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Lake study tabled after overwhelming public outcry

After hearing overwhelming opposition to $73,725 lake restoration plan, the Mitchell City Council decided to table a vote on the study to boost public awareness about the project.

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After hearing overwhelming opposition to $73,725 lake restoration plan, the Mitchell City Council decided to table a vote on the study to boost public awareness about the project.

Following nearly 90 minutes of discussion Tuesday at City Hall, Council President Jeff Smith recommended the city host a public forum about the study before voting on the project to reduce the algae-causing phosphorus turning Lake Mitchell green.

"Danny (Allen) is right, coming into tonight's meeting it was 90 to 10 because they don't have the information you guys have," Smith said about the negative public perception of the plan presented by Omaha-based Fyra Engineering.

Smith thanked the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee for spending a year reviewing the proposal, but multiple council members said they've been bombarded with negative reactions to the Fyra plan.

But several council members expressed positive comments about the plan after hearing Tuesday's presentation, and the eight-person board voted unanimously to table the plan with the hope the public would learn more about the seven-step plan and reverse their opinion.

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The plan would include data collection, data analysis and a community-based planning effort to educate and involve the public in a future plan to restore Lake Mitchell. But the study wouldn't come with specific recommendations to address the lake, recommendations and costs which would likely remain unknown until the city commits another $100,000 to $300,000 following the initial $73,725.

And Councilman Mel Olson said those figures concern locals.

"Even people who are for doing something for the lake, they're not sure we can afford it," Olson said.

Council members Dan Allen, Susan Tjarks and Dave Tronnes also said they heard overwhelming negativity regarding Fyra's plan, which was recommended by the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee in a 5-0 vote last week.

Allen suggested the public may not be entirely aware of what's included in the project, and he said a public vote on Fyra's plan on Monday night would have generated an overwhelmingly poor response from the public.

"If this was voted on by the public, it would get defeated by 90 percent," Allen said.

In support of public opinion, Olson said he sees three issues with Fyra's plan. First, Olson asked, if the plan would ever produce the solutions needed to improve the lake. Second, he said, citizens don't have confidence those solutions would be affordable. And third, Olson said, the plan would be a greater priority if Lake Mitchell were still the city's main water source.

Lake committee member Justin Luther then reminded Olson the lake remains the city's backup water source.

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"This lake is vital to us as a community if something happens, and we're ignoring it," Luther said.

Lake Committee President Joe Kippes also presented several advantages he sees in Fyra's plan.

Kippes said the data collection provided by Fyra would offer Mitchell a greater chance to acquire grant funding to support the eventual lake restoration. He also spoke highly of Fyra's multi-faceted approach to improving water quality, which would target both in-lake and out-of-lake phosphorus loads.

"We look at it as a lake that is sick, and we believe we need a specialist to address that," Kippes said.

But, without final project costs, Allen wondered how much money the city would need to commit to Fyra to see the project through.

"So we just throw them a checkbook and say, 'Here, take what you need?'" Allen asked.

Throughout the lengthy discussion between lake committee members and the City Council, the conversation routinely returned to the near-unanimous opposition several council members have heard about the project.

Due to the overwhelming negativity surrounding the project from locals, Tjarks said she is conflicted about the proposal. Tjarks said she likes what she's heard about Fyra's plan but she said "zero public support" is a concern.

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"Am I beholden to the public opinion, or do I do I owe it to my constituents to vote based on the knowledge I've gleaned?" Tjarks asked.

After a full year of conversation between the lake committee at its monthly meetings, and about 90 minutes of talks Tuesday night, Smith suggested hosting a public forum at Mitchell Technical Institute and to seek the advice of an independent adviser to determine whether this is the right project.

No time or date was established for a public forum.

Veterans park funding nears halfway mark

Progress at Mitchell's veterans park has been slow in recent months, but Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg had some good news for the council at Tuesday's meeting.

Overweg, who's leading the fundraising charge on the project, said the city has received approximately $75,000 in pledges, commitments and in-kind donations to fund the $175,000 project.

Dan Allen, another lead fundraiser for the project, said he's hoping to finalize project funding by the end of the month with one big $50,000 donation.

And, he said, a recent raffle ticket fundraiser generated approximately $14,300 for the project.

With the first sign of progress at the park finished, Overweg expressed optimism the park could be completed by November 2017.

"We're very confident we can raise that," Overweg said. "Our goal is to actually have this thing completed by next Veterans Day next year."

The first park project was completed last week, with five large insignias being placed on the wall overlooking the park at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street. The next portion of the project to be completed is the addition of the lettering under the sign stating "To All Who Serve... Thank You!"

Overweg said the community has been supportive of the project since fundraising efforts were increased, and he said both himself and Allen have received support from every individual or business they've asked to support the project.

"Everyone we've talked to in the community is very much excited about this and looking forward to it," Overweg said.

The park will replace a vacant gravel lot with benches, a water feature, trees and shrubbery.

