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Lending bank revealed for downtown Mason City hotel in River City Renaissance Project

Van Steenhuyse

MASON CITY | Byline Bank, headquartered in Chicago with a servicing branch in Indianapolis, has been identified as the lending bank for the downtown hotel in the River City Renaissance project.

Mason City's Director of Development Services Steven Van Steenhuyse released that information — along with other updates about the River City Renaissance project — to media outlets late Tuesday morning.

According to a letter he sent to Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Program Manager Alaina Santizo late Monday, G8 President/CEO Philip Chodur has been working with an investment team that includes Byline Bank.

Santizo letter

That team also consists of firm Thomas USAF and development consultant Lantern Capital Advisors, both based in Atlanta.

Michael Callas, a vice president for Byline Bank's Indianapolis branch, said in a letter to Van Steenhuyse he met with Chodur on April 30, and completed a term sheet for the $10 million loan, which would be 70 percent guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Business and Industry loan program.

According to the letter, credit underwriting and the USDA application package for the loan are still ongoing.

Callas could not be reached for comment via two phone calls and an email Tuesday.

Van Steenhuyse said in a brief interview Tuesday afternoon that the loan isn't closed yet, but added the letter from Byline Bank is a positive step.

"It’s not closed, the loan has to close before anyone can start spending," Van Steenhuyse said, adding: "My understanding of commercial loans, especially at this stage and with the letter, is they (G8 and Byline Bank) wouldn’t have gotten to this point if they weren’t committed."

Along with the Byline Bank letter, Chief Credit Officer Bob Klocke of First Citizens Bank in Mason City sent a letter to IEDA Board Chair Chris Murray May 10, outlining the process of the USDA guarantee to the loan application.

Letter attachments

"While this certainly isn't a commitment from USDA, it gave me confidence (and I hope it will provide similar assurance to the IEDA board) that our hotel developer's credit application can proceed through the USDA pipeline with a postive outcome," Klocke wrote.

He could not be reached for comment by phone Tuesday afternoon.

More letters of support were penned by Mason City Mayor Bill Schickel, Mason City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Robin Anderson and Mason City Foundation President Dalena Barz.

"While this project has experienced difficulty moving from concept to reality, we believe the end result of these often frustrating stops and starts will be a better project," Anderson wrote to Murray.

Callas anticipates Byline Bank and G8 Development will have a commitment letter finalized by June 30, according to his letter.

Tom Thoma / Picasa 


Maddie Poppe: Hometown hero. See all the pictures and videos of her stop back home

CLARKSVILLE — Clarksville residents didn’t need the producers of “American Idol” artificially ramping them up: They already were plenty excited for their hometown finalist.

Hundreds of Iowans packed the town square Tuesday afternoon, some wearing “Maddie Poppe”-branded shirts in a multitude of colors or carrying signs featuring slogans cheering her on, waiting in anticipation of the “American Idol” stretch limousine to arrive so they could finally celebrate one of their own getting to the finals of the reality singing competition.

And thousands later packed the Butler County Fairgrounds in Allison to see Poppe perform some of the songs that have quickly propelled her to stardom on the ABC talent show.

Poppe, 20, is one of three contestants to be voted to the finals of “American Idol.” The winner receives a recording contract with Hollywood Records and a $250,000 cash prize.

Some fans, like Joe Vaughn of Story City, made their own shirts — his said “Team Sign Me,” and his prized signature was Maddie Poppe’s on the front.

“I love how humble she is,” Vaughn said, noting she was also kind enough to sign a photo the two had taken previously. “She is very much deserving.”

But perhaps no one was more excited than Poppe herself, who arrived just before 3 p.m. Tuesday for a short presentation with Mayor Val Swinton.

“I literally can’t even believe this,” she said. “To see it all is just incredible. Thank you so much. ... It’s good to be home.”

A couple of local business owners presented her with gifts, including Prairie Rose Fabrics owner Holly Fokkena, who presented Poppe with a quilt as a “bus-warming gift” for Poppe’s first tour bus.

“I’m not usually a reality-television person,” Fokkena said. “But for this, you have to.”

Another fan who showed up for Poppe’s return to Iowa was Gov. Kim Reynolds, who presented her with a T-shirt on the stage at Allison.

The hometown folks were sure Poppe will beat out Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Gabby Barrett to claim the “Idol” crown. Poppe noted she was grateful for their support.

“This community has been so amazing, (but) I’m not surprised by this,” Poppe said. “We all always back each other, no matter what anybody is going through.”

Mayor Swinton proclaimed Tuesday as “Maddie Poppe Day,” noting Poppe had generated “positive awareness” of the town.

“You literally have put us on the map,” said Swinton, noting his niece in South Carolina posted to Facebook that her uncle was the mayor. “All of a sudden, because of you, I have a really cool position.”

“I’ve always wanted a holiday!” Poppe said. “You know what that means, kids — you get off school! And you can take off work too!”

“Watch it — you’re gonna get elected mayor,” Swinton said.

Poppe got emotional talking about being surprised by classmates of hers from the Class of 2016 when she went to her old high school Tuesday morning, as well as hearing the elementary school students sing “Rainbow Connection,” the song she auditioned with.

