4-2: Auditorium moves ahead
A round of applause went up Tuesday night after the Washington City Council voted 4-2 to approve entering a 28E agreement with the Washington School District and contributing an additional $35,000 to the district’s auditorium project.
After the meeting, grant writer Katherine Ollendeck — who acted as spokesperson for auditorium committee — said that the new contribution will make securing a Vision Iowa grant simpler when the auditorium committee meets with the Vision Iowa board on June 11. During a previous meeting, the board had requested the school district enter a 28E agreement with the city and get the city to increase its contribution to a total of $50,000 as a requirement for a $1.4 million grant.
“I thought they took the time to consider what we were asking,” she said, of the meeting with the council. “I think they understood the importance of what we were telling them. I think they realized we had to get a little more city money involved to give our best presentation to Vision Iowa and keep moving forward.”
During the meeting, Ollendeck confirmed that the auditorium committee still has to raise about $134,000 for the full $7 million project. Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen said that he hopes the project can still begin this fall.
The money will be paid from funds the city receives from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation. It will be paid at a rate of $10,000 per year for the next five years.
Council members Russ Zieglowsky and Bob Shellmyer opposed the motion to move ahead with the agreement and the additional contribution. Council member Mark Kendall, who made the motion, voted for approval with a “hell, yes” vote.
As the council discussed the request, Ollendeck explained that the requirements were requested as a way of showing strong community support. She said that during one meeting the Vision Iowa board had informed them the percentage of the project that the $15,000 contribution covered. She said the city was financing 0.214 percent of the project.
Shellmyer said that he had received several communications from constituents who had asked him to oppose the additional contribution. He also said that the city has new water towers, a new water facility and the sewer system to finance during the next few years. He also said that the city had spent $530,000 on the roads next to where the auditorium would be built. Ollendeck said that she had told the Vision Iowa board about that, but the board had said, “We are not here to assess the road project, we are here to assess the auditorium project.”
He said that he had spoken with two people who had encouraged him to vote in favor of the agreement, and had received about 20 e-mails opposing the project. Shellmyer said many of the people he talked to had not voted because they felt “the high school was rammed down their throat.” He also reminded the council that another item on the Tuesday agenda was to amend last year’s budget.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just reach into my pocket and it is empty.”
Mayor Sandra Johnson said that many of the items that require the budget amendment were taken care of by offset revenue.
Council member Bob Shepherd said that he believed the 69 percent of the vote that approved a $1.1 million bond referendum to build the auditorium showed that the community supported the project.
“I feel this is an overwhelming statement,” Shepherd said. “I feel the people have spoken and they say that they support this.”
Shellmyer said that only 18.44 percent of eligible voters had voted in the election. Shepherd said that all voters had the opportunity to have voted.
Council member Kathryn Salazar said that during the campaign for the bond issue, she had not heard anyone oppose the auditorium. She believes this supports the percentages of the vote.
“I think this is a wonderful partnership for the community and can be used by so many different organizations and functions, and conventions, and meetings that this could be a real asset for bringing people to the community to use the facility,” she said.
Ollendeck said that the Vision Iowa board hadn’t cut the amount of grant money yet. She feels that there will still be additional money left for the committee to acquire for the project. She said that challenges are part of the grant process. She also said that the board had mentioned the need to get more money from the Washington County Board of Supervisors. The county has given $15,000 to the project.
“I think that is a tough sell,” she said. “We would go back to them as well if that is what they encourage us to do.”
Ollendeck has secured 18 Vision Iowa grants for communities, totaling about $17 million.
In other business, the council:
• approved the St. James Knight Flight run;
• approved a request to close the alley behind the Washington Public Library for a day to allow a presentation for young people;
• endorsed allowing a Hogging for Heroes motorcycle run;
• discussed the project to renovate the former library and asked city workers to collect information on the possibility of selling the building;
• approved allowing the State Theatre marquee to hang over East Washington Street;
• held a public hearing on the proposed budget amendments and approved the amendments;
• held a public hearing on the seal coat project and approved the project;
• held the third reading of an ordinance amending the job descriptions of several city officials; and
• held a closed session to hold a personnel evaluation for city administrator Brent Hinson and city clerk Illa Earnest.