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Concerned Citizens Address Supervisors Over Proposed Community Center

By Staff | May 8, 2012

Whether or not the county should provide financial backing so that an Emmetsburg-based project might receive state grant funding was a much-debated topic of discussion during the May 1 meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors.

A group of a dozen residents, calling themselves “Concerned Citizens About the Community Center,” were in attendance at the meeting.

Pete Hamilton acted as spokesperson for the group and shared that they had circulated a petition against the proposed community center. According to Hamilton, the petition contains 400-450 names.

“I’m of the belief that when you elect a board, you let them do their job, but you can get their attention with a petition. My thoughts are if the city has $740,000 to put towards the community center why aren’t we getting a rebate? If the city is going to spend $1 million, shouldn’t we be able to vote on it?”

Hamilton went on to question the validity of the community center supporters’ claims that the project is a means for economic development in the county.

“I haven’t heard one person say how many private sector jobs would be created,” Hamilton said. “Is it going to be a financial burden in the future? It lost money as a private club and when Wild Rose owned it, and when the city owned it.”

He surmised, “We respectfully ask no county funds be used for this project, and that something less expensive is considered.”

“You’ve put us in a tough spot,” said Supervisor Ed Noonan. “You should have talked to the city first.”

Hamilton acknowledged that the group does need to talk to the city council.

“The project is too expensive. We need more contractors to look at it and perhaps remodel it. We’d like to see the city get out of it and lease it to others,” Hamilton suggested.

“I agree with you,” said Noonan. “I would like to see a private entity own it, but the question posed to us is whether we give them $5,000 a year for five years so they have a shot at getting CAT grant money.”

Hamilton noted that the grant may help build the community center, but it will not pay for salaries and building maintenance.

“If you stop this from happening, do you think it will still be city-owned?” Noonan asked.

“Probably,” Hamilton answered. “The issue comes down to whether you will be able to look at people and say why you didn’t help other towns build their community centers and country clubs.”

Bertha Mathis, a member of the “Concerned Citizens” group, stated, “If you give them the money, it’s a license to be exorbitant instead of using their own money and living within their means. If the city can’t afford the upkeep, what then?”

“These are issues you need to bring up to the City Council,” said Noonan.

“I thank you all for coming in. We do have to make a decision, and these are all good concerns,” said Keith Wirtz, Chairman of the board, bringing the discussion to a close.