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2018 Year in Review-Part 2

1. Economic development and progress and more

December 30, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Emmet County raised funds for a Gold Star Families memorial and Law Enforcement/Rescue memorial during 2018 that is now located at 20th and Central Avenue. The project was inspired by Emmet County Emergency Manager Terry Reekers, who died in March. Reekers said in January, "The memorial is a way to show Veterans and Gold Star Families that the community appreciates their sacrifice and service to the United States."

The Avera Holy Family Hospital new emergency room addition exceeded its $1 million fundraising goal with over $1.2 million pledged. Sandy Lunning, Foundation Manager for Avera Holy Family said in January, "The Foundation Board and Capital Campaign Committee are pleased with the level of support the community has shown. The extra funds will allow us to include enhanced ER equipment as well as additional furnishings and signage, which were not part of the original project estimates. It is important that donors know every penny donated to this capital campaign will be used for creating a new, state of the art ER that we can all be proud of."

Graettinger-Terril school district called for a new vote on a school bond issue April 3. The bond issue will net $9.7 million for new space and security in both the Terril and Graettinger buildings. There were 658 yes votes and 410 no votes on the measure, sliding through the 60 percent passage requirement. The revenue is being used to create new learning environments to provide quality education opportunities, according to district superintendent Andy Wolwood.

Article Photos

Concurrent with the 150th Emmet County Livestock Show, the fair board talked with the Emmet County Supervisors about a new or revamped building to serve a number of purposes in the county. All of Estherville's voting could be moved to one location, according to county auditor Amy Sathoff. The Emmet County extension said expansion of the youth programs has been identified as a priority. Extension Council vice-president Brett Mace said, "They want to have a youth cooking class, but there is no kitchen at the Extension office in which to do this." The fair board and Extension are set to return to the supervisors with a cost estimate and architectural rendering.

Jeff Robinson, Estherville native and financial advisor from Minnetonka, Minn. with a local office, brought two new industrial projects to Estherville in 2018. One is a project from an electronics company from Minnetonka that opened a new manufacturing location in the former Pepsi building in Estherville set to start production in early 2019. The other is a federal government Dept. of Defense project. Estherville will be the first of 150 projects the DoD has designed with a preference for small towns. Robinson says for any clients who come to him with business development projects, his condition for working to fund the projects will include a condition that the project operates a location in Estherville.

2.2018 election

Fact Box

Addition to Top Stories of 2018

In Thursday's paper, we listed students who had gone to state. In addition to those named, Vanessa Vedder, Savannah Dare, Quimby Ross, and Kali Dong all went to State for National History Day; and Marcus Dykstra and Justin Christensen went to State for individual speech.

It was an off year for U.S. elections, but Iowa and the districts that include Emmet County were busy with gubernatorial, congressional, and state representative elections in addition to local races. The first candidate of the year to visit Emmet County was Democratic challenger for governor Fred Hubbell. Kim Reynolds, who moved up from her role as lieutenant governor after Terry Branstad became U.S. Ambassador to China, visited Estherville for her first Emmet County campaign stop in March.

Reynolds said, "I never thought I'd run for office, serve in the state senate, and partner with the longest-serving governor, but in Iowa if you work hard and dream big, anything can happen," Reynolds said.

Ultimately, the 2018 election in Emmet County favored incumbents. John Pluth and Jeff Quastad kept their county supervisors seats, leaving Democratic challenger Cole Beardsley out. Reynolds became the first woman elected as Iowa's governor, while U.S. Rep. Steve King and Iowa Rep. Tedd Gassman also retained their seats.

Meanwhile the 2020 election began in Iowa with U.S. Rep. John Delaney, who met with Democrats at the VFW in September and handed out copies of his book, "The Right Answer: How we can unify our divided nation."

Emmet County saw a record voter turnout for the 2018 general election.

