We hope most people in Cherokee understand how truly amazing the $3.6 million Bacon Aquatic Center/Gillette Park project is.
John Cook, who along with Doctor Robert Martin chairs the fund raising committee, said at a recent Cherokee City Council meeting, for most projects like this in most cities there might be a $400,000 grant with the city bonding for the rest.
In this case, the city, already heavy into bond debt because of a major downtown renovation and other projects, contributed $500,000 to the project, with $400,000 of that raised from a bond. The county contributed another $50,000. There was a $400,000 Vision Iowa grant plus some Iowa Department of Transportation funds for a park trail.
Add that all together and less than a third of the project cost is coming from public funds.
Private fund raising got a big jump start from the George Bacon Estate. Several financial institutions and businesses stepped in with really impressive donations. Private citizens ranging in age from elementary students to senior citizens have given according to their ability.
The committee still needs to raise about $300,000 but the project is at the point where a construction bid could be approved with confidence in the ability to pay for it.
This project is only one in a series over the last decade and a half in which the citizens of Cherokee have taken it upon themselves to make impressive improvements to the town. A Western Iowa Tech campus was built in Cherokee, the library had a major remodeling and expansion, the depot was remodeled and a horse arena was built, all largely through the efforts of local individuals, businesses and civic organizations.
The naysayers complain that none of this has prevented the town of Cherokee and Cherokee County from continued population decline. No, these projects in themselves could not prevent the loss of population but they show that the people of Cherokee are not giving up in the face of adverse circumstances.
These projects improve the quality of life in Cherokee and improve the city's chances to rebound from the decline that has continued for over several decades.
There are some who fear that the city cannot afford the increased operation cost of the Aquatic Center.
It has been reported that in other communities, the increased operating costs were compensated by increased revenue from increased use.
Of course there is no guarantee of this. There is no guarantee of anything in life. Certainly any time a business starts or expands, it takes a risk. If the people of the city take no risks, we might as well accept decline as inevitable and irreversible.
In answer to the question of when all these community improvement projects will end, we hope never. Now as for that replica of old Fort Cherokee…