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CAT Grant Moves Forward

By Staff | Jun 19, 2012

Emmetsburg continues to move forward to obtain funding for a proposed community center through a Community Action and Tourism (CAT) grant. Community Center Steering Committee chairman Tony Kauten made a presentation to the committee last Wednesday, June 13.

Kauten opened his remarks with an apology for the May meeting where concerns about the Community Center were voiced.

“Some of the things brought up should have been dealt with back in Emmetsburg,” Kauten told the committee. “Unfortunately that was brought up here and it was inappropriate. We are doing our best to take care of some of those requests. “

Kauten was referring to the May 21 meeting of the CAT Committee. Bertha Mathis addressed the committee, stating that she represented the Concerned Citizens of Emmetsburg and the VFW. She raised numerous questions.

“A lot of residents are upset,” she told the CAT Committee. “Not with the community center, but the size of it. They think down the road it’s not sustainable within the community and it directly competes with the VFW and casino. It’s going to hurt their business.”

Mathis alleged that the city of Emmetsburg “does not have public hearings where they are on the record,” stating that the city’s “agenda is to push their agenda.”

At the June 13 meeting, Kauten told the CAT Committee, “We are trying to refocus our efforts on getting back to our community and getting out the awareness, letting them know the steps that have been taken, where we’ve gone, how the decisions have been made, how we actually got to the point where we are in the last three and a half years.

Kauten said that the Community Center Steering Committee has met with almost all of the city councils in Palo Alto County, letting them see what the vision is and how county communities can benefit. The group has also met with the Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, presented information at a Friday morning Chamber Coffee, and talked to members of the community.

“We met with the chairperson of the Concerned Citizens group,” Kauten said. “We were able to come to a lot of common ground after we actually sat down together. There are misunderstandings and misinterpretations of information out there that we’re working real hard to clear up in the next month.”

Kauten added, “I appreciate your patience while we get some of these things done. As you all know, a lot of times those who are against a project are more vocal than some of the silent that are in favor. It’s a little easier to sit back and kind of wait and see how things are going.”

A letter of support from Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors was read by Deb Hite, Executive Director to the Chamber. The letter stated, “Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce supports projects that allow public access to the lake. We believe that the Five Island Community Center concept is a community amenity that improves lake access for all.”

Prior to the May meeting, letters sent to the CAT Committee were from Ron Hersom, Sr. Vice Cmdr. Post 2295, and from Ron Hersom as an individual; along with a letter from Bertha and Steve Mathis. In addition, phone messages were left by Jerry Brennan, Dawn Freeman, Linda Tienter, and Marjorie Schmidt, Dorothy Gilman and Janice Brennan. E-mails were sent by Mike Wentzel, Jeremy Firkins, Pete Hamilton and Kathy Roethler. All expressed opposition to the proposed Community Center.

Attorney Adam Humes advised the CAT Committee at the May meeting, “We will look into it (opposition) prior to the board taking action This is a rare example where there is actual protest of a project. This doesn’t happen. I’ll take a look and review the statute toward the rules.”

Kauten noted that the VFW was a major concern at the May meeting. “Several phone calls were made on the way home after last month’s meeting,” he said. “We actually spoke to directors of the VFW. At that point, it was mentioned that as an organization the VFW would not take a stance.”

CAT Committee member Tammy Robinson stated, “I sympathize with you. I’ve been on your side of the barrier. Those kinds of things tend to work themselves out as we go through the process, so I’m assuming that you’ll handle that back in Emmetsburg.”

She added, “The one thing I want to talk is money. Your gap actually concerns me much more than all of the issues that you have going on in Emmetsburg. Your gap is almost as large as your ask from us. We need to address how you’re going to fill in that gap.”

Kauten explained that when Emmetsburg applied for the CAT grant, they were concerned that future funding might not be available and the city wanted to get its application in the process.

“The actual capital campaign has not yet taken place,” Kauten said. “We have hired Tom Vance with Vance & Associates to do the capital campaign. When do we start? That’s where we’re at now. Unfortunately with what happened last month, we got set back a little bit. We need to drum up public support that is tied to this project.”

“I think that despite your very public scuffle last month, most of us agree that you have public support. I don’t think there’s any question about that. We’ve seen that you continue to demonstrate with that,” said CAT Committee member Tim Waddell. “I agree with Tammy that the issue is financial and if you don’t know this, the negotiation process that we give you is just a limited time to achieve that goal We want to make sure these projects are shovel ready. That’s the big issue here. I don’t think it’s a demonstration of public support. It’s how you fill this gap.”

Emmetsburg Community Developer Steve Heldt presented the timeline for fund raising to date and plans for fund raising in the future, including the capital campaign.

CAT Committee member Charese Yanney noted, “You are really kind of premature coming to us. People should really have a lot more fund raising completed before they come. I understand what you are trying to do, but you would move quicker you might not even need us as you remember, we’re the last dollars. If you do your job, you shouldn’t need us.”

“We want to see the money coming in,” concluded CAT Committee member Tammy Robinson. “We like seeing you every month, but as long as we see those dollars coming in, that’s really what we’re sitting back and waiting for. I agree with Tim (Waddell) 100-percent I don’t know that we have any issues with whether or not you’ve got community support. I think that donations speak more than anything