College seeks input with activities building

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Local News

December 13, 2019 - 4:36 PM

Going into Monday evening’s town hall meeting at Allen Community College, several groups are hoping to partner with the school as it plans to build a new activity center.

The meeting will be an opportunity for the community to give input as to what the activity center could include.

“We have an opportunity of a lifetime,” longtime resident Mary Kay Heard said. “What do you want to be remembered for? This building will serve so many people long after we are all gone.”

Mayor Jon Wells estimated opportunities like this come around once every 15 years but to his knowledge no one has ever partnered on such a facility. 

In his experience of serving on myriad boards and groups, Loren Korte, owner of PSI Insurance, said a consistent stumbling block has been individual groups wanting recognition.

“We’ve had several groups in the past entertain the thought of working together, but it has always fallen apart because one group wants to be responsible for it,” Korte said. “But I think this should be a joint effort, where everyone in the community chips in. This can’t be something the college shoulders itself. If it is going to serve everyone in the area, getting people active from senior citizens to the youth, then everyone should do their part.”

Large projects like this often have partnerships with local school districts, said ACC President John Masterson. 

Masterson said early cost estimates range from $12 million to $24 million. The higher figure would include an indoor swimming pool and therapy pool. 

Stacey Fager, superintendent of USD 257, said that he has not been in contact with anyone at ACC.

“To be honest, we are busy planning a new science center and elementary school. They have not reached out to us, but I would like to commend them for seeking partners and dreaming of creating something like this for the community,” Fager said. “We have not discussed it at the board level, but that is not to say we won’t.”

One group that is planning to work with the college is Thrive Allen County.

Lisse Regher, Thrive executive director, said she would love to be involved in the process.

“We would like to help in whatever capacity we can,” Regher said. “We are looking at several grants we could possibly get for the school. If we truly want a healthier county this would be a great step. I know a lot of senior citizens who swim at the pool during the summer but once the pool closes down they are out of options. Swimming is so much easier on the joints.”

Iola city administrator, Sid Fleming, said he hopes ACC president Masterson comes with some numbers showing the citizens the impact it would have on their taxes. 

“I don’t know what all John has come up with but I do believe if we are going to do something like this, the best chance for success is through partnerships,” Fleming said.

Wells said he hopes there is a large crowd in attendance, “if there are only five people there that will speak volumes.”

He said the city plans to have at least five board members present so they can have a quorum in case something needs to be voted on that night.

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