MASON CITY | The city has spent more than $670,000 in the past three fiscal years on two proposed downtown hotels that will never be built — plus two related projects.
The hotels that will not be built are:
• G8 Development's Marriott, proposed for the parking lot west of City Hall. The deal fell through when G8 president Philip Chodur missed several deadlines to start construction, defaulting on his development agreement with the city.
• Gatehouse Mason City LLC's Hyatt, proposed for the south parking lot of Southbridge Mall. It would have connected to The Music Man Square via skywalk. Changes required the city to seek new proposals, which came in from Gatehouse and G8. The council decided to go with G8's plan, which is nearly identical to Gatehouse but represents greater savings to the city, officials said.
Earlier in the year, after the city eliminated G8 because of the defaults, Chodur filed suit against the city. He has agreed to drop the suit as a condition of being chosen over Gatehouse in the latest council actions.
Through it all, costs have piled up.
• Parking ramp — The city paid $450,000 for design and other costs related to the proposed downtown parking ramp part of G8's first proposal. That parking ramp will not be built. Mayor Eric Bookmeyer said the city has a chance to recoup the $450,000. "Though the ramp won't be built, there is a shovel-ready site for a developer to build on," he said. A new development would mean new property taxes for the city.
• Pre-construction costs — The city paid $150,000 in pre-construction costs to Gatehouse for the project the City Council eventually rejected.
• G8 legal fees — The city has paid more than $25,000. Records show $12,876.80 for legal fees in fiscal year 2016 and $12,405.39 in fiscal year 2017.
• Gatehouse legal fees — The has paid more than $44,000. Records show $6,582.77 in fiscal year 2017 and $37,814.17 in fiscal year 2018. These fees occurred in the 2017 calendar year.
• Southbridge Mall legal fees — Records show the city has paid $502.50 in legal expenses related to proposed renovations.
The total for all of these expenses is $670,181.63.
Local option sales tax will be used for the parking ramp design and legal fees, Interim City Administrator Kevin Jacobson said.
"The other charges will be paid through incremental taxes from the downtown TIF district," he said.
The hotel is a key element in the city's application for state funds through the Iowa Reinvestment Act.
The city has been pre-approved for $7.1 million and has applied for up to $10 million from the state to help leverage a $38 million downtown renovation plan that includes the hotel, a conference center in The Music Man Square and moving its museum to a new adjacent building; a music pavilion in the north entrance of Southbridge Mall; and an ice arena/multipurpose center in the space formerly occupied by J.C. Penney in the mall.
The hotel is an important element because it represents the minimum $10 million private investment the state requires for cities to qualify for funding.
Mason City personnel are going to Des Moines Friday to meet with Iowa Economic Development Authority officials who oversee the Iowa Reinvestment Act funding.
Mason City's project is listed as an action item on the agenda, leading city officials to hope they will receive final approval of state funding.
One of those who will be participating, Development Services Director Steven Van Steenhuyse said, "We're excited that a major piece of funding the River City Renaissance project is about to fall into place.
"We are also encouraged by the continued support for this project by several businesses and organizations that have worked so hard to make the project possible."
CLEAR LAKE | It's a marina that has garnered much attention from Clear Lakers, North Iowans and even people from neighboring states.
And now, the Sunset Bay dock's future — a 496-foot structure northeast of Clear Lake State Park — lies in the hands of the DNR and a local young businessman.
Currently the dock is too long, according to DNR regulations set in 2008 which cap commercial dock lengths at 300 feet from the water's edge. But several Clear Lakers, including Jake Kopriva, believe the dock should remain at its current length to encourage economic activity and help deal with current boat slip shortages.
Kopriva, who owns Lake Time Boat Club, said he submitted a new dock permit application to the DNR last month. He's formed a partnership with Alex Yohn, who is vice president of Yohnco, a concrete ready-mix concrete and excavating service in town.
