In their first meeting of 2012 on Jan. 3, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors approved providing a portion of funding for a pair of grant opportunities that is said to benefit Emmetsburg and arguably, Palo Alto County.
CAT Grant For
At the Jan. 3, meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors, Deputy Auditor Carmen Moser was appointed to fill the unexpired term of recently retired Palo Alto County Auditor Gary Leonard through Dec. 31, 2012. Moser (at left) was administered the oath of office by Keith Wirtz, chairman of the board. –Lori Hall photo
During Tuesday's meeting, Emmetsburg Community Developer Steve Heldt informed the Supervisors that a second grant opportunity had presented itself in the form of a state-funded Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant. The CAT grant would go towards building a new community center in the location of the former country club.
Kris Ausborn addressed the board, "Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation has been assigned the task of determining the feasibility of a community center on the former golf course property, and we're looking at a few different ways of trying to fund that."
According to Ausborn, preliminary plans call for a $2 million building to house the new community center. The city has committed $500,000 to the project, and Emmetsburg Municipal Utilities is considering a contribution, as well.
"Bottom line is that we'll need to raise well over $1 million privately," said Ausborn. "Present plans call for a facility that will seat 300 to 350 people and we anticipate that it will be used for weddings, reunions, those types of things."
Ausborn shared that two weeks ago, Steve Heldt was informed that 2012 is the last year for the CAT grant.
"The maximum we can apply for is $500,000," Ausborn said. "This is a competitive situation; we may or may not get any funding. The deadline for the application is January 15. We need letters of support for the project, and it is required that the city and county participate. I believe they are asking for a $10,000 contribution."
"Is that cash or can it be in-kind?" asked Supervisor Ed Noonan. "We've done that for other communities."
"I'm not positive, but I could check," answered Steve Heldt. "So, you mean hauling gravel and such?"
"Well, you have to tear the building down. We could help with that. It's easier for us to vote in-kind rather than cash," Noonan explained. "It flies better with the people in the other communities."
Supervisor Keith Wirtz wondered how the project would benefit the entire county. Heldt stated that the new community center, for example, could host fishing tournaments, providing space for vendors to set up.
"It's on the golf course, but it's going to serve campers, boaters, golfers, and everybody in the community. This facility can highlight all the recreational opportunities in Palo Alto County," Heldt said.
Supervisor Leo Goeders noted that what Heldt was asking for isn't very much.
"I like Ed's idea, but if it doesn't work, I'm for $10,000," said Goeders.
Wirtz said, "I can see some benefit to the county with people using the lake and those paying property tax from homes around the lake."
Supervisor Ron Graettinger voiced his irritation over the city not providing any assistance on a drainage project on the east side of Emmetsburg in the past.
"We asked the city to put in a little money, and they wouldn't put in a dime," said Graettinger.
Dan McCain urged the supervisors to "look at the big picture."
"We think Palo Alto County is a bigger area than it is," said McCain. "We're all in this together. The sooner we can think as a whole, the sooner it will benefit us all."
Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Deb Hite shared that she would like to see Emmetsburg become a destination for western Iowa tourism.
"Last year, Godfather's brought all of their people to Emmetsburg. Because of the golf course, they played golf and had their meeting," said Hite. "This building can be marketed for corporations that don't even have a connection to Emmetsburg."
Supervisor Jerry Hofstad stated said he sees definite advantages to both the CAT and CDBG grants.
"But I can't condone spending county money in the city," said Hofstad.
"Why would you make that distinction when Emmetsburg is in the center of the county? To say the center of the county should not receive support from the county is" Heldt trailed off.
"My feeling is the county money should go to the county, and the city money should go to the city," Hofstad reiterated. "It shouldn't mingle."
"We'd be crazy to turn this down," Goeders interjected. "This is part of economic development."
"This is more than a community center," said Wirtz. "It's going to be an improvement to the lake and it'll bring in a lot of dollars to our county. I think it'll be easy to get our $10,000 back."
Hofstad agreed, "The lake is the biggest asset we've got and if we can do something to enhance it, we should."
Supervisor Leo Goeders moved to give a $10,000 in-kind contribution for the CAT Grant Application for the Emmetsburg Community Center. Ed Noonan seconded the motion. The motion was approved on a roll call vote with Ron Graettinger providing the sole "nay" vote.
CDBG Funds For
In related business, the supervisors discussed providing funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the facade project for historic downtown buildings housing Emmetsburg businesses.
Heldt informed the board that only the front of the white bank building, which is home to the county engineer's office in the rear of the building, would be eligible for participation in the project.
"People are talking about this project and they're excited," Hite shared. "I think we'd have 30 to 40 people participating in the project. We've had 12 turn in their paperwork so far. I see the town as a whole package--the lake, a wonderful-looking downtown-that would hopefully bring in more business and industry."
"We'd be crazy if we don't do this," Goeders replied. "I'm sure after giving our support to this, we'll have the other cities asking for help and I think we should do it. You're looking for support and not a lot of money."
Graettinger stated that he would be willing to do "something."
"We do need to fix the upstairs windows in the white bank building," Wirtz noted. "They're practically falling out. Putting in new windows for around $10,000 is probably justification."
"I feel the same way," Hofstad agreed.
Goeders then moved to provide $15,000 to the downtown facade project, however the motion died for lack of a second.
Goeders made a motion to approve $10,000 for the project. That motion was seconded by Hofstad, and passed on a roll call vote with Noonan casting the only "nay" vote.
"The people see us spending money, but they have to know that our support is due to having buildings involved in the project," Wirtz said, bringing the discussion to a close.