City responds to downtown Mitchell property owner’s public safety concerns over new sidewalk features

The downtown business owner's concerns center around the slope of the sidewalk and placement of the stair feature in the concrete boulevard.

The small stair feature along the concrete boulevard on Fifth Avenue is among the features a downtown property is concerned about.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Pedestrian safety concerns have surfaced over a new sidewalk that was installed in front of a downtown Mitchell building.

The sidewalk that’s sparked criticism from downtown property owner John Weisser sits along Fifth Avenue where his wife’s hair salon is located. Weisser pointed to the raised pitch of the sidewalk and the placement of an electrical box and small set of stairs as features that could result in pedestrian accidents.

“That junction box is going to be a hazard. Someone is going to slip and fall. It is such a steep grade coming off the sidewalk going into the alley,” Weisser said during the citizen input portion of the Nov. 21 city council meeting.

Cones sit in front of the new stair feature along the Fifth Avenue sidewalk by the Scissor Hut hair salon.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Crews finished the sidewalk and road construction project roughly a month ago. The sidewalk includes a small flight of concrete stairs extending to Fifth Avenue for pedestrians.

Weisser said the stair feature eliminated handicap access to his wife’s hair salon, Scissor Hut. A handful of orange cones are placed around the small stair set, which Weisser claimed caused a pedestrian to trip.


Liability worries over the sidewalk also surfaced during Weisser’s commentary at the city council meeting.

“There wasn’t any cones there a while back because somebody tripped. I don’t understand why that sidewalk is so high?” Weisser questioned. “There should have been a better design as far as setting up that sidewalk.”

While the new sidewalk along Fifth Avenue is one of several city projects that improved key downtown area intersections and replaced aging concrete, the final product around Weisser's property fell short of living up to his expectations.

After listening to Weisser’s concerns, the city is responding and making adjustments. Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said the city will be removing the stairs and replacing the entire concrete boulevard with grass and seed.

“The area where the junction box is will be back-filled with grass and seed. It should help address the issue we were presented with,” Everson said.

The initial design of the boulevard portion of the sidewalk entailed grass instead of concrete, Everson said. However, some nearby property owners requested the boulevard to be concrete.

On the handicap access front, the nearby sidewalk openings on the Fifth Avenue and Main Street intersection are handicap accessible. Although the intersection isn’t directly in front of the Weissers’ business, Everson noted it’s less than a block away from the hair salon.

Cones sit around the new stair feature installed in the Fifth Avenue sidewalk.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

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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