Yohn bought the property and the dock at 2721 South Lake View Drive in the last month for $420,000, according to Cerro Gordo County property records. Yohn said he is allowing Kopriva to handle the dock permit application process to try to keep the dock at the current length.
He and Kopriva "have a good relationship and want to save the dock," Yohn wrote in an email.
"I’ve told Jake I’m willing to help him do whatever we need to get this business going," Yohn wrote. "At the DNR meeting I mentioned that there’s not a lot of young, excited business people wanting to stay in Clear Lake, and we need to try to grow that in this area."
Outside of the dock, Yohn said he plans to renovate or build a new house at the location, which was owned by the late Dale Entner. He also said he had an agreement with Tim Entner, Dale's son, to allow Tim to continue to rent boat slips off the dock for another five years. Tim would then pay Yohn a rental fee of $200 per boat lift.
Tim died shortly after the DNR held a meeting at the Clear Lake State Park lodge that heavily focused on the Sunset Bay dock. Yohn said it's unclear what will happen now with that arrangement.
This agreement, however, depends on if the DNR is willing to negotiate and allow the dock to exceed 300 feet. Kopriva said his most recent application asks for the dock to remain at 496 feet, but added he is willing to negotiate to save as much space as possible.
"What I’ll say is something is better than nothing," Kopriva said. "First and foremost is we’re trying to keep the dock as long as it’s been in the past … we’ll take what we can get but we’re going for the full length."
Randy Schnoebelen, a DNR district supervisor whose jurisdiction includes Clear Lake, told the Globe Gazette his agency is currently reviewing the application, and hopes to have a response by the end of the month.
Schnoebelen emphasized that the DNR will proceed through all the proper legal channels if Kopriva appeals the agency's decision. He referred a Globe Gazette reporter to Aaron Brees, who works for the DNR's legal staff, and focuses on conservation, recreation, and state land and waters.
The appeals process could take months if it is fully exhausted. Brees said if the initial DNR ruling is appealed, that could head to an administrative hearing. Kopriva could, if he disagrees with that judge's decision, appeal to the natural resource commission — a governor-appointed citizen group that oversees the DNR in terms of conservation and recreation.
That commission's decision would be final in terms of the DNR's direct involvement — but could still be appealed to the Cerro Gordo County District Court, according to Brees.
Brees said these types of cases do happen, but aren't common. He declined to give a possible timeline for the Sunset Bay dock case.
"I have no idea where it will go," he said. "My understanding is a application has been filed with DNR and it’s in the system available for review."
Whatever the eventual outcome, both Kopriva and Yohn hope a positive outcome can be reached for Clear Lakers and those who use the dock.
"I’ve asked some of my neighbors and they tell me they’ve never known of anything different ... it’s always been there," Yohn said of the dock. "But if it was reduced I think even keeping a smaller number of boats on the dock would benefit Clear Lake."
A Garner mother whose 4-year-old son was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes is asking the Christmas Cheer Fund to help her give him something special this year.
The mother, 36, said she’s missed two weeks of work since her son was diagnosed with diabetes due to hospital visits and appointments, and there are more scheduled.
“I have used paid days from work and had to take some unpaid,” her application said. “We also have several more appointments and all will be unpaid. Just need a little help.”
If she’s granted Cheer Fund assistance, the woman said she’d use the money to purchase clothes, shoes, food and toys for her son.
Since the Cheer Fund began in 1927, more than $3 million has been raised.
This year’s goal is $125,000.
The Christmas Cheer Fund was established by Globe Gazette Publisher Lee Loomis in 1927 so every child could have a present on Christmas morning. In the years since it has come to mean a little help at Christmastime to people of all ages.
Donations may be dropped off or mailed to the Globe Gazette office, 300 N. Washington Ave., Mason City, IA 50402-0271.
Any remaining funds not distributed for the holidays will be given to local nonprofits. The Christmas Cheer Fund balance will return to $100 in January to maintain the checking account.
