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Many Ideas For Use Of City’s Community Building

By Staff | Mar 31, 2009

A month ago, Emmetsburg residents met at the city’s recently purchased golf club facility to discuss possible uses for the building. A summary of that discussion was presented to Emmetsburg City Council at their March 23 meeting.

What is the next step? Community Developer Steve Heldt posed that question to council members at a special meeting March 27.

Final Report

Abbie Gaffey, Community and Economic Development Field Specialist, Iowa State University, presented the final report of Emmetsburg Country Club Facilitation to Emmetsburg City Council. The report included a compilation of flip charts and community comments.

Exercises completed by those attending the February facilitation included: best memories at the site; activities people would like to see happen at the site at various times of the year; ways people of different age groups can participate in these activities; and, things that made previous projects successful and how they could be repeated on this project.

Gaffey told the council that people attending the facilitation were very interested in the future of the site and were open to exploring a variety of concepts.

The council was advised of methods to gain further input from the community, in addition to the facilitation held in February. Gaffey suggested a community survey, design charette, or task force.

The community survey could be a fairly low cost method to capture the opinions. Gaffey’s suggestions for the survey were either through the newspaper and/or online. She noted that this would be a way of identifying what people are willing to pay for.

The design charette is a three-day visioning with volunteer professional architects, landscape architects and planners working with community members. The result is a set of conceptual plans and drawings.

The task force concept has worked well in Emmetsburg for community driven projects. Gaffey told the council that Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation may be the natural choice for leadership on this project, considering their success in fundraising for other community projects.

Mayor John Schad questioned whether we are getting the cart before the horse, talking about the building before deciding on its use.

Community Developer Steve Heldt said he will be taking a group to Denison to view their community building.

Next Step

Discussion continued at a special meeting of Emmetsburg City Council last Friday. Heldt said Emmetsburg Community Development Committee (ECDC) had met the previous day and volunteered to take the lead on the community center. He noted that ECDC had raised $10,000 in private funds to conduct a study to determine the direction the project should take. ECDC was asking the city to match the funding to pay for the study.

When questioned on the type of study, Heldt said professionals would concentrate on focus groups.

“Are they going to give us options, long range planning, or here’s what you should do?” questioned Councilman Brian Campbell.

“As they talk to a certain number of residents, focus groups, they will come back with different options,” said Heldt. “You all have different responses one on one, rather than talking as a group.”

“I want to know what they’re going to give us back,” said Councilman Pat Degen. “Will it be more than what we can learn by putting a survey in with the utility bill?”

Mayor Schad expressed concern about starting with a predetermined idea.

“There are a lot of things that can come in,” he said. “They can skew the results by the questions that are asked. We need to get the true feeling of the community.”

Council members said they definitely want to proceed by using city funds in the best way.

“At what point do we continue doing this as a group or send someone out to investigate?” asked Heldt. “The money could be used to fund a study or a charette.”

Councilman Gramowski sensed the council is going around in a circle. “Is it necessary to spend a whole lot of money to do the same thing, just to have it written down?” he asked.

Council representative Pam Smith noted that it is necessary to have the process documented if the city decides to apply for further grant funding.

“Would you want to go out and have a fundraise with what (information) we have right now?” asked Heldt. Mayor Schad noted that brainstorming is taking its course. With Eye on the Storm, people threw mud at the wall, with the variety of ideas for using the facility. The next step is to evaluate the ideas.

“We may be floundering, but we’re not going around in circles,” Schad said.

“What we’re all saying is, ‘What are we going to get for our money?’,” said Degen.

No action was taken on how to proceed with the use of the city’s building at the golf course.