Council raises water rates

Approximately 5,500 households will soon see their water bill rise by about 60 cents per month.

The City Council unanimously approved a request to raise rates by 10 cents for each 100 cubic feet of water used. Last week, Public Works Director Tim McGannon told The Daily Republic the average household uses approximately six units of water.

Five cents of the increase would support a $30,000 to $40,000 request from B-Y Water-the company that transports Missouri River water to Mitchell-due to the city's increasing demand for water. The other 5 cents would help the city avoid another 30-cent rate hike like the one seen in 2014.

"In past councils, I've been directed by council we should, rather than wait 30 years and raise rates by 30 percent, try to get cost-of-living in there," McGannon said.

The council will also establish a $10 fee per month to replace the 500 remaining manually-read water meters in town. Last week, McGannon said the old meters may not work correctly and should be replaced.

The city has replaced most of the old meters in town, but some have refused the free replacement. Before the new fee is imposed, households with old meters will receive a warning and request to replace the meter. The new fee will be imposed in January.

Before the unanimous vote to approve the $10 fee, Olson said he's had his meter replaced with little hassle.

"I had it done, the guy was in the house seven minutes and my bill didn't change one iota," Olson said.

Consent agenda

The council approved the following items of the consent agenda:

• City Council minutes from the Aug. 15, Aug. 22 and Aug. 25 meetings.

• Committee minutes from the Aug. 8 Planning Commission, Aug. 15 Public Properties Committee and Aug. 15 Traffic Commission meeting.

• The declaration of items as surplus and consider authorizing an auction on Sept. 20.

• Set Oct. 3 as the date for a hearing to consider the vacation of a portion of West 19th Street.

• The appointment of Rebecca Grace, Teri Robertson, Bryan Dixon, LaRee Rumbolz and Lana Hart to the Sports and Events Authority.

• Set Sept. 19 as the date for hearings on five applications for a special event liquor license at the Masonic Lodge, located at 112 E. Fifth Ave.; the transfer of retail on-sale liquor license RL-5761 from Bates Enterprise, doing business as Big Dummy's Longhorn Bar, 108-114 N. Main St. to Bates Enterprise, doing business as Big Dummy's Longhorn Bar, due to a change in configuration of the licensed premises to include the next building; a hearing on the application of OverTime Steakhouse & Sports Bar for a special event liquor license located at the OverTime Event Center at 812 N. Rowley.

• A raffle permit for the Longfellow Parent Teacher Organization with the drawing to be held on Sept. 24.

• A change order to Wastewater Forcemain Phase 2 decreasing the H & W Contracting contract amount by $8,399.30 for a final change in quantities for the project and addition of trench stabilization and open cut county road rather than bore, adjusting the contract amount to $590,798.20.

• A change order to Sidewalk Schedule A, contracted to Top Grade Concrete, increasing the contract amount by $8,290.35 for existing conditions discovered in the field and adjustments made, increasing the total contract to $55,089.90.

• A change order to the Airport Hangar Road and Parking Lot Improvements project contracted to VanderPol Dragline, Inc., increasing the contract amount by $4,374 to adjust the quantities of various bid items, raising the total contract to $183,318.85.

• A request seeking approval to apply for various grants for funding for Mitchell's veterans park.

• Gas and diesel fuel estimates and pay estimates.

• Bills, payroll, salary adjustments, new employee hires and the authorization of payment of recurring and other expenses in advance as approved by the finance officer.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• Called the meeting to order, conducted the Pledge of Allegiance, heard an invocation from the Grace Reformed Church and conducted the roll call.

• Approved the application of OverTime Steakhouse & Sports Bar for a special event liquor license located at the OverTime Event Center at 812 N. Rowley St. on Oct. 1 for a wedding.

• Recessed as City Council and sat as the Board of Adjustment to set Sept. 19 as the date for a hearing on the application of Shane Snyder for a backyard and sideyard variance for the construction of two attached garages at 503 N. Duff St.

• Amended Ordinance No. 2551 for 2017 annual appropriations. The council reinstated a collective total of $38,950 to Dakota Counseling, the Mitchell Aquatic Club, Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village and the Mitchell Municipal Band.

• Approved a bid for the yearly supply of rock salt to Meridian Grain, of Freeman, for a total of $41,300.

• Approved a management plan for the Mitchell Recreation Center. The plan was budgeted for $25,000, but requires an additional $5,000 to complete.

• Amended an airport lease agreement to change a portion of leased farmland from alfalfa to grass.

• Approved Resolution No. 3377, regarding a plat of Lot 15 in Tract H of the Wild Oak Golf Club Addition.

• Approved Resolution No. 3379, appointing initial members to the Community Services Advisory Board, which was created when the city of Mitchell absorbed Mitchell Senior Citizens Inc.

• Held a closed-door executive session to prepare for contract negotiations or negotiating with employees or employee representatives. No action was taken.

Related Topics: LAKE MITCHELL
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