AWAYSIS relocations stir concern

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Citizens protest relocation plans

In a Project AWAYSIS work session Monday, there was strong opposition to a proposal to relocate the Storm Lake Senior Citizens Center and historical buildings in the Sunrise Park area to the old water plant area in Sunset Park.

David Ciaccio and Kevin Strehle of BCDM of Omaha, Neb., planners for Project AWAYSIS, presented the plan along with Project AWAYSIS Project Manager Mike Wilson. Ciaccio and Strehle offered new concept drawings of the Great Lawn and the proposed site for the senior center and cabins.

The senior center was originally planned for the campground area, and the site for the historical log house and one-room schoolhouse had yet to be determined.

Strehle said the reason for relocation of the senior center and historical sites to the old water plant area was to make a smoother transition from the lodge to the condo units, cabins and campgrounds.

"The historical cabins and senior center we didn't feel went very well in that transition of uses," Strehle said.

Mayor Jon Kruse said Project AWAYSIS had included funding for either demolishing or renovating the old water plant.

He agreed that it made sense to relocate the senior center and cabins away from the east side of the lake. "This is an alternative that's workable," Kruse said.

Wilson dismissed the option of renovating the water plant for some use as not cost-effective. "That thing is a disaster," Wilson said. By removing the water plant buildings and replacing them with the senior center and historic cabins, Wilson said, "The mass of those buildings is going to be less than what's there now."

Councilperson Julie Egland said choosing the old water plant site would not allow for future expansion of the historical exhibit.

Historical society officials have met on the situation, and feel the best place for the log house and school are in the current location, where they were moved several years ago along with a pioneer garden under agreement with the city to create a pioneer heritage display. If they must be moved, society member Marge Nuelieb said, the group planned to wait until the city made a decision on the site, and then discuss it with their attorney. "We do not have a problem with AWAYSIS at all, but we feel that our sites can be a tourism attraction too," she said.

Susan Thompson, chair of the historical society board, also said she likes the current site. "It would be hard on those old buildings to move them, and we would have to find a place for Bessie's Garden and so on," she said. "The city has told us two sites so far, and neither one worked out. I guess the next move is up to them."

After hearing from the rest of the Council, as well as a number of residents in the area, all who opposed blocking the lake view if the water plant should be removed, the council suggested that planners return to the drawing board and look for another alternative for relocating the senior center and historic cabins.

Wilson said he found it hard to balance competing interests in the issue. "I feel badly about this because I told some people this could happen," Wilson said.

In another matter regarding AWAYSIS, Strehle said the proposed area for relocating the Kolb Memorial Gardens north of the Great Lawn would be larger than the current 1,700-square-foot area.

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