going forward."

Some of the highlights that Vaux mentioned included that the Development Corporation is currently pursuing 16 business projects to either retain, expand or bring new businesses to Mitchell, which would include $68 million in capital investment in the region, if they were all successful. Vaux also noted that 48 percent of Mitchell's sales tax revenue comes from residents outside the city limits, stressing the importance of the regional impact.

"We know that not all 16 of those are going to come together successfully," Vaux said. "That's just the nature of the business we're in. But we've got some good leads we're working on."

Other highlights include assisting with a partnership with Avera Health to provide occupational health, streamlining Convention and Visitors Bureau job duties, a 100 percent renewal rate among Mitchell Main Street and Beyond members, and driving more social media and web traffic to Chamber sites.

In Davison County, as of February, there was an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent, with 337 unemployed people and 768 job openings. With that, a focus turned to housing needs, something Vaux said will get a lot more of his attention during the rest of the year.

Commissioners John Claggett and Denny Kiner both noted the low number of listed homes on the market in the Mitchell area. Claggett said he recently saw it at fewer than 50 in the Mitchell Multiple Listing Service area, which spans area towns, as well.

"I thought it was bad when it was at 100," said Kiner, a retired real estate agent.

Some of the commission suggestions included updating the Mitchell area housing study. In 2015, an update to the city's rental housing study noted that in the previous 15 years, more than 1,170 new housing units had been created, but 522 of those, or 44 percent, were single-family homes.

Vaux said he surveyed one Mitchell business that hired 55 people in 2018, but 80 percent of those new hires are driving in from the Huron area.

"We want those people. If we need to do more rentals, we'll do that but we want single-family homes," Vaux said. "That's where you drop anchor."

Vaux said there's three areas that need to be addressed to help businesses expand: jobs, housing and daycare. He underlined the importance of those last two roles, because Mitchell has jobs.

"You can have all of the jobs you want but if you don't have the housing and daycare, it doesn't matter," Vaux said. "All of the dots are connected."

Register of Deeds notes annual report, law change

The commission also heard the annual report from Register of Deeds Deb Young. In all, the county took in $223,946.80 in fees at the Register of Deeds office.

In 2018, the county saw a 0.44 percent increase in total revenue (including state funds) and a 0.55 percent decrease in county-only revenue, which was $206,659.48 to the county.

In transfer fee revenue, the county had a 15.9 percent increase, to $87,569 in 2018, up from $75,538 in 2017.

Young said she's anticipating a legislative change made earlier this year with House Bill 1272. The legislation, which goes into effect July 1, allows for remote online notarization for paper documents only, and in cases where the notary officer knows the person seeking the notary.

The realistic application of the new law, Young said, is to allow two parties to get on a video chat platform and the notary will watch the person sign the document. She said it's something that rural attorneys have pushed for to make notarizing documents easier.

"We will have remote notarization but it won't be digital," Young said, noting that the people will still have to physically file the papers.

She said she doesn't expect the county to change its way of conducting notary services, continuing to do them in person. The state has about 18,000 notaries.

County turns back map file request

The board also formally rejected a request from a plat book company to provide the county's mapping files for free.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Bathke said that Farm and Home Publishers, of Belmond, Iowa, was requesting to get access to the county's mapping files. Farm and Home Publishers, county officials said, has not done county plat books in many years.

The county traditionally charges $4,000 for a company to have access to what is called a shapefile, which is the file format that is used for geographic information system software and contains info on various geographic features. Bathke said that the mapping, which is done via an airplane flyover, costs about $70,000.

"Considering what it costs, I don't think we should be giving those files to businesses for free," he said.

The current directory company that makes county plat books is County-Wide Directory, of Larchwood, Iowa. That firm uses the county's free, publicly available mapping information from the county's website to update its directory annually and doesn't pay the $4,000 file fee. Bathke said the file fee is based on what other similar-sized counties charge.

"We're (being) fair on the free part," Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said.

Other business

The commissioners:

• Recited the Pledge of Allegiance, approved previous meeting minutes.

• Heard citizen input from Orville Stevenson regarding weight limits and standing water in Beulah Township.

• Approved the following personnel changes in the jail department: A probationary raise increase for Corrections Officers Kyelle Herrick to $17.95 per hour, and Michael Salathe and Lesley Odegard to $17.96 per hour; a job classification change for Margie Johnson to become a full-time corrections officer at $17.95 per hour; hired Lynn Smith at $17.96 per hour, and Treston Jerke and Kyle Bice at $16.87 per hour, all part-time corrections officers as of April 15.

• Met with Sheriff Steve Brink and Jail Administrator Don Radel in executive session for 14 minutes and did not take official action.

• Met as the county Board of Equalization.

• Heard a quarterly report from Veterans Service Officer Craig Bennett, who reported he's seen nearly a 50 percent increase in visits to his office in the last year.

• Noted that because of the vacant 4-H advisor and Fairgrounds Administrative Assistant positions, inquiries for county matters at the Davison County Fairgrounds are being directed to the county auditor's office. 4-H matters are receiving assistance from the Brule/Lyman 4-H advisor's office.

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