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Tree placement sticking point of Sixth Ave. project

Discussions about Mitchell's Sixth Avenue plaza stalled over the placement of a handful of trees at Monday night's City Council meeting. After the council received its first official update regarding Mitchell's proposed Sixth Avenue plaza project...

Robin Miller, left, of MSH Architects, gives the Mitchell City Council its first look at a proposed design for the city's voter-approved indoor aquatic facility. (Evan Hendershot/Republic)
Robin Miller, left, of MSH Architects, gives the Mitchell City Council its first look at a proposed design for the city's voter-approved indoor aquatic facility. (Evan Hendershot/Republic)

Discussions about Mitchell's Sixth Avenue plaza stalled over the placement of a handful of trees at Monday night's City Council meeting.

After the council received its first official update regarding Mitchell's proposed Sixth Avenue plaza project, Councilman Mel Olson and Councilwoman Susan Tjarks disagreed about the installation of trees directly south of the Corn Palace.

Olson thought the trees would obstruct the view of the building's signature corn murals, while Tjarks believed the trees would be more inviting to locals and entice visitors into the green space.

"I understand the trees on the side, that's not a problem, but the trees in the middle of viewing, you're cutting off your nose to spite your face," Olson said at the special City Council work session at City Hall.

Olson said planting trees in the middle of Sixth Avenue - a portion of which will be shut down permanently to house the plaza - would make viewing the building's murals challenging while manufacturing a future problem if the trees would ultimately need to be chopped down.

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"With all the hoopla we have over trees, we're creating a problem for a future council," Olson said.

Olson had the support of fellow council member Jeff Smith and Bev Robinson, with Smith highlighting the importance of clear sightlines to the murals alongside the city's main tourist attraction.

But Tjarks felt the shade provided by the trees would be an attractive feature for the Mitchell residents paying for the $426,000 first phase of the downtown park project. She also said the space would increase the likelihood a visitor exits their vehicle to see the murals.

"So then they are led into that area that constantly allows them to spend more time and become engaged, and overall, spend more money in our community," Tjarks said.

After reviewing the two preliminary designs presented to locals in a public forum in June, Lyle Pudwill, of landscape architect Confluence, said the design has been altered to incorporate the most appealing aspects of both plans.

According to Pudwill, locals were most receptive to the idea of a permanent stage for music, installation of some trees and the addition of other greenery. So Pudwill included a permanent stage toward the east side of the area, which sits between Main Street and Lawler Street. The plan also includes large shelter on the west side, closer to Main Street, to protect locals and visitors from the elements.

Councilman Steve Rice also had a few thoughts on the project, none of which were included in Pudwill's design. Rice suggested the city plan to include wireless Internet access for the area and add infrastructure to allow for the future installation of an outdoor video board.

Rice said an outdoor screen to air live basketball games or game highlights could be an attractive feature to area residents interested in tailgating or getting some fresh air before, during or after a game at the event center that regularly hosts basketball games.

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"I just keep thinking that type of opportunity for the people that live in the surrounding area is just huge," Rice said. "You might get 200, 300 people sitting in their waiting to go into their basketball game."

Council gets first look at indoor pool design

After seeing the preliminary designs for the Sixth Avenue plaza, the council caught a glimpse of another major project.

Robin Miller, of MSH Architects, walked the council through the early designs of an $8 million voter-approved indoor aquatic facility to be attached to the existing Mitchell Recreation Center.

Early plans indicate the installation of a competition-sized pool on one side of the new addition with play equipment, a leisure pool and a multiple waterslides on the other side of the new space. According to Miller, the leisure pool would feature zero-depth entry and include play structures for younger swimmers. Miller said the leisure pool could hold approximately 60 swimmers at any given time.

He also said the plan would also include infrastructure to potentially add an outdoor water park in the future.

Miller also spoke of the installation of 194 stadium seats alongside the competition pool, including five wheelchair seats and a total of 20 stools surrounding five tables, as well as the addition of 128 new lockers.

Miller was also asked about the project timeline and operating costs, but he only had an answer for the former. Miller said he would like to see the project put out to bid in November with the hope to organize for construction in January. He said it would then take a year of construction before the project would be completed.

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When Rice asked about operating costs, Miller said he would have a better idea of potential costs in about one month. Earlier this year, Mayor Jerry Toomey said contractors expected operating costs could be three to five times higher than the annual $86,620 initially anticipated.

Other business

• Reviewed updates and changes pertaining to the CIty Council and municipal government as passed during the 2016 South Dakota legislative session. City Attorney Justin Johnson also discussed the role of various elected positions in municipal governments and reviewed the possible conflicts of interest.

• Received an update from Public Works Director Tim McGannon regarding the city's force main replacement project. McGannon said he hopes the current phase of the project will be online two weeks prior to Dakotafest.

• McGannon also discussed the city's contract with B-Y Water, which provides the city with its drinking water. He said B-Y Water is looking to increase the city of Mitchell's rates, but no agreement was made regarding the increase at Monday night's meeting.

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