“So many of you out here have really supported me since day one, since I sang ‘Landslide’ in the gym the first time, or when I would get up with my dad’s band at Pioneer Days and sang ‘Sweet Child of Mine,’” Poppe said. “You guys aren’t just hopping on the bandwagon now; you’re not just supporting me because I’m on the show. You guys truly have been there for this whole thing ... It means the world to me.”

She and her family also rode in a parade down the downtown stretch of North Main Street at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Mike Kramer, who owns Pete and Shorty’s along the route, sold hot dogs, brats and beverages to the crowd while Poppe’s “Idol” tunes played on a speaker.

“She’s the full package — songwriter, singer, musician,” Kramer said.

Signs were plentiful along the route, including Cyndy Christensen of Rockwell, who wrote on hers: “We may not have any stoplights in Butler Co., but we do have a shining star.”

“It’s just amazing for an Iowa town,” said her coworker, Noreen Wiegmann. “A small-town girl getting this opportunity — it’s just cool.”

The “American Idol” face-off performances are on KCRG-TV beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday. The winner will be announced in the season finale at 7 p.m. Monday.


Signs are on display around town in support of Clarksville native Maddie Poppe, who is one of the final three contestants on 'American Idol' Monday, May 14, 2018, in Clarksville, Iowa.

Van Steenhuyse


breaking featured
Lawsuit: Former Mason City councilwoman solicited insurance clients at City Hall

MASON CITY | A civil lawsuit involving a former city councilwoman and an insurance company with an office in Mason City appears to be headed to trial in September. 

Janet Solberg, who represented the Fourth Ward in Mason City from 2009-17, allegedly violated her non-competition agreement with Corcoran and Associates, Inc., an insurance company with locations in Mason City and Des Moines. 

In the non-criminal lawsuit, Corcoran stated Solberg worked for them August 2005 to October 2015. They then entered into the non-competition agreement, which stated Solberg would not cause any clients of Corcoran to switch insurance providers or sell insurance for other providers for a period of 18 months after her separation date of Oct. 8, 2015.

According to court documents, however, Solberg then started working for Town and Country — another insurance company with offices in Osage and Nora Springs — around Nov. 5, 2015, and allegedly violated non-competition with former or current Corcoran customers.

"Solberg has solicited Corcoran clients while at City Hall, handing out her business cards, giving directions to her new office and telling the Corcoran clients she can get them a 'better deal' on their insurance than they have through Corcoran," the lawsuit stated. 

Solberg lawsuit

Randy Nielsen, the attorney representing Solberg, declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.

Bridget Penick, the lead attorney for Corcoran, could not be reached for comment via a phone call or email Tuesday morning.

The trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Sept. 10. 

Additional documents filed with the lawsuit include parts of depositions of Solberg and Mick Corcoran, founder of Corcoran and Associates.

The depositions occurred in Osage at Walk and Murphy, PLC in March 2018. 

Corcoran testified during his deposition that Solberg had sued his insurance agency for discrimination, and that her colleagues found it difficult to work with her.

"She just -- we had a very difficult time having people work in that office with her because they were afraid that they would do something to cause a lawsuit," he testified.

Solberg argued in her deposition she was an asset to Corcoran and his company.

"You know, I mean, when you don't see a boss for five years or three years, you know, they have no idea what you're doing," she testified. "They just -- you know, I'm taking care of business, and I was very good at taking care of business. I was very competent, you know."

top story
Clear Lake Schools to consider selling preschool building to developer

CLEAR LAKE | Clear Lake Schools may sell an aging preschool building to a developer who might be interested in creating affordable housing, according to school officials.

Sunset View Preschool, located at 408 Mars Hill Drive, is more than 60 years old and needs an estimated $750,000 in work, according to Superintendent Doug Gee, who said it would be more efficient to add a preschool pod at Clear Creek Elementary.

The expansion at Clear Creek would cost about $3 million, Gee said, and would be built on the northeast side of the building near the kindergarten pod.

Sunset View would remain open for one more year as construction begins at the elementary building. Upon approval by the School Board, work is tentatively scheduled to start this fall and be completed by summer 2019, in time for preschool students to begin attending in the fall.

The addition would include modern classrooms, a multipurpose area, a small library and a preschool-appropriate playground, as well as changes to the pick-up and drop-off areas, which Gee said will make the process more efficient for parents and buses.

“All around, it’s a huge improvement,” Gee said.

Adding the pod would also allow the district to add another preschool section.

“We always have a waiting list for 3-year-old,” he said. “That’s going up, and special ed at the preschool level is also increasing.”

This year, the district had about 78 students in its 4-year-old program and about 65 in its 3-year-old program.

With the move, Gee said he anticipates preschool staffing levels would stay the same and could possibly increase, especially for special education.

The Clear Lake School Board will hold a public hearing on selling the Sunset View property at 6:30 p.m. June 19 at the administration building.

Dolly James LLC is interested in purchasing the building for $150,000, according to Gee. A developer connected to the company declined to comment Monday, citing the ongoing sale process for the property.

“I have expressed to them, Clear Lake has a shortage of affordable housing, or places to rent,” Gee said. “The deal at Opportunity Village is for 55 or older; there’s not a lot for younger (people).”

Sunset View reopened as a preschool in 2015. The building hadn’t housed early childhood students for about seven years due to budgetary concerns and declining enrollment.

At the time, school officials said the move was necessary to make space for a growing population at Clear Creek.