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CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

A man walks out of Southbridge Mall as high winds and heavy snowfall caused low visibility in Mason City on Monday.

Mason City nonprofit to 'burn' mortgage for Historic Park Inn (with photos)

MASON CITY | Back in 2006, Wright on the Park held its first meeting to discuss how to rehabilitate the Historic Park Inn, the world-renowned hotel in downtown Mason City.

Since then, it's taken numerous funding mechanisms to accomplish that. But on Feb. 27, the nonprofit announced the compliance period for federal, state and new market tax credits had closed.

According to Jean Marinos, finance director on Wright on the Park's board of directors, this was an important development — it indicates the nonprofit had properly used most, if not all, of just over $11 million in tax credits, essentially allowing the group to "burn" the hotel's mortgage. 

"It took a major portion of my life," Marinos said about the entire process for applying for and complying with the different streams of tax credits. "If you come into my office and look around, all the shelves are filled with the Wright on the Park stuff."

In total, Marinos said Wright on the Park received roughly $3.5 million in state tax credits, $3.7 million in federal tax credits and $3.9 million in new market tax credits.

All three funding streams differ, but officials stressed the complexity of applying for that money — and meeting numerous compliance benchmarks over a period of several years — means multiple parties have to be heavily involved throughout the process.

Arian Schuessler / File photo 

Approximately $3.9 million in federal and $3.5 million in state historic tax credits were instrumental in restoring the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City.

Federal and state historic tax credits have helped numerous businesses in Mason City, allowing business owners to restore older buildings. New market tax credits, however, are allocated to communities based on low-income census tracts that could benefit from increased economic development, officials said.

Dan Robeson, president of Iowa Business Growth and a board member of Iowa Community Development, commended business and community partners for working together for several years to help restore the Historic Park Inn.   

Robeson believes renovations to the hotel has helped to revitalize the downtown area, noting new businesses that have opened and sculptures on display. 

He grew up in Nora Springs, and added the hotel has been a notable part of Mason City for years.

"It was a tourism draw even when the roof was leaking, and it was a vacant building," Robeson said of the building, which is the last Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel in the world. 

File photo 

Renovation work at the Historic Park Inn in 2011. 

Both Marinos and Robeson said the use of tax credits is vital to helping restore historic buildings in downtown areas like Mason City.

Marinos is thankful for the local community support from the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and banks. But buy-in for the project also extended outside of town, she said.

"We couldn’t have done it without the historic tax credits because it was part of our whole system at setting up the funding," she said. "We were really lucky, there were a lot of people at the state level who were enthusiastic and knew the significance (of the hotel) for not just Mason City, but the state of Iowa."

A celebration is being planned for next month, where interested stakeholders will be recognized for their involvement and contributions to the hotel's restoration, Marinos said.

There's still work to be done, she said. Within the next month, the Wright on the Park board will meet to discuss how ownership of the hotel should be structured, along with how it needs to be managed, according to Marinos.

File photo 

A tour group at the Historic Park Inn's grand re-opening in 2011. 

The Historic Park Inn continues to be busy, 24/7, 365 days a year, Marinos said. The nonprofit says the hotel has attracted visitors from across the U.S. and over 66 countries. 

"It’s not a matter of letting it rest for a while," she said. "It’s going to need new carpet some time."

But according to Robeson, the current state of the Historic Park Inn and its surrounding buildings is a testament to multiple groups of people who had a vision, and were willing to take a risk.

"To do a project like the Wright on the Park project, you have to have a lot of partnerships and people looking down the road to see something that’s not proven," he said.

Trump, Ryan face off in rare clash on tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a remarkably public confrontation, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican allies of President Donald Trump pleaded with him Monday to back away from his threatened international tariffs, which they fear could spark a dangerous trade war. Trump retorted: "We're not backing down."

The president said U.S. neighbors Canada and Mexico would not be spared from his plans for special import taxes on steel and aluminum, but he held out the possibility of later exempting the longstanding friends if they agree to better terms for the U.S. in talks aimed at revising the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"We've had a very bad deal with Mexico; we've had a very bad deal with Canada. It's called NAFTA," he declared.

Trump spoke shortly after a spokeswoman for Ryan, a Trump ally, said the GOP leader was "extremely worried" that the proposed tariffs would set off a trade war and urged the White House "to not advance with this plan."

Likewise, Republican leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee circulated a letter opposing Trump's plan, and GOP congressional leaders suggested they may attempt to prevent the tariffs if the president moves forward.

Trump's pledge to implement tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports has roiled financial markets, angered foreign allies and created unusual alliances for a president who blasted unfavorable trade deals during his 2016 campaign. Union leaders and Democratic lawmakers from Rust Belt states have praised the planned tariffs, joining with advocates within the administration including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.

But the president has been opposed internally by Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, who warned against penalizing U.S. allies and undercutting the economic benefits of the president's sweeping tax overhaul.

Likewise, the statement from Ryan's office said, "The new tax reform law has boosted the economy, and we certainly don't want to jeopardize those gains."

Asked about that public rebuke, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "Look, we have a great relationship with Speaker Ryan. We're going to continue to have one, but that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything."

