'The dredging project changed everything'
Iowa Department of Transportation commissioners were apparently impressed with a presentation by Storm Lake Project Awaysis representatives at the Storm Lake Municipal Airport Monday. The commission was in Storm Lake to hear the presentation and to tour projects throughout northwest Iowa before holding its monthly meeting in Le Mars.
"That's really a nice project," DOT Commissioner Don Carmody said following the presentation which was essentially the same that Storm Lake representatives had given to the Vision Iowa board about a month ago. The presentation included updates on funding related to the project. Awaysis representatives will go to Des Moines again Wednesday to hear the progress on the application for $9 million in state funding.
Vision Iowa's decision on Project Awaysis. Hopes are that Project Awaysis will at least be slated for negotiation by the Vision Iowa board at that time.
Mayor Jon Kruse offered an introduction to Project Awaysis. "Storm Lake for many years was a quiet, sleepy town," Kruse said. That all changed with dredging Storm Lake. "We knew it was only going to get done if we got it done," Kruse said of dredging. "We're in our second year of doing something everybody said we couldn't get done."
Beyond Project Awaysis dovetailing into lake dredging, Kruse said Awaysis is Storm Lake's attempt to "take control of our future and our community."
Mike Wilson, Project Awaysis chair, said 23 committees and 155 volunteers have worked on Project Awaysis for the past two years.
Calling Project Awaysis "our vision for our future," Wilson said what had originally been envisioned as a state park project has developed into the $29 million project that Awaysis representatives presented to the DOT commissioners Monday.
"The name creates a place to get away to," Wilson said. "This is a lot more than a place to take a vacation." Project Awaysis also includes a strong component of educational and cultural development, Wilson said.
Wilson reviewed the wide consortium behind Project Awaysis. "This is the most important project to come before Storm Lake and Buena Vista County maybe ever," Wilson said.
Calling an 80-room lodge "the centerpiece to the project," Wilson said the lodge would be patterned after the classic Cobblestone Lodge which still stands in Lakeside. Wilson reviewed leveraged projects that include the skate park, business district throughways, natural history interpretive center, and upgrading the Casino Beach Marina.
Calling Project Awaysis the most comprehensive project to come before Vision Iowa, Wilson said "It literally does have something for everyone. This project will create educational and cultural opportunities like none other in the state."
Wilson noted "a greater prosperity level for all our citizens" would result from Project Awaysis. "This is an opportunity for us to make the future happen for us rather than to us."
The City of Storm Lake has committed $20 million so far for the $29-million project, with the projected balance hopefully coming from the Vision Iowa grant.
The actual grant amount, if awarded during the current funding cycle, would be less than $9 million since that tops the current amount in the Vision Iowa fund.
"We think Vision Iowa was created for folks like us to do things like this," Wilson said.
In an update on funding, Wilson said Senator Tom Harkin has procured another $500,000 for dredging and $250,000 for the interpretive center.