Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 17, 2014

Nearly 70 percent favor new center

By Mary Zielinski | May 08, 2013

KALONA — Survey results show initial support for a new Kalona Recreation/Community Center is nearly 70 percent among city residents, with heaviest support in two groups: ages 31 to 45 and 65 or older. Among rural Kalona residents support is 86 percent, and 80 percent for other rural residents, the council was told at its meeting Monday.
The center is a proposed partnership with the Mid-Prairie School District and the survey found that residents with students currently attending Mid-Prairie approved the move by 76 percent.  However, even those with no current Mid-Prairie students weighed in at 65 percent favorable.
“The support is there for it,” said City Administrator Ryan Schlaaugh, noting that among the features listed as essential for the project is a senior center (60 percent support).
In regard to the survey, Schlabaugh said the city could accept it and walk away, saying it is not the right time, or formally reach out to Mid-Prairie and go on to determine exactly what it would have, “what it would look like,” and finally determine cost.  He noted that Mid-Prairie has land and an option for more and that the district does intend to build in Kalona.
“My greatest concern,” said council member Dave Bentley, “is that we get it right.”  
He stressed that “a good center makes a community more appealing and that leads to growth,” adding that Kalona already has made improvements to its water system, city park, city campground, and library, all of which have added to its growth.
“We need to look at the future,” said council member Mark Robe, and all agreed that “it doesn’t hurt to move to the next step.”
“We need to take it to the school,” said Mayor Ken Herington, and the council unanimously approved formally approaching the Mid-Prairie District.
The project actually falls within the city’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan update priorities and saw the survey mailed to 1,141 households with 601 households responding.   Besides the senior center, suggested “essentials” for the facility are an indoor pool and indoor soccer (top choices) as well as meeting rooms,  banquet room and a certified kitchen.
The council also briefly discussed the proposed English River Watershed Management Authority (ERWMA) for which a major exploratory meeting was set for Tuesday, May 7, in North English.
Schlabaugh said that there would be representatives from many of the 16 towns and six counties along the 625 miles of the English River as well as from the county, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, conservation agencies “you name it” at the meeting.  He noted that Riverside has allocated $12,000 for the project that will inevitably undertake flood mitigation efforts once the ERWMA is in place.
Following the May 7 meeting, “there will be another one mainly for the public,” said Schlabaugh.  However, the Tuesday meeting was open to the public.
In other business, the council:
• discussed the open burning issue, noting that there were two clear options: ban burn barrels or regulate burning to certain days and times.  However, there were council members who favored retaining burn barrels, but possibly regulating the height to avoid outright trash burning.  There also were suggestions of just permitting fire rings.  Schlabaugh was asked to obtain further information regarding barrel heights and rings with a final decision set for the May 20 meeting;
• noted Cleanup Day is May 11 from 8 a.m. to noon when items may be taken to the city park;
• learned that a car had inadvertently run over a stop sign near the post office;
• learned that ditch clean work is under way and that the engineers have surveyed the west drainage ditch in preparation for improvement work;
• learned that the June 3 meeting will involve a decision regarding the sanitary sewer lining project, especially in the wake of the recent flooding that overwhelmed the lift station pumps that could handle only 55 percent of the flow.  Schlabaugh said there will be preliminary costs figures and Herington noted that it will be a large project, but would mean better prices.  Bentley agreed that “we need to consider the whole scope” that the city’s main infrastructure “is in dire need of a lot of work”; and
• approved 7 p.m. May 20 for the budget amendment hearing.

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