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Lake committee waits to commit to budget recommendation

Algae in Lake Mitchell.

Last week, the Mitchell City Council allocated $250,000 in the 2019 budget toward the cleanup of Lake Mitchell.

This week, during its Monday afternoon meeting at the Mitchell Recreation Center, the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee decided it's in no hurry to make a recommendation on how that $250,000 should be spent.

"I don't feel any urgency to say, 'This is how we've got to spend that money' tonight," Committee President Joe Kippes said. "I don't think we have to do that here."

The money was originally earmarked for the structural design of the drawdown spillway modification and other parts of the plan proposed by Fyra Engineering, but committee member and Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Nathan Powell said that the money's purpose can actually be determined at a later date.

The budgeted money can't be used until the 2019 fiscal year begins in January, and the committee plans to use that time to conduct research on how it could best be used and to keep the council updated on the findings.

While that $250,000 is what's been set aside in the city's 2019 budget as strictly for the water quality improvement plan that the committee has been refining since it was formed, it's not the only part of the budget that impacts the lake. For instance, part of the budget is set to build restrooms at Sandy Beach, and $50,000 was set aside for creating a dock area at the lake.

Also included is $978,000 for general watershed improvements from a grant that the James River Watershed Development District will have access to through the state of South Dakota.

"If we continue to invest in the lake, it should only create more incentive to make sure something happens with the water quality," Kippes said. "Ideally, you'd have your nice, clean lake, and then you'd invest in it, but it might not go in that order, necessarily."

Kippes said he was surprised at how few people in the community had come to him to ask about the lake following his presentation to the Mitchell City Council last week.

Other committee members said that of the people who asked them about the future of the lake, the general consensus is that people want the lake to be cleaned, whether that comes with a $19.2 million price tag or not.

"The conversation I get is, 'How are you going to pay for it?'" Kippes said. "That's a good question, and that's what I tell them. We don't know yet."