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Billings recaps city accomplishments and looks toward future developments

By Staff | Jan 17, 2014

A lot has happened in Estherville over the past couple years – a lot of good things.

Estherville Mayor Kenny Billings told Rotarians Thursday what some of those things were and how they happened.

Those accomplishments have included:

n Updating the water treatment plant.

n Work on First Avenue and Fifth Street and widening Fifth Avenue.

n South Sixth Street improvements.

n Demolishing eight substandard homes over the past two years.

n Revamping and lighting the suspended bridge.

n Putting electric lines on Half-Mile Hill underground.

n The Thoreson Pavilion.

n Removing the old tennis courts by the outdoor swimming pool.

n Placing drainage and a sump in the rock gardens.

n Consolidating the parks and rec department under city administration for cost savings.

n Work on Lincoln, Trinity and Spurgin parks and extending the walking trail at Spurgin Park.

n Both city and county law officers have installed in-car systems to send information to the law center.

n Replaced downtown light poles.

n Self-funded insurance for city employees.

n Hired a bilingual coordinator at the Estherville Public Library and established a new library website.

For the future, Billings said the biggest upcoming priority for the city will be housing. Toward that end, he said the city will conduct an annexation study.

Billings said housing needs to be a city priority.

Another priority is replacing the outdoor pool, with a major questions being where the pool will be located how it will be funded. “The public should be involved in it,” stressed Billings.

Billings also noted that in August chief of police Eric Milburn will retire and the city will look at countywide law enforcement at that time.

Another priority is widening the road to Fort Defiance to accommodate a bike trail.

Rotarian Rick Olesen said he hoped everyone gets involved in making a decision on renovating the former Penney’s building. A member of the Estherville Industrial Development Corporation that bought the building and that hopes to restore it, Olesen said the EIDC Board of Directors had determined that cost of tearing down the building and putting in a parking lot versus restoring it “was pretty much a wash.”

Billings noted that the plan called for the city to loan EIDC $400,000 which would be repaid at $50,000 yearly. He said two tenants are in line to locate businesses in the building.

Chris Fuhrman said the Chamber has also expressed interest in locating in the building.

Billings also noted that “We have some interest” in a party building assisted living in Estherville. “We have somebody that’s very serious about that.”

Olesen, noting he was also on the Iowa Lakes Corridor Board of Directors, said the 18-35 demographic was important for employers and that investing in apartments and condos in Estherville would be a good way to capture that age group.