Those in need can apply for help from the Cheer Fund at the Globe Gazette between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Applicants must use the 2017 request form. Applications will close at noon Dec. 21.
Cheer Fund donations: Wednesday, Dec. 13
WEDNESDAY'S TOTAL: $4,050
TO-DATE TOTAL: $59,013.42
TO REACH GOAL: $65,986.58
Al and Barb Lewerke, in memory of our loved ones who are gone but not forgotten, $40
Brad Lewerke, in memory of loved ones, $50
Women of St Peter Lutheran Church of Rockwell – Merry Christmas, $100
Lester and Linda Corporon, in memory of our parents, brothers and sister. In Christ, $200
Gayle and Darrell – Merry Christmas, $50
Bruce and Diane Trimble, $150
Mary, in memory of Jay and Mary Linn, $50
Carol Finn, $35
Gus B, $100
Bonnie Doebel, $20
Don Fritz, in memory of Bev, $10
Vi Korte, in memory of Kenzy, $10
Ginny, James and family – Seasons Greetings, $100
David and Virginia DeWitt, in memory of Bernard DeWitt, $25
In memory of A Milton Ferrier and Melvin F. Muth, $50
Pamela and Joseph Rowe, $50
Bonnie Estes, in honor of grandchildren Maxwell, Mason and Brooklyn, $50
Randy and Sandy Humphrey, in memory of Karen Olthoff, $25
Michael and Rosalie Harden, $100
Lenore Forbes, in memory of loved ones, $50
Terry and Mickie Tyrrell, $50
Stuart and Julie Oltrogge, in memory of our fathers Wally Johnson and Wayne Oltrogge, $100
Ralph and Audrey Wolf, given in memory of our parents Ralph and Albina Wolf and Edmund and Irma May, $100
Jim and Norma Ostmo, in memory of Glenn and Larry, $20
Ozzie and Patricia Ohl, $100
Bill and Gwen, in honor of our 3 granddaughters, $100
Bonnie Kuns, in memory of Lloyd and Arlene Bjelland, $40
Edna, in memory of Marvin, $40
Tim and Kris Latham, $100
Steve and Mary Wendt, in loving memory of our parents Glennis and Doris Steiger and Elmer and Marge Wendt and sister Catherine Steiger Meyer, $50
Dorothy Hestness, in memory of Jerry Hestness and other loved ones, $25
Rodney and Susan Simmons, $25
Dick and Kathy Rasmuson, in memory of our parents, $40
Donna McDonough, in memory of friends and relatives, $25
Marcia Taylor, in loving memory of my husband Jack and our parents Roy and Ann Hume and Harold and Ethel Taylor, $100
Dale and June Johnson, $50
Joseph and Linda Thompson, $75
Barbara Johnson, in memory of Harvey G Johnson, $100
Their daughters, in memory of Hans and Inge Sell, $200
Randy Buchan, in memory of Darlene, $50
Michael and Lana Faust, $500
Richard Nall and family, in care of loved ones, $50
Barbara Dodge, $75
Jerry and Barb Knoll, in loving memory of our daughter Sara, $100
Phyllis Wright, in memory of family, $40
Richard and Jeanne Dahley, $100
Mary Dudding, $50
Patricia Bublitz, St Ansgar, Iowa, in memory of Robert, Curtis and Darlene Bublitz and other loved ones, $50
William and Marcene Moore, in memory of loved ones that have passed, $50
Judith Kleven, in memory of my dear son Jeff Kleven, $25
Gary Briggs, in memory of Bruce, RG, Al, Jimmy, Father Casey, Bob, Don and Fox, $25
Gary (Kathy) Briggs, in memory of Vernell, Kathy, Debbie, Carol, Tyler and our parents, $25
Richard Garth and Nancy Prins, in loving memory of Bunny Garth and Randy Garth, $75
Merle and Dorothy Duckert, $25
Yvonne Addis, in loving remembrance of Donte, Roderick, Sydney, Alex and Zachary, $50