- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—A city budget work session gave the public a first glance at some of the fiscal priorities for the future in Mitchell.

On Monday, City Council members, department heads and the city administrator gathered in Council Chambers at City Hall for a public meeting to discuss three agenda items regarding the 2016 budget. Of those agenda items, Public Works projects became the dominant topic of discussion. One project, the renovation of the partially unpaved Mattie Street, had support from several city officials in attendance.

Mayor Jerry Toomey said he heard several concerns with the current condition of Mattie Street when he campaigned for his current position for the June 2 election.

“I think those people want it, they need it and they deserve it,” said Toomey.

While the estimate to renovate the street came in at $500,000 to $600,000, Councilman Jeff Smith said there could be potential economic impact of the infrastructure repairs to Mattie Street. During the work session, Smith said a renovated road could attract more building and drive more economic activity in the area.

After the meeting, Toomey agreed with Smith. Toomey said he had visited Mattie Street with real estate developer Chuck Mauszycki, who said the street could have growth potential if the necessary renovations were completed.

The scope of the renovation is not currently on the budget, but some council members wanted to look further into the cost estimate. Even with the rough estimate from Public Works Director Tim McGannon, Councilwoman Susan Tjarks approved of the proposed budget item.

“It feels like it’s a bargain for $500,000 to $600,000,” Tjarks said.

Toomey’s focus on infrastructure improvements showed Monday night when McGannon discussed an array of budget requests for the Public Works Department. Included in those requests were hazardous sidewalk repair, bike path construction and paving of Main Street.

“Sometimes when that stuff is out of sight, it’s out of mind,” Toomey said. “You don’t see it, but it’s got to be taken care of, because infrastructure is the heart of our city.”

One of the most expensive requests made by McGannon was the installation of a plaza on Sixth Avenue, which had support from the mayor. Toomey said a Sixth Avenue green space could feature a fountain, places to congregate and might be a way to attract people to the businesses on Main Street.

McGannon said he found an estimate on former Public Works Director Shane Crowe’s desk that indicated an estimated $426,083 cost to install a green space on Sixth Avenue, but would like to find a firmer estimate before making plans.

“I think it’s in the best interest of Mitchell as a city that we help Main Street, and I think that green space would create a domino effect,” Toomey said.

Toomey hopes the creation of a green space or small park would jolt other businesses into cleaning up their buildings to make Main Street a destination for residents and tourists.

Of the other notable budget requests, which included five-year plans from some departments, a satellite fire station costing an estimated $700,000 to $1 million was proposed for the 2018 budget by the Division of Public Safety, the Parks and Forestry Department requested $125,000 to match the Mitchell Tennis Association’s funds to build four new tennis courts at Hitchcock Park and a $130,000 shelter and restroom facility at Sandy Beach was also proposed.

No final decisions were made at the work session.

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