Washington Evening Journal

Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 23, 2014

Auditorium Committee to seek Vision Iowa grant

Vision Iowa grant needs a donation from Washington County
By Xiomara Levsen | Dec 18, 2013
Washington County Auditor Dan Widmer (left) and supervisors Stan Stoops, Jack Seward Jr., Bob Yoder, Steve Davis, and Richard Young face members of the Auditorium Committee during this morning’s weekly county supervisors’ meeting. Speaking on behalf of the committee are Jan Gallagher, Robert Youngquist and Ed Raber.

The Washington County supervisors tabled voting on a resolution approving funding for the Washington High School auditorium project until their next meeting.

A group of supporters from the Washington High School auditorium committee came to the supervisors’ meeting asking the supervisors to consider giving $15,000 in $5,000 increments over a three-year period from tax revenue that Washington County receives from the casino. The committee is in the process of applying for a Vision Iowa grant of $1.3 to $1.6 million dollars for the Washington High School auditorium.

“The Vision Iowa board requires both city and county local government jurisdictions to provide a financial commitment to that,” said Ed Raber, director of Washington Economic Development Group (WEDG). “That commitment does not have to be huge. It tends to be something the board considers non-critical but it’s not designed to be so large that somebody has to eliminate a job.”

The amount the group is asking for from the supervisors came from looking at the size of the county and what the supervisors had previously committed to other Vision Iowa grant applications in the past, Raber said. This amount wouldn’t cause problems with other planned projects the county already has in place.

In order for the Vision Iowa application to continue, both the city and county would have to contribute, Raber said.

“If you say no, you stop this project dead,” Raber said. “We will not be able to apply to the state.”

Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said the revenue the county receives from the casino is earmarked for tax relief. If the supervisors voted to take money away from the earmarks, the level of tax relief would be reduced and essentially everyone’s taxes in the county would go up.

“You could say that,” Raber said. “I’m saying against that is it’s very, very low. Also, over the period of time the casino has been open and paid you, that there’s no flat fee. It’s based on their revenue.”

The committee would rather see money come from the Vision Iowa grant instead of pressing for funding from a bond referendum vote, Raber said.

“The bond referendum you talked about would be only for people in the Washington School District, right?” Seward asked.

Committee member Jan Gallagher and Raber said this was correct.

“It’s my understanding that—and I’m not intimately involved in Washington School District history—it’s my understanding that there have been how many bond issues for that school district that have all failed?” Seward asked. “Is that correct?”

Supervisor Stan Stoops asked Raber if there was discussion with the city for some contribution to the project. Raber said yes, there was discussion, and it looked favorable the city would do something. The committee will be meeting with the city council Wednesday night.

Seward said another issue he saw was this would primarily benefit the city of Washington and the WCSD, not the whole county, like other Vision Iowa projects the supervisors have given money to in the past.

Kathy Ollendieck from Advanced Development Services, who is writing the Vision Iowa grant for the committee, said she has found this not to be the case. She has found focus for regional competitions that are having issues finding a venue, which could come to Washington once the auditorium is built.

“Absolutely, they come at this and made a presentation that is very school focused,” Ollendieck said. “It’s much, much more than that. There would be no way we could get to Vision Iowa if we weren’t able to prove that this facility would also have a community focus.”

Washington County resident Tom Duwa asked the supervisors, if they approve the funds would they approve funding for other districts that have similar projects. He also asked, when Washington hosts large events, such as regional music competitions, if the funds from that would be split among the districts or if WCSD would keep that revenue.

The previous Vision Iowa projects didn’t benefit the county, Raber said. They were in specific districts in the county. Two had bond referendums voted for them and some affected only some of the property owners in the county.

Both Stoops and Seward said they weren’t ready to vote for the resolution today and wanted to hear more from their constituents first. Seward said he would also like more information about the failed bond referendums the WCSD has had in the past and more information from the high school auditorium committee about what the building project would include.

A motion was made to table the resolution until the next meeting and was unanimously passed.

Other items covered at the supervisors meeting included:

approving an office lease between the county and the 8th Judicial District Department of Corrections at Orchard Hill;

appointing Craig Capps to the Washington County Conservation Board;

appointing Dr. Chris Grier and Lori Bauer to the Washington County Board of Health;

and appointed Richard Young to the HACAP board.

The next meeting will be held Monday, Dec. 23, at 9:30 a.m. in the supervisors board room.


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