Early Childhood Development And Rec Center Moving Forward

A proposed early childhood development and recreation center would be located near the Lacey Complex and Oskaloosa Elementary School.

A proposed early childhood development and recreation center would be located near the Lacey Complex and Oskaloosa Elementary School.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – In 2014 it became apparent that the Mahaska County YMCA was going to need a boost from the community in order to continue playing a role in the Oskaloosa and Mahaska County area after they approached the Oskaloosa City Council for financial assistance.

In early 2015, Mahaska County Development Group, or MCDG, helped to steady the cash strapped organization with funds, but also a goal of looking at what, if any, role the YMCA may play going into the future.

So, two-hour sessions were held around the county, from Eddyville to New Sharon, and Oskaloosa to help get the public’s input on defining what key indoor recreation and child care facilities need to be either maintained, revamped or developed to serve Mahaska County.

MCDG and the Mahaska County YMCA then contracted with Des Moines architectural firm Walker/Coen/Lorentzen to assist with the project. Matt Coen, a native of Oskaloosa, helped to lead the study process.

The study included three phases: 1) recreation and early childhood needs assessment to gather public input; 2) a capital needs assessment of the existing YMCA facility, and 3) creation of a master plan using data from phases 1 & 2. The plan helped to define facility and programming needs for indoor recreation and early childhood education & daycare for the YMCA and other community providers.

From those meetings, and the input from those who participated in the study and meetings, using the Local Option Sales Tax made the most sense to provide the financial backing for early childhood and recreation needs within the county.

The initial plan was to have Mahaska County and the city of Oskaloosa provide portions of their LOST revenue to the project, with the Oskaloosa School District participating. The three entities.

Ninety percent of all LOST revenue is generated in Oskaloosa itself but keeps 47% of that revenue while the rural portions of the county receive 39% of that money. The remaining balance is then divided up proportionally between the other jurisdictions like New Sharon, and University Park.

As of 2016, 2.17 million dollars is collected annually.

In July of 2016, the rural voters of Mahaska County voted that rural roads was their most pressing need, and decided not to participate with any portion of their LOST money for the facility.

Oskaloosa voters passed their ballot language, giving 75% of the funds collected to the facility project.

After that election, the city of Oskaloosa and the Oskaloosa School Board then sat down to figure out what type of facility could then be built with the available funds.

That process has taken time, and the language of the 28E agreement that describes the responsibilities was crafted and recently approved by both the school district and, this past week, the city council.

The next step in the project will be to hire an architect and to begin the design of the facility.

The funds collected since the passage of the LOST vote have been collected and have been sitting in an interest-bearing account. Ultimately, debt will be issued to pay for the cities portion, and the LOST funds will pay the debt.

The vote for Oskaloosa put 75% towards the early childhood development and recreation center, while the remaining 25% was designated for capital improvement projects, and the center could include recreation type activities.

Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock said that plans don’t necessarily include the use of that remaining 25%, of those funds collected, for the center.

Recent projects made possible by the use of LOST funds include the Oskaloosa Library, Mahaska County Law Center, and the Oskaloosa School District.

A request for qualifications will be issued by the city of Oskaloosa, the Oskaloosa School District, and the Mahaska County YMCA. “We’re asking architectural firms to submit to us why they think they should be the ones to be selected to design the project,” said Schrock of the 2 to 3-month process to get those responses back and scored and then a recommendation made for approval.

“Once the architects are on board, we expect that [design process] to be from a 9 to 12-month design process. Through that design process, they give us kind of an idea, here’s what costs are looking like. So there are different points along the way that we get to make sure we’re still on track for the revenue that we have.”

After the design is finished, bids would be received from contractors.

“If all goes well, and the bids are within expected project cost, then we’ll proceed with project construction,” explained Schrock. “Construction is expected to take about 18 months.”

There is no current agreement in place with the YMCA to provide the management of the new facilities, but Schrock says that he believes one will be developed with them. “They presently provide recreational amenities and run programs that provide early childhood education.”

Other LOST projects like the library and law center had endowments that were generated by the LOST funding, and are in place to help the facility maintain itself into the future.

In the 28E agreement with the city and school district, funds are being set aside to provide capital expenses. “We as a city, the school district, we’re setting aside funds per the 28E agreement that will help alleviate or address some of the capital needs the operator wouldn’t be responsible for,” added Schrock. “The YMCA is expected to set aside some funds for capital expenses. So between the three partners, there would be funding that’s expected to be available. In addition to that, we’ve had conversations with the local businesses, through the local Mahaska Community Development Group that they would help us initiate a fundraiser. The idea is to create an endowment fund for maintenance just like we have with the library.”

“We’d like to see a 2 million dollar or more endowment created to help fund the long term maintenance needs of the facility,” said Schrock.

For sustaining the operations, Schrock said the projected user fees collected today, and the funds collected by the YMCA will fund the operations of the facility once opened.

Moving forward, Schrock says they want the community to be excited about this project because it is a great amenity to provide. “We need it to be successful and for it to be successful people have to use it. So we’re trying to balance the input that we received from multiple review processes, different surveys, and try to make sure that we’re providing a product that the people want to use. So it’s going to be a community driven product. It’s going to be an amenity that everyone can use. We want it to be successful.”

“So we’re going to work on our side of things to get more information out there once the design proceeds so people can see it, get a better handle on what’s actually included. We have concepts of that,” said Schrock. “Obviously, it’s going to include a gymnasium; we want to see the pool, we want to see modern-day work-out facilities. Those are the things we’re trying to get in there, but we’ll be able to paint a better picture once we get into the design process for people.”

Posted by on Jan 13 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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