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In a matter of days, Mitchell city workers transformed city hall

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The Mitchell city hall has undergone a makeover since the New Year, a move planned and enacted entirely by the city’s workers. The city staff had been contemplating a renovation for their council chambers for at least half a decade, but this month was the first time they could put their plan into action.

“The building was dated (and) not very inviting to the public, and we’ve been talking for the last couple of years about giving it a face lift. We put some money into the budget for different things such as the renovation and some signage and some handicap-accessible doors. We just got to a point in the year where we had staff available and we had paint donated, so we just thought this was as good a time as any to start the remodeling,” city administrator Perry Mader said.

Five years ago, the council had received a cost estimate for interior renovations. Their estimate showed it would have cost between $15,000 and $25,000 to hire contractors for the job. By utilizing their own staff on the project, the city saved money and helped provide everyone involved with a sense of ownership.

The process was not a lengthy one, taking less than two weeks from when the first old wallpaper was torn down to a mostly-finished product. Much of the work is simply aesthetic upgrades, with no major construction or demolition required. One of the first steps was to remove excess property — “old clutter that has been here 20, 30 years,” Mader called it. This included random boxes, broken furniture and ancient typewriters. Then the lighting had to be replaced, the walls had to be painted and new additions such as unused chairs from storage were cleaned and added. Most of the ideas were brought up by city staff.

The city is looking for old black-and-white photos to use as decorations. There isn’t much wall space for them, but Mader said they’d be welcome inclusions. The ideal photos would feature the downtown area, parks or businesses. The city has a few to choose from already, but Mader said they’d like more. Residents with such photos can drop them off to either be copied or donated.

When the interior is finished, Mader said the city might work on renovating the exterior stucco and signage in the spring.

The council chamber was not the only part of the building the team renovated. The police office down the hallway received a substantial makeover as well.

The new office has a decorative paint job along the walls: light grey on top and dark gray towards the bottom, with a thin blue stripe separating the other colors. “We made it a little more (of) a police motif. It was all prison-white at one time,” police chief Kevin Krzyzanowski said. “...Normally we’d try to hire somebody, except me and (officer) Chuck (Menezes) are going to do it. The guys from the PD, and with a little bit of help from the city, have done all the painting in this part.”

The officers work between calls, helping out whenever they can. Krzyzanowski said the previous office had been “a mess ... old and white and dingy.” The new one has more of a modern touch to it, with police graphics and wordmarks adorning the walls and new desks, computers and carpeting.

Snow fell on Wednesday, Jan. 19 but not enough to require lengthy plowing, so city workers were able to continue their work refurbishing the council chamber. Mader and Krzyzanowski said the renovations should be finished by the end of the week.

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Christopher Borro is a reporter at the Star-Herald. He can be reached at email at christopher.borro@starherald.com.

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