WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Lee County Will Not Increase Contribution

Apr 9, 2012

The Lee County Board of Supervisors has decided against increasing the county’s contribution to a proposed sports complex in western Fort Madison.

The panel had previously agreed to provide a letter of support for the project along with all of the county’s hotel/motel tax revenue for the project. 

That sounds much better than it looks on paper, though, as Lee County generates less than $1,000 a year from that tax.

County support is a key component when it comes to securing money from the Vision Iowa program.  Supporters of the complex say a larger commitment would increase the chances of the project receiving as much as $1-million dollars in state funding.

The supervisors spent roughly an hour, Monday afternoon, debating the request for more money.  Three different motions were made during that time.

Supervisor Gary Folluo offered a one-time payment of $5,000 for the project, but that request did not move forward because no one else would support it.

Supervisor Rick Larkin, who represents Fort Madison, bumped the figure up to $10,000/year for the next five years.  Supporters say that was the number tossed out by one member of the Vision Iowa Board when discussing an adequate contribution from the county.

Larkin’s motion was defeated 2-3.  He and Supervisor Ernie Schiller supported  the $50,000 pledge while Folluo, Chairperson Janet Fife-LaFrenz and Supervisor Larry Kruse voted no.  That was the same breakdown for Larkin’s second motion of $5,000/year over the next five years.

The discussion got emotional and even a little heated during the board meeting.

Larkin said, prior to the votes on the funding, that the complex would benefit Lee County residents of all ages, especially the children.  He says it is just one step in the process of creating a county where people move to, not away from.

Schiller said this is a county project, not a Keokuk vs. Fort Madison project, adding that as families come to use the complex, their business will go throughout the county.  He also said this would be just another tool in the “tool-box” for use in recruiting businesses and industries.

Folluo, Fife-LaFrenz, and Kruse questioned the need for the complex, the long-range business plan, the cost of the project, and why the county should contribute to a community development project in Fort Madison.

Matt Morris with the Fort Madison Economic Development Corporation says this is not the end for the proposed sports complex near Fort Madison Community Hospital.  He says the task force pushing the project will make another pitch to the Vision Iowa Board on Wednesday.

Morris says the pitch will not change as the supporters will highlight the public and private donations already secured.  That includes $500,000 over two years from Fort Madison.

The fundraising effort has nearly reached the $2.5-million level.