Canada is the United States' No. 1 foreign supplier of both steel and aluminum. Mexico is the No. 4 supplier of steel and No. 7 for aluminum.

Congressional Republicans say any tariffs should be narrow in scope, and they privately warned that Trump's effort could hurt the party's hopes to preserve its majority in the fall elections.

As the president dug in on his position, any potential compromise with foreign trading partners and Republican lawmakers was expected to still include some form of tariffs.

"Trump is not someone who retreats," said Stephen Moore, an economist with the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former campaign adviser. "He's going to need to be able to declare some victory here."

The tariffs will be made official in the next two weeks, White House officials said.

"Twenty-five percent on steel, and the 10 percent on aluminum, no country exclusions — firm line in the sand," said Navarro, speaking on "Fox and Friends."

Republican critics on Capitol Hill and within the administration argue that industries and their workers that rely on steel and aluminum for their products will suffer. The cost of new appliances, cars and buildings will rise for Americans if the president follows through, they warn, and other nations could retaliate.

Two dozen conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the National Taxpayers Union, urged Trump to reconsider, writing in a letter that the tariffs would be "a tax on the middle class with everything from cars to baseball bats to even beer."

The Trade Partnership, a consulting firm, said the tariffs would increase U.S. employment in the steel and aluminum sector by about 33,000 jobs but would cost 179,000 jobs in the rest of the economy.

The end result could erode the president's base of support with rural America and even the blue-collar workers the president says he's trying to help.

"These are people that voted for him and supported him in these auto-producing states," said Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. Lusk noted that of the 16 states with auto plants, Trump won all but two.

The administration has argued the tariffs are necessary to preserve the American aluminum and steel industries and protect national security. But Trump's comments and tweets early Monday suggested he was also using them as leverage in the current talks to revise NAFTA. The latest round of a nearly yearlong renegotiation effort is concluding this week in Mexico City.

At those talks, U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Monday that progress has been less than many had hoped and "our time is running short."

"I fear the longer we proceed, the more political headwinds we will feel," he said. And he added that if three-way negotiations don't work, "we are prepared to move on a bilateral basis."

More upbeat about progress until now, Dan Ujczo, a trade attorney with Dickinson Wright PLLC in Columbus, Ohio, said, "We were moving toward the finish line in NAFTA." But he added, "This has the potential to throw the NAFTA talks off track."

He said neither Canada nor Mexico will want to be seen as giving in to U.S. pressure. Indeed, he said, Canada is probably already drawing up lists of U.S. products to tax in retaliation.

Separately, Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo tweeted: "Mexico shouldn't be included in steel & aluminum tariffs. It's the wrong way to incentivize the creation of a new & modern #NAFTA."

The president opened the door to exempting Canada and Mexico from the tariffs, saying, "That would be, I would imagine, one of the points that we'll negotiate." But he added, "If they aren't going to make a fair NAFTA deal, we're just going to leave it this way."

Trump has long threatened to pull out of the 24-year-old trade pact if it can't be overhauled and encourage manufacturers to bring factory jobs back the United States.

But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the tariff plan "absolutely unacceptable."

And overseas, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said the European Union could respond by taxing American goods including bourbon, blue jeans and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Trump threatened to tax European cars if the EU boosts tariffs on American products in response to his plan.

"If they want to do something, we'll just tax their cars that they send in here like water," Trump has said, lamenting European "trade barriers that are worse than tariffs."

For congressional leaders, those products hit close to home. The iconic motorcycles are produced in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, and Kentucky, the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is well-known for its bourbon.

Police: Lakota man charged in stabbing death of live-in girlfriend

LAKOTA — A Lakota man is accused of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his live-in girlfriend early Saturday. 

The Kossuth County Sheriff's Office was called to 202 Second St., Lakota, about 12:47 a.m. Saturday for a verbal domestic dispute, according to court documents. 

The home is owned by 45-year-old Chad Dietrick, according to assessor's records. Court documents said that the dispute “escalated to the defendant (Dietrick) going armed with a knife, resulting in a fatal injury to his live-in girlfriend.” 

Law enforcement arrived at the property about 1 a.m., where court documents say they "discovered an unresponsive female covered in blood." She has been identified as 38-year-old Krista Hesebeck, of Lakota.

“It was determined that she was deceased,” the criminal complaint said. “After law enforcement secured the scene and obtained a search warrant, it was discovered that the defendant Chad Dietrick stabbed the victim multiple times in the upper body causing her death.”

Dietrick was later found at his parents' residence, 517 Smith St. He allegedly told law enforcement that he stabbed Hesebeck, according to charging documents. 

Dietrick has been charged with first-degree murder and going armed with intent. He was treated for lacerations to his left arm and taken to the Kossuth County Jail, where he is being held on a $250,000 cash-only bond. 

Dietrick has appeared in court and has been appointed a public defender. A trial date has not been set. 

An autopsy has been ordered for Hesebeck. 

Assisting agencies included ambulance services from Lakota, Swea City and Algona; the Algona Police Department; Forest City Police Department; Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa DCI.