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The World's Only Corn Palace in June 2017. (Republic file photo)

Palace safety, lighting dominate council discussion

MITCHELL, S.D. - The Corn Palace was the talk of City Hall Monday night, with discussion ranging from safety to lighting.

And it was the former that caused a one of the council members gathered for a City Council meeting to express shock on Monday.

The council approved Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt's request to re-allocate funds from the Palace catwalk reconstruction to a plan to add winches for rigging of concerts at the building. Schmidt said no one bid on the catwalk project due to the time constraints they would have been given, and without the winches, Schmidt said Corn Palace employees are left to do concert rigging from the building's ceiling without any harnesses.

"Our guys have to go up there and basically straddle I-beams and pull chains up," Schmidt said. "... We just make sure they're careful up there."

When Schmidt told council members of the current practices, Councilman Mel Olson immediately said "Oh, man."

And Councilwoman Susan Tjarks also expressed concerns over the safety issues, issues that Schmidt said are what caused him to bring forth the item.

"I'm not comfortable saying, 'OK guys, be careful,' " Tjarks said.

The re-allocated money helps support an $18,328 halogen light project and a $37,589 winch project.

The initial plan instigated by Schmidt months ago was to bid for the replacement of the catwalks high atop the interior of the popular tourist attraction and event center. But, Schmidt said, possible bidders needed the court below to be clear for a few months, and Schmidt said the facility has a maximum of approximately five consecutive days where the court is completely clear per year.

Councilman Jeff Smith suggested the city try to pick a month when the site is least busy and try to schedule events around catwalk reconstruction.

The City Council also approved the purchase of a $2,800 plan from Brandon-based Professional Design Engineers to find a solution to the lighting issues around the Corn Palace murals.

Following the city's $4.7 million renovation of the Palace, the murals alongside the building became challenging to see at night due to new lighting installed. Without the overhead lighting aiming down on the murals, Mayor Jerry Toomey said shortly after the renovation was completed that the murals were "invisible" at night.

The plan was approved 6-1, with Tjarks voting against the plan after saying a local firm should have been selected to create the plan.

The lone councilman who wasn't in attendance was perhaps the most enthusiastic Corn Palace promoter on the eight-person board, Councilman Marty Barington. But Council President Steve Rice channeled Barington and spoke on his behalf.

"I'm trying to think of what Marty would say," Rice said. "... Hurry up."

Moving forward on Mattie Street

The council also approved a $7,800 fee to SPN and Associates to adjust future plans to build and finish Mattie Street.

Reconstruction of the partially unpaved road regularly resurfaces in council discussions, and Public Works Director Tim McGannon said it could be costly to complete, ranging from $500,000 to $1 million.

"We know that Mattie is one of the most talked about and brought up streets we have in town," McGannon said about why they updated the plans.

But the project isn't on the top of the priority list for Mitchell. Instead, McGannon said reconstruction of Sanborn Boulevard, a major Mitchell thoroughfare, is a higher priority.

"No one is dying because Mattie Street isn't built," McGannon said.