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Excel! Estherville seeks volunteers

By Staff | Aug 7, 2008

Bill Bumgarner, Excel! Estherville community representative, told volunteers Wednesday that passage of the Aug. 26 local option sales tax will help determine the success of the community development plan. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Excel! Estherville needs you!

That was the challenge that Excel! Estherville leaders Estherville Mayor Lyle Hevern, Bill Bumgarner and George Shadle made to those attending an update on the community development program Wednesday at the Regional Wellness Center.

Excel! Estherville beat its first goal of raising $100,000 in 100 days by raising $104,181 on day 100. The second goal is quickly approaching this Saturday – of finding 100 volunteers in 100 days. There are now about 80 volunteers to date.

More volunteers are needed in areas including housing opportunities, visual attractiveness, community diversity, business and marketing relationships, growing existing business, attracting new business, local identity/promotion activities, and tourism and recreation.

Another major goal reiterated Wednesday was getting support for the additional 1-cent sales tax which voters will decide Aug. 26 in Estherville and in other areas of Emmet County which do not currently have the tax. While other communities, such as Armstrong and Ringsted, have benefitted from the tax, Estherville voters turned the issue down in 1997. Had Estherville approved the measure, it would be receiving an additional $500,000 for community development projects such as Excel! Estherville.

Hevern offered a broad overview of the history of Estherville’s economic development and where it could be going at the beginning of the meeting Wednesday.

“We had a lot of our history written by John Morrell,” Hevern said. Although Morrell’s closed in the 1980s, leading to a severe downturn in Estherville’s economy, Estherville picked itself up.

“This is probably the best time in our community’s history,” Hevern said, noting all the building projects currently happening in Estherville. “This area is set for still more significant development,” Hevern said.

By raising $105,000 in 100 days, Hevern said Excel! Estherville sent a strong message to the community. “It was that this was not just another community project,” Hevern said.

Hevern then underscored the need for more volunteers to help implement Estherville’s key strategic goals.

“The recruitment of volunteers is what makes a strategic plan successful,” Hevern said. “We appreciate the willingness of you to donate your time. It’s a wonderful effort to be involved with. We’re very blessed with the volunteers that we have.”

“Our objective has always been to get people involved,” Bumgarner said. He said passage of the local option sales tax Aug. 26 will determine how widely the plan of work for Excel! Estherville can happen. He said project priorities and funding will be decided in collaboration with local government.

Bumgarner noted results of an April survey of 500 Estherville residents to determine community attitudes. While a majority of residents had favorable attitudes of most areas surveyed, Bumgarner said he hopes to see new surveys every two or three years to gauge how attitudes are improving in those areas.

“We’re very hopeful that we can pass the 1 percent sales tax,” Shadle said of the Aug. 26 measure.

Shadle urged everyone present to contact others and tell them how Excel! Estherville can improve the quality of life in the community. Shadle also tried to dispel some false rumors about the sales tax.

“It does not hurt our retailers because we’re surrounded by cities that already have it,” Shadle said. All the tax money comes back to the city, directly benefitting community projects. “It’s going to help with all the projects that we really want to get done,” Shadle said.

All Estherville voters will cast their ballots on the issue from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge at 2003 Central Ave. in Estherville. Those who will be gone Aug. 26 may vote at the Emmet County Auditor’s Office at the Emmet County Courthouse.

In Estherville, 60 percent of revenue raised will be used for new and continuing community betterment projects and programs and 40 percent will go toward supporting general fund expenditures such as the library, parks and recreation and the police department designated by the Estherville City County through resolution.

Rural Emmet County voters will particularly be interested in a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 15 in the board room in the basement of the Emmet County Courthouse. That meeting will address how the tax would be used to benefit rural residents.