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Community center gets backing from council

The Fisher Community Center received the support of the Marshalltown City Council on several items during a regular meeting on Monday.

The first item concerned the governance of the Fisher Community Center, which is undergoing a renovation and will be called the Marshalltown Arts & Civic Center upon reopening. Throughout the council meeting, the facility was referred to as the Fisher Community Center.

The city had established a board and commission to govern the center, despite it not being a city-owned civic center. The Fisher Governing Foundation Board of Trustees had since been established and performed what City Administrator Jessica Kinser described as essentially the same duties as the city’s board.

Kinser, also a member of the Governing Foundation Board, said the request from the board was to remove the ordinance which creates the board and commission from the city altogether.

“We’re in a structure that really doesn’t work for us at all,” said Carol Hibbs, vice president of the Fisher Governing Foundation Board.

The council motioned and unanimously approved the request.

The council then discussed an agreement to purchase the land where the Fisher Community Center is located from the Iowa Department of Transportation. The land is 6.3 acres, which is valued at $44,000. This would require a letter from Mayor Joel Greer authorizing the purchase.

The Fisher Community Center would then agree to reimburse the city for the agreed upon price of $44,000.

Council member Gary Thompson raised concern about not allowing others to bid on the land once the city purchases it and likely earning more revenue.

“There’s a lot of people who are going to come out of the woods and say, ‘I want to bid on that property and get a $7 million renovated building in 30 years,'” Thompson said. “As stewards of the taxpayers money we’d be negligent in our jobs to take $44,000 for 6.3 acres.”

The council motioned to direct Greer to write a letter to the DOT to begin the process of purchasing the land.

The DOT also owns the land the Y Cultural Center is located on which is more than 3 acres. Kinser said the plan would be to purchase that land sometime in the future, as well.

The final item regarding the Fisher Community Center was whether the city would apply for a Community and Attraction Grant through the Enhance Iowa Program which is run by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The grant would be for the renovation of the facility. Grants can be awarded at values up to $1 million. The application is due July 15.

In order to be eligible for the grant, the city and county must both make contributions to the renovation. If either were to not contribute, the application would not qualify.

Hibbs said the Horne Henry Center at the YMCA was built with the help of a CAT grant.

“This is a funding stream that has been very important to the city. We’ve seen a lot of benefit from it,” she said.

The city’s contributions toward the project would come from council designated Local Option Sales Tax. Kinser said the latest estimation after the previous council meeting leaves $1.5 million available in council designated LOST.

Council member Al Hoop suggested waiting to see whether the county will contribute. Hibbs noted a meeting with the county is forthcoming.

“I’d be curious what the county does because they haven’t helped us on trails and recent history,” Hoop said.

Kinser reiterated the urgency to work out what the city would agree to contribute sooner than later because the application deadline is fast approaching.

Council member Bethany Wirin motioned to agree to contribute $250,000 to the project.

“I’m more inclined to lead the way as we did with the trails,” she said. “I think of it as a treasure here in the center of town. It can be even better.”

Council member Bill Martin seconded the motion.

“It takes these steps to get to where we want to go,” he said.

The motion carried and a resolution formalizing the agreement to contribute will appear on the June 28 council agenda.

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Contact Joe Fisher at

jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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