Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Well runs dry

It has finally happened, as we all knew it would. The Vision Iowa golden goose has nearly dropped its last egg of cold cash, and not a single community in Buena Vista County has yet managed to get so far as filing an application to share in the riches.

The city of Des Moines has filed a $26 million project for a waterfront development with pedestrian promenade, rec trails, skating plaza and so forth (not so unlike Storm Lake's proposed lakefront State Park). It's the only project in line for the big Vision Iowa dollars, and if fully funded, will just about suck out the last of the $225 in the program.

Vision Iowa's CAT fund, providing smaller grants for community-based projects, has 16 projects competing for the less than $5 million remaining in the kitty, and it was announced this month that no more applications will be processed due to funds running out. Lawmakers didn't choose to renew the fund during the last legislative session, and without action it is scheduled to implode in June 2004.

So far, 109 projects have gotten handouts all over Iowa from the CAT fund, for community centers, pools, youth projects, you name it.

Storm Lake, which has had several preemptive goes at projects like a community center, diversity center, aquatic center, a large playground, hopes of restoring the Cobblestone ballroom and more, has never even managed to get an application on the table.

Congratulations are due this week to Rock Rapids, which snagged a quarter-million bucks for its community center project; and Centerville, with a $360,000 windfall for its Project Pride.

Storm Lake has those same needs, and considerably more people to use such facilities than those two towns together, but the spoils go to those who follow through.

When lawmakers gather this winter, let them pass on Vision Iowa. The Des Moines of the world can fund their own massive projects. The CAT fund, however, is making the quality of life better out in the real world of the rural cities, and deserves consideration for renewal.

If nothing else, to give places like Storm Lake that have been a little slow on the draw a second chance to express their community lifestyle needs.

As we progress with a State Park plan, we should learn from the fits and starts of past efforts, and rededicate ourselves to follow through. It would be nice if, when we are ready with our community vision, if the state's CAt vision is still alive to see it.