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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

City asks Vision Iowa for more time

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Storm Lake officials met Wednesday with the Vision Iowa board, asking for an amendment to the contract for completion of the last of the Project Awaysis developments.

The state program contributed $9 million toward the lakefront developments, contingent on a timeline to finish all the work by December 31, 2009.

Storm Lake officials wanted to extend the deadline to July, 2012. Vision Iowa officials said they would grant an extension only until Dec. 31, 2010.

"We will have to take a step back now and see how we are going to get it done," City Administrator Patti Moore told the Pilot-Tribune after the meeting.

A campground renovation and building of tourist cabins remains to be done to satisfy the promises made to Vision Iowa - but the city doesn't have enough money on hand to pay for it all this year.

If Vision Iowa hadn't allowed an amendment to the contact, the city would have been forced to borrow the money to get the work done immediately, City Administrator Patti Moore said. The one year extension buys a little time to weigh options.

If the amendment had been granted to 2012, the city could have proceeded with plans to set aside money to pay for the projects up front as they are built.

Costs for the campground and cottages are estimated at about $1.5 million. The city has $240,000 in the current budget that could be used for budget that could be used for the work, and proposed to set aside $600,000 in the fiscal 2009-10 budget, then $250,000 more in each of the following two budget years.

"We are asking for an extension just because we would like to set the money aside over time as opposed to borrowing," Moore said.

The final stages of planning for the remaining AWAYSIS projects will begin sometime next spring.

As the project is currently proposed, the campground would receive a full makeover. Existing structures would be removed, and a new single central complex built to house the offices, vending, laundry, restrooms and bathhouses. The actual size of the campground would not change, Moore said, but it would be layed out with larger pads to accommodate the pull-though service and comforts needed for a new generation of larger RV units.

Several tourist cabins are planned - four luxury, two moderate, and four primitive rentals. They would be located in the campground region, some on each side of Sunrise Park road. Exact locations have not yet been determined.

With just seeding and some replanting yet to do in the King's Pointe area, the only other requirmements of the original Project Awaysis deal are driving and bike trails.

The driving trail, hooking the Storm Lake resort with other natural resources, historical and tourism locations around the county, is already laid out, but still waiting for DOT approval of the signs. A CD will be available to guide motorist travelers along the route.

There is no set deadline for the bike trails, which will be developed over time, both in and outside of Storm Lake, Moore said. "The trails that were planned were all over the county, and when the agreement was drawn up, it was known that this would take more grant money down the road to make it happen."

Two other elements of the original Project AWAYSIS plan - the skatepark and the nature interpretive center (estimated at $600,000 and $7 million) were never included in the Vision Iowa contract. While the city still lists both projects as active goals, no timeline has been set for either project and no money has been budgeted. Skatepark proponents are scheduled to meet with the city council on Monday.

"The skatepark and interpretive center were considered to be leveraged projects related to AWAYSIS, but we are not obligated to complete them within the contract period to qualify for the money we received," Moore said.

Storm Lake made headlines when the large initial state funding was announced, at the time exhausting the last of Vision Iowa's resources.

"Well, Governor, it's all gone," was the announcement from Vision Iowa board chairman Michael Gartner, marking the end of the 225-million dollars in state money that had been handed out to 13 community attractions like sports arenas and museums.

"For this to be the final project, it's particularly fitting. It's a small town. It's a wonderful project. It'll be both a destination project for people coming to Iowa as well as something that makes life a whole lot better for the people in Storm Lake, Buena Vista and northwest Iowa," Gartner said of the project, which also includes a destination lodge, indoor and outdoor waterparks, lighthouse with observation deck, new beach, playground, and redesigned golf course.

Then-governor Vilsack said AWAYSIS represents "everything that's good and right about small communities, about our state." His replacement, Gov. Culver, made his first Storm Lake appearance in office to help dedicate the waterpark.

At the Vision Iowa meeting yesterday, it remains clear that state officials are supporting of the lakefront developments.

"Even though they didn't grant the full extension we would have liked, they did want us to come back in a year so they can hear how things are coming," Moore said. "They remain very supportive. Every member of the Vision Iowa board has been to King's Pointe, and they were all duly impressed."

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