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A Vision For Emmetsburg

By Staff | Aug 16, 2012

“The reason we’re here to night, at the last council meeting Mr. Hamilton made a presentation on the South Bay project. Then someone commented that neither ECED or the steering committee of Five Island Community Center had made a formal presentation to the council about what we’re working on. We thought it would be a good idea,” said Kirk Haack, steering committee member.

“Over the last couple of months, leadership of the steering committee has been meeting with Pete Hamilton and Dave Rouse, trying to get a concensus on what this project needs to be,” Haack said. “The Concerned Citizens group has had some different visions about what this project needs to be and we’re trying to reach a concensus. I would characterize our meetings as being productive. We agree on far more things than we disagree on. The Concerned Citizens group has ratified a lot of the work that ECDC has done.”

Haack noted there are two areas where the groups disagree, the intended use and its size.

“Does Emmetsburg need an event center or do we need a community center? And, that relates to the size of the facility and the associated costs,” said Haack.

He talked about the vision for the future. He noted that nearly every community in the country is pursuing economic development, trying to create jobs and attract new businesses.

“For a community of just under 4,000 people and especially with all the struggles our nation is experiencing now, we’ve got a tremendous amount of positive things going on here in Emmetsburg,” he said. “We’ve got a tremendous, enviable quality of life, we’ve got an engaged community, and we do have growth taking place here. We have some new businesses, new homes and new families. And we have a unique asset in Five Island Lake which we believe has not yet been developed to its full potential. We have a unique opportunity with Five Island Golf course property that the city owns to build on towards that potential.”

Haack credited Dr. Jim Coffey with kicking off the dredging project on Five Island Lake.

“That has blossomed into a project that has spent $4.77 million improving the water quality,” he said. “Improving this lake has greatly enhanced the housing in this community: recreation, fishing, camping, boating, and it’s continuing to improve.”

Haack also credited Dave and Ruth Rouse for developing the Rockport addition, noting they, too, have a vision for the lake.

“According to the Courthouse, 2012-2013 tax collection year in Emmetsburg Corporate Rockport North TIF there is currently $7,295,432 in taxable valuation in just the north part of Rockport and it’s still growing.”

Haack pointed out, that new tax base is generating $137,600 in taxes to the city and county and other taxing entities in this area. Of that amount, $86,213.76 will be coming to the City of Emmetsburg. And of that amount, $58,572.10 is going to service the TIF Bond that was issued for the infrastructure that the Rouses put in at Rockport. There are two years left on that bond. That money will then be divided up into the appropriate taxing entities.

“That has been a huge deal for the city of Emmetsburg and this lake is going to continue to draw development to Emmetsburg and the county,” said Haack.

In his presentation, Haack showed photos of homes located along the shores of Five Island Lake, plus the multi-slip dock available to the public for use, Sewell Park, and improvements at the beach area of Soper Park, including the new shelter house.

“We see these things every day as we drive by and sometimes we forget about just how much activity we have,” said Haack. “I?believe almost all of this activity will be attributed to the dredging project and people wanting to locate on this lake. It turns into real dollars for this community.”

Kelly Bay continued laying out the vision. “The goals are to enhance the quality of life for our citizens, provide a center for outdoor recreation, youth activities, meeting space and socialization, to encourage economic growth through regional tourism and to showcase our community and Five Island Lake which has become a viable financial resource for our city and county.”

She outlined the progression: The clubhouse property was purchased from Wild Rose Casino in 2008. The following three years included public input surveys, feasibility studies and comparisons with similar facilities.

“Cost of the project is $2.5 million,” she said. “This includes the initial purchase price and covers every detail of the project – we’re talking right down to doorknobs and hinges. It also includes demolition of the existing structure, landscaping costs, and operating reserve of $100,000 to cover potential losses during the first five years,” she said.

Sources of funding include contributions and pledges toward the project, and CAT grant funding of $400,000 (the actual grant request is $580,000).

“And now it’s time to put our money where our mouth is,” Kelly said. “We’re looking at raising $1,050,000 through fund raising, keeping in mind that $250,000 of that has currently been pledged.”

The proposed facility will serve the community by providing a place for reunions and graduations, for youth recreation activities, ice skating, fishing, 4-H or Boy Scout activities, and meeting spaces to serve any group from 25 to 350.

“Opportunities to encourage regional tourism to this facility are endless,” she said. “There is going to be the need for a strong and creative marketing plan. Some of the options are boat shows, trade shows, fishing tournaments, golf outings and corporate training events.”

Kelly pointed out space comparisons with the Wild Rose Ballroom, VFW, and the current clubhouse facility. The South Bay presentation was an estimated 6,500 square feet. Five Island Community Center is proposing 10,400 square feet, which includes a catering kitchen, lounge and bar area, pro shop, office space, small group meeting space and a larger area that seats up to 300 people and can be divided into smaller areas.

There are similarities in the two plans: multi use spaces, green spaces, outdoor recreation areas to showcase Five Island Lake and serve the needs of multiple groups. Both seat approximately 350 people; South Bay 200 indoors and 150 outdoors.

Addressing the idea of building small and then adding on, Kelly asked where those funds would come from. Utilities would be another added expense.

She also noted a potential for loss of funding through the CAT grant program.

“Significantly changing the size of the facility means we would have to submit a new application for the CAT grant funding,” she said. “It’s about a year process and a smaller facility will not qualify for the same amount of money.”

She noted, “Taking a look at the basic difference between the two, what it boils down to is $100,000 that would need to be raised through community fund raising. The Five Island Community Center with the CAT grant funds comes in at $1,050,000. The South Bay that we took a look at last month, without the CAT funds, since it obviously can’t be guaranteed, we’re having to fund raise $950,000.”

The timeline going forward calls for a series of community meetings to gather feedback, answer questions and address concerns; the current facility will be demolished in October; the capital campaign will be conducted this fall and winter; and the next CAT grand board meeting is in December. Ideally, ground breaking on a new facility would be Spring 2013.

“Going forward, we plan to continue meeting with the citizens, making sure that all voices get heard,” said Kelly Bay.