An estimated 175 interested Emmetsburg area residents attended a public meeting to hear the vision of a community center last week. Members of Steering Committee of Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation reviewed the plans.
"We have a unique opportunity to construct a facility that can serve the needs of our residents as well as the opportunity to grow as a community," Tony Kauten told the group of listeners. "As a community, we are focused on moving forward and growing for the future."
"This is a vision of growth, featuring Five Island Lake," said Kirk Haack. He reminded the audience that the community has invested $5 million in dredging, shoreline stabilization and watershed improvements in the last 20-plus years.
In addition to improved water quality, this has increased boating, camping, fishing and housing. Changes around Five Island Lake, include new housing developments that are bringing in tax revenue.
He recognized Wild Rose Casino & Resort for working with the city to negotiate agreeable terms for the property adjacent to the golf course. He also recognized Wild Rose for working with the city to purchase property on the east side of the lake, north of the trestle, adjacent to Sewell Park.
"They were under no obligation to offer either of these properties to the city and had they wanted to, could have commanded a higher selling price," said Haack. "Wild Rose Casino & Resort is an important and valuable asset for this community."
He noted that at the time of purchase, the city knew something would have to be done to replace the clubhouse at the golf course.
"The city's vision to serve the broader community challenged ECDC to use $500,000 as seed money to build a new community center," said Haack. "The center will be available to all citizens a centerpiece showcasing the lake and the community."
He added, "The business plan is built around the expectation of attracting people and new events and retaining events that are currently leaving us for neighboring communities. The vision is not to take anything away from existing businesses, but provide opportunities to expand."
Kauten reviewed the city's application for CAT grant funding and the roadblocks it faced. Due to lack of fund raising progress, the project was eliminated from funding. Should CAT grants be funded by the legislature again, Emmetsburg will submit another application.
Kris Ausborn reviewed the operating budget, noting that ECDC looked at what other facilities were like and how they operate.
"We have a unique situation with a unique location that will help us," said Ausborn. He noted that rental rates would likely be $100 for one-third of the main room; $200 for two of the rooms; and $350 for the entire building.
Acknowledging that there will be operating losses for the first few years, one of the goals is to raise $100,000 to cover those deficits.
Ausborn outlined cost of construction, landscaping and "just about everything and maybe some lakeshore improvements" at $2.3 million. "That includes concrete parking lot and other amenities of the building," he said.
He said they plan to raise an additional $100,000 to cover inevitable change orders during construction and work on the lake shore.
"So we're up to $2.5 million," said Ausborn. "The city has committed $500,000 and Emmetsburg Municipal Utilities has added $250,000. That leaves $1.75 million," he said. "There are no property taxes that are going to be used in the construction."
The city will be using money it has received from Wild Rose. "I do believe that $500,000 would have been used on that site one way or another," said Ausborn. "The city has made the process of taking the money it gets from the casino and setting it aside so it's not used for day-to-day operations. It is truly money that is earmarked for special projects."
A capital campaign will be held to raise $1,750,000. "It's going to take a lot of effort on everybody's part if this is going to be successful," he said, "and we're going to need everybody's help to get that done."
Questions were posed regarding parking. Haack noted that in addition to a paved parking lot, space is available along the newly resurfaced road and possibly in the campground and at Lakeside Lutheran.
There will be income from beverages and food. The facility will have a catering kitchen, but a restaurant was not feasible. Golf income, such as dues, will go to support the golf course. Beverage sales will go to the facility.
"The community center will be built for you, your family and your future," concluded Kauten. "The project is much more than a building. It is a focus of our community on a single goal, making a brighter tomorrow for all those who choose to live, work or play in Emmetsburg and Palo Alto County. The success of this project depends on each of you."