Local leaders anticipate approval of split funding
Funds may be running low in the Vision Iowa account, but hopes run high among the local supporters of the Project Awaysis destination park in Storm Lake.
Some news reports have indicated that Storm Lake's hopes were diminished when the Vision Iowa board granted $5 million in funding to a Cedar Rapids project this week, but that is not the case, city officials respond.
While the Vision Iowa website indicates that there is $2.75 million left in the Vision Iowa fund following the Cedar Rapids presentation, city officials said that the Department of Economic Development indicates that there will actually be $5 million available.
Regardless of the amount in Vision Iowa, city officials expect to also tap into the "SuperCAT" program, which now allows larger projects like Awaysis to receive up to $4 million per year from the Cultural Attractions and Tourism program - which has been approved for $12 million more in funding per year for each of the next six fiscal years.
"The bottom line is that there is over $20 million available there.
"There is no cap on the number of years you can receive funding from SuperCAT. There is plenty of money for what we need," Storm Lake Administrative Services Director Justin Yarosevich said this week.
"Our chances are just as good as they have been in the past," to receive the $9 million total requested from the state, he said, although it may partially be spread over time.
"We always did anticipate some form of split funding. Right now we feel we have very good support from the Vision Iowa board members, and that people here and across the state appreciate the project that we are working on," Yarosevich said.
There are precedents for split funding between Vision Iowa and CAT, including the current project funded for Burlington.
"We don't want people to think that our hopes are diminished in any way," Yarosevich said.
While the Storm Lakers had hoped for an award or to move into the negotiation phase at the Vision Iowa meeting Wednesday in Des Moines, some of the state board members could not be present and had not completed their scoring of the project. It is anticipated that scoring will be done by next month's meeting, and Storm Lake could then receive a funding offer or advance into negotiation.
In the meantime, city officials and leading Awaysis volunteers continue to work on the details of the plan. Potential timeframes are being put together, and plans made for future additional public information meetings. "We are also still working on the golf course components (a new housing development will call for the course to be largely redesigned) and the Gateway committee is still working on the look of how we will improve our entries to the city," Yarosevich said.
Final determinations on the proposed lodge-hotel are yet to be made. The city could opt to enter into an agreement with a private developer, or develop the hotel itself and hire management to run it for the city.
"We are still open to both options, and we have received lots of interest from construction, vendor and management companies. We will have some choices in front of us when it comes time to make that decision. We want to study this very carefully to make certain that we do what is best for the community," Yarosevich said.
The city council, which is in a "silent phase" while waiting for a funding decision, continues to be "dead set on finding the most prudent possible options for this project," in hopes of limiting the economic risks to the city, Yarosevich said.
Meanwhile, city officials said they wish to congratulate Cedar Rapids on receiving their Vision Iowa award.
"In a sense they are a competitor, but Storm Lake is really not in competition with them, so we should be happy for them in advancing with their project, and eager for the day when we are also able to advance," Yarosevich said.
Estimated total cost of Project Awaysis is approximately $30 million.