by Leanne Loy
At Monday night’s council meeting a decision was approved for which architect firm would head the Jacob Wetterling Community Center project.
Frank Ostendorf, a member of the committee, addressed the council. He voiced his concern that the council was over-ruling the decision made by the committee members. Ostendorf said he feels like the committee did their due diligence when it came to making a well-informed decision and the council needs to listen to their recommendation.
“Early on in this project, Mayor Schultz made a statement saying this was going to be a citizens’ project, not a top-down administration project,” Ostendorf said.
“We did what you asked us to do. We evaluated four architectural firms and we made a choice. I hope you folks will follow along with our recommendation.”
HGA Architects was the recommendation made by the committee. The committee met on more than one occasion to weigh all the factors and spent an evening listening to four different architect firms discuss their plans for the center.
“There are a lot of things I look at,” Mayor Schultz said. “Like some of the historical features we have with HMA. I agree that HGA did a great job. They presented a diamond in the rough. But at the same time, I think one of the recommendations we got from the YMCA was to partner with HMA. To me that speaks volumes about how we can partner both from an architect perspective, as well as a fundraising perspective.”
He went on to say, “There were no bad choices and I do appreciate the work of the community center committee. My motion is to go with HMA as the community center architect.”
It’s clear that all involved had put a lot of time and effort into choosing who they felt would best fit this project. In the end, the project must move on and only one firm can be chosen. After much discussion and deliberation from other council members the motion to approve HMA as the architect for the community center was passed.
“You have made a mockery out of the committee.” Ostendorf said, as he left the meeting.
Kelly Beniek, council member and committee member said, “I was grateful, at first I wasn’t, but I was kind of grateful you guys wanted to table it so we could look at it a little better. I got the time to do diligent research and I called a lot of the jobs that [the firms] had done… I heard a lot of positives on both sides. I loved HMA because they have history.”
“It’s a tough decision,” newest council member Jon Hazen said, “but coming on the committee and being new to it and now being here, I just want to get something done for St. Joseph.”