3.Odor issues permeate summer activities

The Emmet County supervisors held a special public meeting July 19 at the SERT building on the Iowa Lakes Community College campus which drew well over 100 citizens to talk about the excessive odor coming from the Central Bi-Products rendering plant south of Estherville. At that time the county assessor's office had received 61 odor complaints in 2018. The meeting's purpose was to educate the public on the county's efforts to enforce the conditional use permit issued to the company.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources stated three air quality permits were revoked in 2015 through a request from the company to scale back the state regulations because it said qualified for a small unit exemption. It became clear, however, that the plant's emissions were over the SUE-permitted levels.

Bev Juhl, supervisors chair, said, "The board intends to proceed with actions. We're not just going to let it go. At this point, shutdown looks like the only option. It won't be dropped."

Supervisor Jeff Quastad told Dan Hildebrandt, CEO of Farmers Union Industries, "I hope you pick up the ball. The operation should be shut down. We've always been told it will get better, but it never gets that great. It needs to be dealt with now."

Hildebrandt said, "I do care. That's why I'm here. If I didn't care, I wouldn't have shown up. I had not heard until I read the paper how many complaints had come in. I'm hearing that the issues are housekeeping and odor control. We will deal with those issues."

Hildebrandt added, "The air is changed in that facility every seven minutes. It's going to be a big [scrubber] system."

While Farmers Union Industries issued statements detailing its efforts to combat the odor, including hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on infrastructure, the county assessors office has continued to receive odor complaints from citizens. Roy Gage, president of the newly-formed Emmet County Citizens Advocacy Group, Inc., a nonprofit corporation "advocating to improve the physical environment of Emmet County," addressed the supervisors about the ongoing issues and said the group wants citizens to have a voice in any future agreement between the county and the company. ECCAG filed a motion to intervene in the ongoing court action filed by the county attorney against Farmers Union Industries. A hearing date has yet to be set in the matter.

4. Dog park and dog issues muzzled for now

The city of Estherville and Estherville Chamber of Commerce hosted two focus groups relating to the planned dog park at Spurgin Park. A donor, Nancy Payne, pledged funds and an artist accepted a commission to create a sculptor of a Boxer in honor of the donor's late husband. At the city council's Jan. 2 council meeting, the council reviewed the current penalties for owning and keeping a dangerous animal in the city limits, and Police Chief Brent Shatto reviewed the procedure for removing an adjudicated dangerous animal from the city. Supporters of ending breed-specific legislation addressed the council, provided language for a proposed new ordinance, and a cost estimate of the city's expense of continuing to ban specific breeds from the city. The estimate from John Dunham & Associates for Best Friends Animal Society came to $10,229. The council stated it would review the ordinance.

The Parks & Rec Board discussed rules and details of the dog park. Payne, the donor, was adamant that the dog park be accessible to everyone. Hence, according to city administrator Penny Clayton, if the city required a permit, the donation would be rescinded. Clayton said, "There's a fair amount of personal responsibility for someone to take care of their pet and make sure the situation is good for their pet at the time they're visiting the park."

5. Estherville Municipal Pool closes, progress on a new pool stalled

Spring floodwaters caused further damage to the nonagenarian municipal pool that has been a mainstay of Estherville children's summers. June 5, members of the city Parks & Rec Board stood at the threshold of the pool's deep end and stared into the large cracks that had emerged, releasing soil and flood soot into the cement bottom. The city and school district forged an agreement two weeks later, which opened city swimming hours at the Regional Wellness Center's indoor pool. Attendance numbers in the summer of 2018 indicated the residents want to swim outdoors in the summer. The RWC has planned a new splash pad for the outside of its facility as a sunny environment for children and families while plans for the new pool continue.

The city entered a tentative agreement with the ELC school district's Future Farmers of America program to swap land north of Thoreson Park. That swap became nonviable when the landowner and the city could not reach an agreement.

In November, the ELC school district agreed to move forward with plans for a spray park outside the RWC. At its regular meeting, the board was presented with a tentative timeline of a June 1, 2019 opening. The spray park would complement indoor pool activities at the RWC in the summer, and could be an addition to any municipal pool that could be built in the area.



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