Two Mason City leaders want to reject a nine-million dollar Vision Iowa grant so the money can be used for flood relief, but not everyone on the city council agrees. Council members Don Nelson and Jeffrey Marsters are urging community leaders to forgo money awarded for a series of tourist attraction projects.
Marsters says the money should instead be allocated to Iowans who lost homes or businesses in the flood. Marsters says: "The priority should not be amenities for any community in Mason City in today’s climate of the economy. It should be spent on something more useful and for a greater good which, to me, is flood victims. We have a huge problem with recovery from the flood."
Fellow council member Scott Tornquist says the Vision Iowa money will be a key part of Mason City’s own economic recovery. It’s intended to help pay for a new city library, a pavilion and the restoration of the last remaining hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Tornquist says if the community can become a tourist destination, the council can avoid future tax increases.
Tornquist says, "The opportunity to infuse nine-million dollars into the community from outside the community is much too significant for us to reject it." Marsters worries the city’s taxpayers will be left holding the bag if the renovated hotel fails to make money.
"I don’t want to tie my taxpayers up to be stuck for all this money when they have enough trouble paying their regular bills," Marsters says. Still, Tornquist argues it would be irresponsible for city leaders to turn down a grant that could help boost Mason City’s tourism appeal.
"We need to find a way of doing what we need to do as a community to try to make this work rather than coming up with a laundry list of reasons why we’re afraid it won’t," Tounquist says. Mason City officials will meet with Vision Iowa staff on Friday to try and reach an agreement on the funding. Governor Culver has re-allocated some the grant program’s un-spent money for flood relief but says he does -not- intend to take funds obligated to Mason City.