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North Iowans voice opposition to new regulations for Clear Lake's Sunset Bay Marina

CLEAR LAKE | At Clear Lake State Park Monday night, dozens of cars filled the western parking lot, and many more sat in the corresponding loop right off of South Shore Court.

That was because more than 100 people were jammed into the state park's lodge, waiting to see what the fate of the Sunset Bay dock—which sits to the northwest of the park's campgrounds—would be.

The dilemma facing the dock stems from a contract between its late owner, Dale Entner, and the DNR. Because Entner died in August, the contract states the dock must now meet new state regulations, trimming it from its current length of 496 feet to 300.

Several local and state residents are opposed to the change, and believe that its economic impact, safety and other factors mean it should stay at the current length. Up to around 40 boat slips could be lost if the dock is trimmed.

Multiple notable people were present Monday night: Sen. Amanda Ragan, Rep. Sharon Steckman, DNR Director Chuck Gipp, along with other local business owners and officials.

One of those business owners was Brad Barber, co-owner of Cabin Coffee Company. He said Clear Lake is a hot tourism destination, and shortening the dock would negatively impact that and the local economy.

"We need to keep our own in this community," he told the DNR and those in attendance.

Several times during the meeting, individuals commented that shortening the dock and using other public launching areas would cause traffic issues in those spots. They also noted hundreds of people are on a wait list for dock space.

One person, who lives in Minnesota but has a second house in Clear Lake, said she has waited multiple years for a spot to open up, and projects that she could be waiting around another five years until she gets one.

The dock also supports multiple businesses, including Jake Kopriva, who owns Lake Time Boat Club and operates five boats on the dock. He told the Globe Gazette he's not sure what will happen to his business if the dock is shortened, but wants the DNR to listen to community concerns.

"There were some questions that were asked that weren't answered, so I don't know if they're going to follow up with those people," said Kopriva, 25. "The lake is here for us to enjoy. They're trying to take away access that's been there forever, and I think it strikes a chord with a lot of people."

Throughout the meeting, multiple DNR officials answered questions about regulations on the dock, including Randy Schnoebelen, a DNR district supervisor whose jurisdiction includes Clear Lake.

Schnoebelen, who's worked for the DNR since 1984, told the Globe Gazette that it's hard to project an economic impact without actual numbers, especially compared to other businesses.

"What is the economic impact of losing the Barrel Drive-In, the Dairy Queen, Tinker's Reef?" said Schnoebelen, 57. "All we can say is, there's a lot of economic impact of people coming to the lake ... with not only boating, but the people with all the public access that we have with the open shelters ... and look out and see the lake."

He added that although people think the dock acts as a barrier for nearby swimmers and anchored boats near the state park's beach, the swimming area is already buoyed off, and boats cannot enter a zone near the shore.

Ultimately, it's unclear what the future of the dock is. Many residents called for a poll or open vote for what to do about it at Monday's meeting, but that never occurred.

Schnoebelen said the dock's fate rests in whoever buys it from Tim Entner, Dale's son. The DNR contract also restricts the dock from being transferred between family members.

"There's no dock permit that's been submitted yet," he said. "We're not going to comment on something that's been submitted. All we can tell you is, 'Here are what the dock regulations are.'"

Ragan, who was one of multiple elected officials at Monday's meeting, told the Globe Gazette she hopes the DNR can reach some kind of compromise with Sunset Bay's new owner, in order to keep the dock longer than the mandated 300 feet.

"I think this was good from the standpoint that people got to voice their concerns," said Ragan, 63. "I think it's key that people are heard. That's what frustrates people, when they're not being able to get their input."

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Earliest presidential candidate speaks in Mason City

MASON CITY | When U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland announced his candidacy for president in July, it is believed he became the earliest formal candidate in U.S. history.

The three-term Democrat brought his fledgling campaign to Mason City Monday, speaking to about 20 party faithful at the Village Court restaurant.

Trivia buffs should note that Delaney's candidacy for the 2020 presidential nomination came 1,194 days before the next election and 262 days after the last election. In 1986, former Delaware Gov. Pierre DuPont announced for the 1988 Republican nomination 784 days before the election, making him a distant second from Delaney, according to historians.

Delaney acknowledged his early start in speaking to his Mason City audience. He said he wanted to get ahead of the game for name recognition.

"Too early? Maybe not. This is Iowa after all," he joked, referring to Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Regarding today's politics. Delaney said "Divisiveness in the United States has put us in a really, really tough spot. President Trump is the punctuation point of the problem.

