by Dennis Dalman
It was a two-year frustrating waiting game that suddenly ended in a triumphant outcome, said St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz in describing the passage of a $1.9-billion state bonding bill (see related story).
The bonding includes $4 million for a community center in St. Joseph.
“I am thrilled,” Schultz said in an interview with the St. Joseph Newsleader. “It’s almost like suddenly we are on top of a mountain, looking down. It’s time to put all the pieces together. So many people are excited about this, and I’m getting calls constantly from them.”
On Oct. 13 and 14, he stayed up late into the night, listening with baited breath to the progress of the bonding bill first through the House and then through the Senate. All the while he was emailing friends and acquaintances who were listening, too, with unbearable suspense.
And it’s no wonder. For more than two years, the mayor, city-council members, city staff, lobbyists and many others held meetings, scheduled visits with legislators, made plans all dealing with a possible community center. All of a sudden the Covid-19 virus struck, and the seemingly endless waiting game began. It went on and on to the point most in St. Joseph just “gave up” on ever getting a boost for construction of a community center.
Now, Schultz said, definite planning can truly begin with a renewed jolt of optimism.
Two years ago, the city council voted to dedicate $6 million of regional half-cent sales-tax money to a community center, which was estimated at that time to cost about $16 million. That price tag, due to increased construction costs, would probably now be closer to $18 million, Schultz said.
“We might have to redesign the center,” said Schultz, in order to keep costs down. “There’s also a chance we might be able to partner with the YMCA for operation or maintenance of the center. We might also check into a partnership with CentraCare.”
The center would be built near the former Kennedy Elementary School.
There are many details to be worked out, including a public fundraising program, Schultz said. But one thing is certain: What seemed like a dying dream just a month ago has suddenly been revived into a bright new possibility.