Green Light For Community Center
Emmetsburg City Council pledged unified support for a new Community Center last Monday night. They designated $500,000 in funds the city receives from Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation, which they receive over four fiscal years.
Mayor John Schad opened the meeting by telling the council that he had changed his position on the community center.
“I’m changing my position on this building at the country club,” Mayor Schad said. “I’ve been opposed to it and the reason I’ve been opposed to it is because I saw it as something that was more of a fixture for a country club rather than a community center.”
He added, “Seeing as we had six people on the council indicate that they were in favor of it, there’s no point in being opposed to it.”
In a written brief to the council, the mayor urged the council to protect this investment, propose a realistic deadline, come up with a business plan and come up with creative ideas for use of the building.
“If the town embraces this concept and funds it fully, we have an obligation to put it to good use,” the mayor wrote. “A lot of thought and good ideas are needed here.
“If, on the other hand, we find that the community is not willing to build the new center, we need to recapture our half million and put it to use in a way that our citizens want it used, not just stubbornly push forward with an unpopular idea.”
Emmetsburg City Council plans to designate money received annually from Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation. These funds are not tax dollars and there will be no tax levy to move forward with the community center project.
City Administrator John Bird explained, “Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation (PACG DC) has said we can designate the money that they give us our 55-one-hundredth of a percent that they allocate to cities – we can designate those dollars for up to five years. But, we have to tell them what it’s going to be for and for how many years. Five years is the maximum.”
He continued, “They agreed to allow us to designate it last year for a single year. We have to, before Dec. 31, either spend all the money that we have or we have to designate it for a specific purpose. If you want to do it for more than last year and this year, you can go up to five, but not beyond five.”
He reminded the council that for the budget that just ended, June 30, they had designated $139,000 as part of the budget. That was done again for the fiscal year that just began July 1. Bird added that the funds must be designated or spent.
Of the dollars designated, $139,000 was to the community center; $11,000 was to the cemetery; and $12,000 remains in that fund.
Bird later explained how the city receives funding from the casino. “Palo Alto County Gaming gets 6-percent of the adjusted gross revenue from the owners and operators of the casino. They divide one-percent and allocate it to the cities on a per capita basis. So we get 55-one-hundredth of one percent just because we have 55-percent of the population.”
When asked when that agreement (of six-percent) with Wild Rose expires, Bird said it is 2014.
Bird also explained to the council that Emmetsburg receives one-half of one percent directly from Wild Rose on a weekly basis, according to state law. “They have to pay us (Emmetsburg) one-half of one percent and they have to pay the county one-half of one percent,” he said.
The City Administrator told the council “You could take the money you’ve already designated and use the Wild Rose money at the end of the fiscal year and have your $500,000, but I don’t know that you necessarily want to do it that way.”
“Maybe we could spread it out a little and give it a little more time for fund raising,” suggested Councilman Corey Gramowski. “Realistically, we’re not going to be able to build there in three years.”
Councilman Steve Finer questioned the life expectancy of the current building at the golf course.
“How many more years can we get out of it? You’re going to have to put money into it,” said Finer.
“We may have to have a temporary structure for a while,” said Councilman Brian Campbell.
Councilman Brian Malm said, “I had a contractor, not on this board, tell me two to three years.”
When Mayor Schad asked how soon the building could be replaced, Gramowski answered, “It depends on what the building looks like. If you put up a steel shed it could go up in two weeks. If we go with the plans that we have now, it’s going to take a little while.”
Council representative Sandy Pelzer made a motion to pledge $500,000 in funds from PACGDC toward the building of a community center, which may take four years to complete. She suggested using funding designated in 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14.
“I would like to see some more stipulations put on that,” said Finer. “If they go four years and don’t meet their fund raising target, not that we should take it away from them, but the council should have some say in what’s going to happen if they don’t meet their goal.”
Finer asked Community Developer Steve Heldt about the time frame for fund raising.
“Idealistically, I’d like to say in the next couple of months, maybe this winter, start the fund raising and see things come together in a year to a year and a half,” said Heldt. “Part of that is just lining up the state money you’re applying for. I’ve got to have a timeline established for them before even applying for these grants.”
Mayor Schad questioned, “If the total amount isn’t raised in three years, the council has to re-approve it? What happens?”
“The money will still be there,” said Finer.
Pelzer added, “According to PACGDC rules, we allocate it for a specific purpose. The purpose has to remain similar. Maybe it wouldn’t be the same community center, but something on that site.”
Finer stressed, “There needs to be some recourse from the city. You just can’t leave half a million dollars hanging out there.”
“It will always be in the city coffers,” answered Heldt. “When you talk about pledging, it never leaves the city’s account. The city holds all the pledges and writes all the checks.”
Pelzer amended her motion to state, “that we allocate the PACGDC’s allocation to the city beginning in FY10-11 for $500,000 pledge toward a new community center.”
“We need a deadline. I don’t think we want to leave it wide open,” Schad said.
“I guess I’m not sure we need a deadline,” answered Pelzer. “We have our beginning date and we have five years and that money will have to be spent.”
“The danger is we won’t be able to collect enough money to do the project and then we’re going to be crosswise with PACGDC,” said Schad.
“But we’ve already designated it so we have to do something,” said Pelzer.
“At that point we’ll have to tear down the golf course building and build another one for $500,000 bucks,” said Malm.
“Hopefully this board would have enough foresight to revise their plan so the money could be spent within the time frame necessary to spend it. I have confidence they can function that well. They’ve gotten this far,” said Campbell.
The motion was approved unanimously by members of the City Council.