The city of Cherokee has been awarded $400,000 toward its Aquatic Center/Gillette Park project from the state's Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) program, but there is a catch. The city of Cherokee has to match the $400,000 on top of the $20,000 per year over five years that the city has already pledged.
John Cook, a co-chair of the Aquatic Center/Gillette Park Committee, said that the Cherokee project was two parts. Aquatic parks get a standard $100,000 from CAT, with $300,000 approved for the Gillette Park improvements.
"This grant is materially above the percentage usually granted for such projects," Cook said.
Cook said the Vision Iowa Board members who approved the grant, were highly impressed by the community support for the project and the fact that the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors got behind the project. "All that paid dividends," Cook said.
Cook said that Ron Strickland, city administrator, presented information regarding the city's current bond obligations and general financial difficulties. Cook said that the board considered that information carefully but decided that the city needs to make a commitment beyond $100,000 since when the project is completed, the city will own the $3.6 million in improvements,
The next step in the grant process will be receiving a contract from Vision Iowa agreeing to the conditions.
Cook said that the finances for the project need to be in place this fall, preferably before Thanksgiving, in order to the do the engineering in time to get work done in 2006. Otherwise the project will be pushed back to 2007 with an increase in construction costs.
Cook noted that there is a tremendous increase in use of swimming facilities when they are upgraded from just a swimming pool to an aquatic center as is being planned. The aquatic center can be expected to draw many people into town with a corresponding benefit to local businesses.
The improvements to the park itself will add family recreation and community event opportunities.
Strickland said on Thursday that he will be looking at the possibility of coming up with the matching funds.
The matter is expected to be on the agenda for the next Cherokee City Council meeting scheduled for Sept. 27.