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An Open Letter To City Leaders And The Citizens of Emmetsburg

September 25, 2014
Emmetsburg News

Letter to the Editor

The Event Center as proposed is going to be a reality, in fact the final design has more square footage than the original proposal. Approximately half of the final 3.2 million dollar cost was raised through private donations. The only question is how many public dollars will be spent on the entire project.

Since 2009 the city has spent, pledged or had operational losses of nearly 1.5 Million dollars of public money (your money) on the New Event Center and related projects without a vote of the tax payers. The city is trying to borrow another $850,000 from EMU. Some of the loan will be backed by future pledges not yet collected. If the pledges fall short of securing the loan the city will waive EMU's PILOT payments (payments in lieu of taxes) which equal $75,000 per year into the general fund. For example, if the pledges fall short by $300,000, EMU would not have to pay into the general fund for 4 years- $75,000 times 4 equals $300,000. That means the city would have less money to spend on children's programs, handicap accessible walk ways, lake dredging, a splash park for the kids of young families and many other worthwhile projects.

When the city put the loan agreement together they agreed to follow certain procedures established by the State of Iowa. The code of Iowa clearly states that the city residents can file a petition and ask for the loan agreement to be voted on in a special election. A large number of petitions were collected and presented to the City Council on April 28, 2014 asking for a vote on this issue. A letter was sent to the council and a special delegation pleaded with the city manager to allow a vote. The city leadership ignored all these attempts to get them to do the right thing. In our opinion, the city ignored their own procedure and refused to allow a vote. A legal action was filed by three concerned citizens to try and force the city to agree to a vote. The city failed in an attempt to have the Judge dismiss the legal action.

In our opinion, the city will never allow this issue to come up for a vote. If the city loses the court battle they will likely withdraw the loan agreement. As stated earlier the plaintiffs who tried to force a special election have been vindicated by an impartial Judge who overruled the city's motion to dismiss the case.

Our question, and I hope the question being asked by many citizens of Emmetsburg is this:

Why is the city fighting so hard and spending thousands of dollars of our tax money in legal fees in order to deny a simple vote by the people they represent? At last count three different law firms have been hired by the city to work on this case as well as the loan agreement!

In our opinion a special election to vote on the loan agreement would help bring the community together. By voting on this issue people would feel as if they had some input into the process regardless of the final outcome of the vote. Our city council should stop the legal maneuvering and do the right thing by supporting Democracy in Emmetsburg!

(signed) Pete Hamilton,

Chairman CRG,

(Citizens for

Responsible Government)

Emmetsburg, IA



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