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Board of Supervisors Briefed On Projects

By Staff | May 5, 2011

Palo Alto County Supervisors learned about a pair of projects that will change the look of the downtown area in Emmetsburg during their weekly meeting on May 3.

Dan McCain, representing the Emmetsburg Retail Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, presented the board members with two updates. First, as a member of the Emmetsburg Rotary Club, McCain informed the Supervisors that the organization had received a Palo Alto County Gaming Development grant to construct a Memorial Wall at the county Veterans’ Memorial on South Broadway.

“This wall will be eight feet tall on a 12 to 18-inch tall base,” McCain said, showing the Supervisors an artists’ sketch of the monument, “and it will be 45 feet long. It will be polished to look like a marble slab, but it is actually going to be cement that is stained and polished.”

The wall would be placed behind the four statues of service members and the memorial currently located at the site.

McCain then requested some assistance from the board for the project. “There is a slab of old cement behind the statues to the east that is about 15 feet wide. We’re wondering if the county could assist us in removing this concrete slab and taking it away.”

“I feel we could rip that out easily,” observed Supervisor Ron Graettinger.

“Yes,” agreed Supervisor Leo Goeders. “This is a county memorial to all veterans.”

McCain noted that all Veterans organizations in the county had been contacted, asking for the names of veterans to be placed on the memorial wall.

“How soon do you need the old concrete removed?” asked Board Chair Keith Wirtz.

“We have a couple of months to work with,” McCain replied.

The board agreed to remove the concrete and thanked the Rotary Club for their hard work.

“Go ahead I think this will look great for the county,” Graettinger said.

The next topic was for another downtown project the former Wards Building in the 900 block of Broadway.

Emmetsburg Community Developer Steve Heldt explained to the board that in recent community marketing studies, the Wards building had been identified as one of the major detriments to the downtown area.

The Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce’s Retail Committee, using that information, began investigating ways to remove the building, as the roof had collapsed and subsequently forced a collapse of the second floor to the main level. As time as passed, the building has continued to deteriorate, and is having detrimental effects on neighboring businesses.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources Brownfield Grant program has been identified to assist in the removal of the building due to its’ asbestos content. A PACGDC grant, along with contributions from the city, have also been earmarked to raize the structure, with a projected cost of $75-80,000 to accomplish the project.

“We need to move on this in one movement before it becomes a bigger problem,” Heldt said.

But before any work can begin, the building’s current owner, Christopher Furman of Okoboji, needs to relinquish ownership, as he has indicated he has no funds with which to assist in the demolition, according to Heldt.

Palo Alto County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker explained that Furman bought the property on a tax sale in 2005, but the taxes on the property were not paid for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 tax years, placing the property back on the delinquent tax rolls. According to Hilfiker, the total delinquent taxes for the period amount to $1,193.

Heldt told the board that in conversations with Furman’s attorney, the attorney has indicated that Furman will sign a Quit Claim deed for the property over to the Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce, which would allow for the project to begin.

“I would move to abate the back taxes in the amount of $1,193 on the former Wards Building,” stated Supervisor Jerry Hofstad. Graettinger quickly offered a second and the motion passed unanimously.

“I want to warn the Chamber that even with this abatement, once the building is gone, there will still be a current year taxes of probably a couple hundred dollars due,” Hilfiker said. “I don’t want you to be surprised when a tax bill comes in.”

However, the supervisors quickly agreed in principal that they would address that tax bill when the time came. “It’s time to have this done and be rid of it,” Graettinger noted, bringing the discussion to a close.