"Political debate has become so poisonous, it has even divided families," Delaney said. "It has prevented us from doing anything. And the cost of doing nothing is not nothing."

He said as a country, and in Congress, people have to start talking about things they agree on and work from there.

"We have to get back to being a country where opportunity counts more than your birthright, said Delaney.

He said the central question facing the country is: How do we restore functionality and civility?

"Let's not allow ourselves to be divided on something we all agree on, such as everyone is entitled to health insurance," Delaney said.

He said two things that are destroying American democracy are gerrymandering -- redistricting to benefit one political party over another -- and big money in politics that can control elections.

Delaney fielded many questions from the audience on topics such as health care, tax reform and climate change.

He said 98 percent of scientists say climate change is real. "If you went to 98 doctors who told you your child was sick, wouldn't you think it was time to do something about it?" he asked.

The Mason City stop was one of five Monday in Iowa. He has made 25 appearances in 14 counties in Iowa since his campaign began.

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5 questions for Mason City's mayoral candidates

MASON CITY | On Nov. 7, voters will choose from among three candidates for Mason City mayor.

The candidates are:

Alex Klein, 19, a student at North Iowa Area Community College and delivery driver for Domino's Pizza; single.

Colleen Niedermayer, 38, quality control manager at Lehigh Cement; married, one child, two stepchildren.

Bill Schickel, 66, general manager of KCMR radio; married, three grown children.

How would you have voted on the Prestage plant proposal?

Klein: Against.

Niedermayer: Against.

Schickel: (As a City Council member, Schickel voted against.)

How do you intend to vote on the city's lease agreement on the proposed hockey arena and the bond issue related to the Gatehouse hotel/conference center expenses?

Klein: For and For.

Niedermayer: For and For.

Schickel: For and For.

What do you see as Mason City's greatest strength?

Klein: Mason City's greatest strength is coming together as a community when we need to. While we don't all always agree, after all is said and done, we move forward together toward a better future.

Niedermayer: The people of our city are its greatest asset and strength. This is evident through all the unique things in our community and the pride we have in saying we are from Mason City.

Schickel: Mason City's greatest strength is its uniqueness as a medical, business, educational and cultural hub which makes it a great place to live and raise a family.

What do you see as Mason City's greatest weakness?

Klein: Mason City's greatest weakness is our avoidance of change. Cities around us are changing and, in this time of economical and technological advancement, we'll fall behind if we don't change with them.

Niedermayer: Our declining population is our greatest weakness.

Schickel: Divisiveness sometimes hurts our community. Also, there is a growing divide between people who live in prosperity and poverty.

What sets you apart from other candidates?

Klein: As a fresh face to local politics, I bring a unique perspective. Having grown up in Mason City all my life, I know what fellow young people are looking for when it comes to where they want to live. All that young people want is a greener, safer, more fun and more economically prosperous Mason City. That means creating a "green zone" community, improving community-police relations, stopping the methamphetamine crisis, bringing in businesses aimed at recreational activities and bringing in jobs that require college degrees. I have plans for solving each of these issues and have been conducting research on what's worked for other cities.

I've spoken and listened to experts on various issues, something that I believe is crucial in being able to make informed decisions. I may not be the most experienced candidate, but I'm serious when it comes to making Mason City a better place to live for everyone.

Niedermayer: I want to promote our city and explore all the opportunities we can to grow and move our community forward. What sets me apart is my ability to bring people together to work for a common goal. I enjoy hearing from people of all backgrounds and their ideas that contribute to creating a productive outcome through effective communication.

I have strong analytical skills along with experience in project management and leading meetings. Through the boards and committees at my church, I know how to examine budgets and investments. Above all, my main focus is to listen to the people of Mason City and never forget who I represent.

Schickel: My experience in state and local government will allow me to hit the ground running if I am fortunate enough to be elected as your mayor. My background as a former KIMT-TV anchor, Globe Gazette reporter and KCMR Radio general manager will help me communicate effectively with citizens, run orderly council meetings and represent our city well.

Open communications with citizens will be a priority. There is nothing we cannot achieve by working together. We did it the last time I was mayor when the community rallied around a new strategic plan that resulted in many of the improvements Mason City enjoys today. My communications plan will include news conferences to explain issues and answer questions, regular office hours where I will be available to the public, and listening posts throughout our community.