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Good News For Palo Alto County

By Staff | Mar 8, 2011

Residents of Palo Alto County packed the ballroom at Wild Rose Casino &?Resort last Saturday night in anticipation of the Fifth Annual Grant Awards Ceremony. During the course of the evening, matching funds grants totaling $1,629,318.01 were presented to non-profit organizations. --Jane Whitmore photo

Palo Alto County communities and organizations certainly had something to celebrate when the Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation (PACGDC) hosted the Fifth Annual Grant Awards Ceremony on Saturday, Mar. 5. A total of $1,629,318.01 was distributed among Palo Alto County non-profit organizations and each of the nine communities. The event was held at the Wild Rose Casino & Resort Ballroom.

PACGDC Board President Lloyd Peterson started the evening by noting that this year, more applications for grants were received than ever before. Serving alongside Peterson on the board are Bill Lapczenski, Norlyn Stowell, Skip Wallace, Don Miller, Nate Newhouse, and Kay Suhr.

“In November we had the vote to retain gaming in Palo Alto County and over 85-percent were in favor of gaming in the county and that’s 12- to 13-percent more than we had last time,” said Peterson. “We might need your help again. The governor would like to raise the taxes on casinos, which would cause some of these casinos to stop operating. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen. If it does, the casino’s income goes down, and the non-profit board’s income goes down.”

Peterson went on to say that Wild Rose Casino’s income was approximately the same amount as last year. And in 2010, a total of $1,694,746.35 was awarded in grants.

“The only problem is we had more applications than last year,” Peterson noted. “If we could have funded all the grants, we’d have close to $4 million of activity going on in the county.”

Amy Rubel, General Manager of Wild Rose Casino and Resort in Emmetsburg, thanked the PACGDC board and reminded the audience that the board members were volunteers.

Rubel went on to say, “There are nearly 300 wonderful employees that work here at Wild Rose and it is their hard work and dedication that has made Wild Rose successful, which is where the funds come from for these grants. I am proud to say that, as the smallest casino in Iowa, last year we took the number one spot for growth, and that is a huge feat.”

Grant Awards

Each of Palo Alto County’s nine communities received one-sixth of the amount given to PACGDC. The money was distributed on a per-capita basis. Emmetsburg received $162,275.42; Graettinger, $36,870.15; West Bend, $34,180.17; Ruthven, $29,151.10; Mallard, $12,221.82; Ayrshire, $8,303.82; Cylinder, $4,532.02; Curlew, $2,543.78; and Rodman, $2,309.87. The cities will use their funds for programs and projects fitting the grant agreement.

Mini grants ranged in size from $481.50 for a air conditioner for the Emmetsburg VFW to $2,250 to Emmetsburg Public Library for a Playaway Booster Collection of children’s book titles. The top full grants included $135,000 for the Emmetsburg Volunteer Fire Department to purchase a new fire truck and $98,397.64 for Graettinger Economic Development Corp. to renovate the Upper Des Moines Opportunity building in Graettinger.

Reactions of Recipients

“We were really happy about the grant we received,” said Frank Kliegl, Fire Chief of the Emmetsburg Volunteer Fire Department, who accepted the night’s top award of $135,000 for a new fire truck. “It was a little embarrassing that we received the most money, but it’s a great thing.”

According to Kliegl, the Fire Department has been working on the purchase of a new truck for the past three to four years. Originally, they had estimated it would take a total of $270,000 to replace the existing fire truck. However, a recent estimate has dropped the price to $260,000.

“This money will be used towards the purchase of a fire truck that will serve the rural fire district, which represents Great Oak, Emmetsburg, Freedom, and Nevada Townships,” explained Kliegl. “It covers a majority of the country, many square miles, and will benefit a lot of people. I think that’s the key to why we were awarded this grant.”

Emmetsburg Public and Catholic Schools were the joint recipients of a $13,940 grant to provide fencing and playground equipment for both school’s four-year old preschool programs.

“West Elementary Principal Matt Pugh and Catholic School Principal Jean Hyslop worked on writing the grant together,” shared John Joynt, superintendent for Emmetsburg Public Schools. “I think the gaming board is always looking for cooperation among the entities who are applying for the grants. I think we earned extra points for that.”

The Emmetsburg Community School District was also awarded $42,889 in grant funding to bring a new wireless system to the high school.

“This grant will allow us to re-do the entire system and will provide the potential for a laptop program in the future,” said Joynt.

A total of five grants were awarded to Emmetsburg Catholic School-one larger grant and four mini grants.

“I was very excited about the different teams of teachers who worked together writing the grants,” said Principal Jean Hyslop. “We really wanted to focus on literacy with the mini grants this year.”

The seventh and eighth grade students at the Catholic School wrote one of those mini grants.

“We are very proud of our students,” Hyslop said. “They worked on writing the grant in Lisa Oberg’s language arts class. Because of that grant application, we received $1,769.16 for the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds program to promote physical and mental fitness.”

The Palo Alto County Fair Association was the recipient of a $53,694 grant for rest room reconstruction at the county fairgrounds.

“We are very honored to receive this grant,” stated Dan Voigt, treasurer for the Palo Alto County Fair Association. “It will allow us to continue to upgrade the county fairgrounds facilities and continue our mission of providing Palo Alto County residents with a fairgrounds everyone can be proud of.”

Voigt added that the new rest rooms would be ready by July for the 2011 Palo Alto County Fair. Contractors Brennan Chapman Builders and Weisbrod Electric will be working on the project.