Don't desert us now

Monday, November 7, 2005

The lyrics of a Bruce Springsteen song - "one step up and two steps back" - come to mind as we ponder the recent news that a group of naysayers in Cherokee are planning to petition the city's proposed $400,000 bond issue to a vote of the people.

To date, covering a period of almost six years of behind-the-scenes labors, the proposed Gillette Park/Family Aquatics Center Committee has formulated a solid, viable plan that would replace our 50-year-old swimming pool and enhance what would be a beautiful, attractive park setting all around it.

The committee has been overly forthright in communicating all of its ideas, plans, meetings, sharing information and truthfully answering any and all questions with the City Council, the Board of Supervisors, the media, and the people.

In addition, the committee was thoughtfully designed to include a fair and highly capable representation from all facets of the community.

Normally, this wonderful community rallies to the cause - some even begrudgingly - when we learn that our town needs something major and the only way to get it is to roll up the sleeves, raise the funds and do it ourselves.

Witness the popular Community Center; fine Cherokee Washington High School track and football field; the sparkling Cherokee Middle School; the magnificent Wellness Center; the acclaimed City Library; the attractive WITCC Campus; the historic Illinois Central Railroad Depot; the city/school option taxes and PPEL; the incredible downtown streetscape renovation project; the fantastic ball fields and tennis courts at the Sam Doupe Complex; the thriving CYSBA programs and ball fields; the PRCA Rodeo; the quality horse arena, etc.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, this community was an embarrassing, back-water town when it came to quality of life issues and recreational facilities.

However, through the years, and with much-admired resolve and leadership in key places, Cherokee has picked up the pace and now, because of the positive makeup of the very people living here, Our Town stands behind few when it comes to recreational opportunities and pursuits. The superb facilities listed above are testimonial to the strides we have made and the pride we now show in having attained them.

To now revert back to the "old days" on this major issue, when narrow-minded, grumpy old men and women called the shots and the future was only later the same day, would be absurd and at best unintelligent, considering how far we have come.

Obviously, the motivation of the opposition to the Gillette Park/Family Aquatic Center is fear of taxation. The city must pledge $400,000 to match a Vision Iowa $400,000 grant for the project. The city proposes to do this through bonding. Municipalities bond for civic improvements because the process is the best option and works for minimal cost.

The net property tax hike for Cherokee property owners will be approximately $2 a month if your home is valued at $100,000. It'll be less than that if your house is valued lower. That's just $24 PER YEAR that will enable the project to be completed to give our deserving youth and populace a little slice of Heaven in the blaring heat of an Iowa summer.

The people the new Aquatics Center and enhanced Gillette Park will attract will number into the thousands. Through such increased usage and concessions, the city complex will be self-sustaining and would even grow to show profit.

The cost out of the city's general fund of an unnecessary city election, coupled with the skyrocketing amount of dollars continually thrown away down a rat hole just to keep the existing 50-year-old pool operating, cannot be, must not be, overlooked here.

Nor can the $400,000 Vision Iowa funds already pledged to the project that the city must match, or the tremendous rise in construction costs each and every day we sit idle.

Besides, there are no more spare parts for our pool. They don't make them any more.

Now's the time, folks. Like always, it's time for us to step up to the plate and help the committee see this thing through. Too much work has already been done and there will never be another opportunity like this one.

The Gillette Park/Family Aquatic Center Committee has gone to the wall for this community, to say nothing of all the wonderful businesses and residents who have donated to the project.

As we've shown in the past, we can do this. Everyone involved has worked too long and too hard to have the rug pulled out from under them now.


No steps back.