USD prof: City administrator would be good fit for Mitchell

A University of South Dakota professor told the Mitchell City Council on Monday night that the city is a prime candidate to hire a city administrator.

A University of South Dakota professor told the Mitchell City Council on Monday night that the city is a prime candidate to hire a city administrator.

“I’m actually surprised you don’t have one,” said Matthew Fairholm, a political science professor at USD in Vermillion.

Fairholm spoke with council members during a 6:45 p.m. Finance Committee meeting, prior to the 7:30 p.m. council meeting, both at City Hall, to discuss a proposal to add a city administrator to the city’s government. There are 20 cities in South Dakota with city administrators, according to information presented at the Oct. 7 council meeting.

A city administrator would oversee the city’s department heads on a day-to-day basis and assist the mayor with the implementation of government policy, Fairholm said.

“An administrator could relieve some of the full-time pressures of a part-time council or mayor,” he said.


The proposal to add a city administrator is different from one put forward to add a city manager to the city’s government that was rejected by Mitchell voters in 2011. Fairholm spelled out the difference between city managers and city administrators for the council.

Unlike city managers, Fairholm said, city administrators are not the chief executives of the cities they serve, and instead are accountable to the mayor; they have little, if any, authority to hire or fire city employees or prepare a city budget; and only have the authorities granted to them by a mayor or by ordinance.

“It’s thought of mainly as a chief operating officer,” Fairholm said, referring to city administrators.

In cities with a part-time mayor, like Mitchell, a city administrator can work behind the scenes to help implement policies developed by the mayor or council.

“The administrator is in a position to take a broad perspective of those day-to-day interests,” he said.

In a city the size of Mitchell, Fairholm said he had no doubt that a city administrator would more than pay for his or her position by increasing the efficiency of the city’s government, given cooperation with the mayor and council.

While answering a question posed to him by Councilman Mel Olson, Fairholm questioned the wisdom of combining the positions of city administrator and city engineer, as has been suggested by several council members during past discussions.

“The skillset of a city engineer is probably not the skillset of a city administrator,” he said.


The council agreed to put the topic on the agenda for its next meeting, which will be Dec. 2, to allow further discussion and to hear public input on the proposal to add a city administrator.

Fundraiser proposal Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Jacki Miskimins recommended Monday night that the city not hire a professional fundraiser to raise money for the expansion and renovation of the Corn Palace.

“There are more attractive alternatives than hiring a professional fundraising consultant,” she said.

Hiring a professional fundraiser will likely not be cost-effective, she said. Miskimins recommended the city seek out individuals in the community who already have relationships with potential donors. The council, who seemed to agree with Miskimins’ recommendations, agreed a committee may need to be formed to oversee the fundraising process.

In July, the council approved a $7.175 million plan for the Corn Palace, split into two phases.

The city currently has $6.5 million set aside for the project to renovate the facility and expand its tourism exhibits into the adjacent City Hall. A new city hall is planned in southern downtown.

Consent agenda Council members approved the following items as part of a consent agenda:

  • The meeting agenda, council minutes from the prior meeting, minutes from various committee meetings and reports from various city departments.

  • Raffle requests from the Mitchell Community Scholarship fund, with the drawing to be held Feb. 24; the Mitchell Aquatic Club, with the drawing to be held each Monday, Wednesday and Friday in 2014; and POET Mission Greenhouse, with the drawing to be held Dec. 16.

  • An application to transfer a retail on-sale liquor license from Bryan A. Rickel, 421 N. Wisconsin St. to CC Steaks Inc., doing business as Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse, 601 E. Norway Ave.

  • Applications for general taxi licenses for Palace Transit, E-Z Ride Taxi Cab, Becky’s Vans, Granite Springs Lodge and Party Bus Rock’n.

  • Change orders for the construction at the Mitchell Activities Center increasing the project’s cost by $1,345, another increasing the project’s cost $535, and another decreasing the project’s cost by $1,777 to Howe Heating and Plumbing Inc.

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

  • A list of pay estimates.

Other business In other business, council members:


  • Approved, during a 5:45 p.m. Public Properties Committee meeting, the installation of a floodlight on an existing streetlight in the 900 block of North Capital Street, near Mitchell High School; the 2200 to 2800 blocks of South Capital Street, from Spruce Street to Carl Road; and on East Hanson Street and Mattie Street.

  • Denied, during a 6 p.m. Sidewalk Committee meeting, a temporary sidewalk waiver at 617 and 619 S. Langdon St., and reviewed sidewalk projects for 2014.

  • Approved, during a 6:25 p.m. Traffic Commission meeting, a request to add North Kimball Street from First Avenue to Fifth Avenue, and the 200 block of East Fifth Avenue, to the District A snow removal route, and a request from Cabela’s for a parade permit from the state Highway 37 Shell gas station to Cabela’s for the Warriors Never Give up pheasant hunt at 3 p.m. Nov. 24.

  • Sat as the Board of Adjustment and approved the application of Chris and Frank Krohmer for a variance for an oversize accessory building adding 1,320 square feet to their existing 2,112 square feet, and a side yard variance of 11 feet rather than the required 20 feet, located at 500 E. 16th Ave.

  • Reviewed the city’s health insurance plan for 2014.

  • Approved a resolution of intent and conducted a public hearing on a three-year hay land lease, and approved a resolution to accept bids and authorize the lease of municipally owned hay land to Jennifer Larson for $22,800, Wayne Gronseth for $6,750 and Paul Stevenson for $6,342.

  • Awarded a bid for the removal of asbestos from the city-owned Garden of Eden building, located at 214 W. First Ave, to Gary Snow and Associates Inc. for $4,845.

  • Adopted a resolution setting fees and charges for various city-related services, licenses and fines.

  • Adopted a resolution to plat Lot 8A of Shank’s First Addition, a subdivision of the West 436.75 feet of Lot 8 in the northwest one-fourth of Section 29, Township 103, Range 60 west of the fifth P.M., Davison County.

  • Adopted a resolution for the emergency procurement of repairs, without advertising, to fix the wastewater treatment plant’s pumping system.

  • Approved, on the first of two required readings, an ordinance to supplement the wastewater portion of the enterprise fund with $24,500 from the sewer fund cash balance for pump repairs.

  • Adopted a resolution to vacate the easement of Lots Four and Five of D. Odegaard’s First Addition, a Subdivision of Previously Platted Lot Five in Fiala’s Addition, city of Mitchell.

  • Adopted a resolution authorizing the release of city interest in the Bridle Acres Boundary Easement.

  • Approved, on the first of two required readings, an ordinance to supplement the traffic, fire, public works, street and sidewalk, cemetery, health and welfare, and animal control portions of the general fund from the general fund cash balance; the parks portion of the Parks and Recreation special revenue fund from the parks fund cash balance; the Palace Transit and Sanborn County Transit portions of the Senior Services special revenue fund from the Senior Services cash balance; the nutrition portion of the Senior Services special revenue fund from the nutrition fund cash balance; the Iverson TIF, Vantage Point TIF, MADC Business Park TIF and Probuild TIF portions of the debt service fund from property tax receipts; and various enterprise funds.

  • Authorized Gary Larson to conduct the audit for the 2013 fiscal year.

  • Approved a lottery game of chance for the Mitchell Area Safehouse Foundation, to be held May 9.

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