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Supervisors Approve Funding To Further Grant Application

By Staff | May 8, 2012

After giving consideration to a request from Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation (ECDC) made during last week’s meeting, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors approved providing financial support so that the group’s state-funded Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant application might be furthered. The grant is earmarked to assist in the construction of a community center, replacing the former country club building, which is now owned by the City of Emmetsburg.

At last week’s meeting, Tony Kauten, representing ECDC, provided a brief history of the project. Kauten and several supporters were again in attendance.

“Did you to talk to Richards and Kirke?” asked Supervisor Jerry Hofstad, referring to the owners of Wild Rose Casino & Resort, who previously held the property. [The CAT grant board requested that the community center project have the financial support of the previous owners of the property and financial support from the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors in the amount of $25,000, which could given spread out over a five-year period.]

“Yes, they’re considering it,” Kauten answered. “We want to get a group to go down to Des Moines to talk with them, and we’d also like to get one of their members to come to the CAT board meeting.”

Kauten shared that the group had presented about the proposed community center to the Ruthven City Council and is scheduled to visit other communities soon.

“I know that two members of the Ruthven City Council thought the project sounded like a good idea,” said Kauten.

“The comments I’ve heard say that it would be better to name it the ‘Palo Alto County Community Center’,” said Hofstad.

Kauten noted that that is certainly a possibility. He also shared that informational articles about the project will be appearing in the Emmetsburg newspaper over the summer. A promotional video has also been compiled.

“If the project goes forward, could you make it so that local contractors have an advantage?” Noonan asked.

Dan Cooper answered, “When you use federal or state money, there are always stipulations and you typically have to hire the lowest bid. But we could use local subcontractors.”

Cooper asked Kauten to explain why there is the impression that the project will cost $4 million.

“Yes, early on the first proposal was that much, but we have been trying to get to a smaller and less expensive building that’s still feasible and not conflict with existing businesses,” said Kauten. He shared that the current proposal is for a $2.2 million project, which would include the community center, all interior furnishings, exterior landscaping, and parking space.

Pete Hamilton, representing the group “Concerned Citizens About the Community Center,” wondered if the City of Emmetsburg was pledging $1 million towards the project.

“That’s correct,” Kauten answered.

“My biggest problem is if this costs $200,000 a year to maintain…have you thought about leasing the building to a restaurant?” asked Hamilton.

“It was talked about,” said Kauten. “But there is a huge expense in building a commercial restaurant-style kitchen.”

“I think the number of wedding parties you are anticipating is over-exaggerated,” Hamilton said. “Have you looked at the number of weddings over the last three years?”

Kauten noted that he had not.

Deb Hite, a supporter of the community center, interjected that the community center had the potential to host more than just weddings.

“Our class looked at places for our class reunion and the casino was booked every weekend this summer except four,” said Hite. “We’re focusing on weddings, but there are other opportunities. Most people aren’t aware that last year, Godfather’s had their conference here. I would like to be in the market for companies like that.”

Hamilton wondered if the committee was comfortable asking for money from other communities in Palo Alto County.

“The state looked at this project and thought it would benefit all in county,” said Kauten.

Supervisor Ron Graettinger noted, “But the perception out there is that it’s all about Emmetsburg.”

“If people used that mind set, the Wellness Center wouldn’t have been built or the library or the casino,” said Dan McCain, supporter of the project. “If we don’t build now, what will the price be for our children and grandchildren?”

Mary Clasing, a member of the “Concerned Citizens” group, said, “I think you’re trying to reinvent the wheel. The Wellness Center was built on a similar premise. We’re too small of an area to have all these facilities.”

Ric Dunigan agreed, “Everything can be held at the casino. I don’t think it needs to be so big. I don’t know how you’ll support it.”

“We’re looking much broader than that,” said Kauten. “It’s a shame not to showcase our lake. Is this project going to benefit every single person? No, it’s not. And the size was based on the existing competition [VFW, casino].”

“Well, we need to make a decision today,” said Keith Wirtz, Chairman of the board.

Noonan noted, “It’s not that this is a good or bad project. The question is: Does the county give $5,000 a year over five years so they have a shot at getting grant money?”

Noonan then moved to approve giving $5,000 a year over five years to the project. The motion passed with Keith Wirtz and Ron Graettinger voting “nay.”

“Thank you for your support,” said Kauten. “We’ll work hard to get the information out to the county.”