Jones' Outlook

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The jail vs. King's Pointe

Storm Lake could have temporally called itself "Constructionville" this summer - the new jail, King's Pointe Waterpark Resort, road construction and businesses building or moving. Instead of traffic jams with cars and pickups it was traffic jams of semis full of construction supplies and backhoes.

But the two huge projects were the jail and Project AWAYSIS. I have been following both since the ground breaking and it's interesting to see projects go up in different ways. Large structures, designed and executed by two different sets of people... both create to hold people efficiently - albeit for very different reasons.

I find it interesting to hear people's comments on both facilities. At one point, I heard people calling Project AWAYSIS "the mistake by the lake" and people speaking out against the new jail saying that it's a waste of money. As the projects have progressed, I've heard people saying the jail is a necessary advance for public safety in BV County, and that the hotel and water park will be the start of the community's bright future.

A jail probably isn't a development a city brags about, but I'm comfortable in saying it needed to be done. The savings from shipping prisoners elsewhere will pay off in time.

One of the first stories I did back as a intern here at the Pilot was a tour of the old jail. It was severely out of date.

Project AWAYSIS, in a different way, I think was needed also.

It's a whole new ball game for Storm Lake. Putting a major resort desination in a rural community may be like taking Albert Pujols and placing him in a game of cricket - he might not have seen it done before, but it won't take long to pick up the nuances of this game.

Oh, and there is one other thing in common between the jail and AWAYSIS - delays.

First of all, the weather was a major issue. In September 2006, major winds shifted the lodge at King's Pointe, proving we aren't called Storm Lake for nothing. There isn't much that could have been done about it.

The jail was completely enclosed, but still the March snows slowed everyone down. It is very hard in Iowa to stay on a construction schedule when workers can't get to the site for extended periods.

So the question that I get asked is "Which way was the better way?" Neither. Honestly both had their ups and downs.

Project AWAYSIS had a local city representative guiding the development, Mike Wilson. It was a big load to put on someone who is not a professional builder.

At the jail, the county chose an experiences building consultant from outside the area.

Each faced a different learning curve to build in Storm Lake. And I have heard both project's leaders say that they learned from the process.

Most importantly, delayed or not, both projects have opened their doors successfully - fulfilling their promises to the taxpayers.

*Contact the columnist at jjones@stormlakepilottribune.com