The fourth session of Eggs and Issues was held in a packed Smokey Row Coffee Shop in Oskaloosa Saturday morning at 8:30. This session highlighted local initiatives to discuss the Recreation and Early Childhood Development Center with Mark Willett, the community branding project with Aaron Riggs and Andrew Jensen, and the Caldwell Learning Center with Linda Fox and Dave Sedivec.
This session was handled differently, as the first half hour of discussion was dedicated to the three initiatives letting the community know what is happening with their respective projects.
Riggs and Jensen presented first, with Riggs stating one of the reasons as to why the Brand Leadership Team, or BLT, believes new branding would help Oskaloosa.
“Rather than people living here, earning a wage here, and then taking that money and spending it in a community outside of Oskaloosa, wouldn’t it be great if there were enough reasons and things to do in and around our town, that people could spend that money here locally and keep it here and grow our local economy as a result,” Riggs said.
Willett then spoke on the Recreation and Early Childhood Development Center. He said that losing the YMCA in the community would be devastating. He stated there are around 320 children in childcare between the YMCA, Webster, and Kids’ Corner in University Park.
Willett also described part of the plans for the new Recreation and Early Childhood Development Center. He said that it’s a nightmare to hold a swimming meet at the current YMCA because there are only four lanes. He said the new facility will have eight lanes in the competition pool, as well as areas to sit down and watch the meet. Willett went on to say that there will be a recreational pool in addition to the competition pool, so the competition pool can have cooler water and people can swim laps, and the recreation pool can have warmer water for those doing water workouts.
Fox and Sedivec spoke next on the Caldwell Learning Center. Fox said that kids learn the best by being able to experience, feel, and touch what’s around them. She then told the crowd what an Environmental Learning Center, or ELC, is.
“It’s a place where you can take nature, and you can make it work. You can show kids how to do things, and what things are in nature. They can have hands-on experience. They can go out in the field and come back into a mudroom, and experience what is going on,” said Fox.
Sedivec said that Mahaska County is a victim of its own success.
“We average over 12,000 program participants a year here in Mahaska County with one Naturalist and other staff helping out. To put that in perspective, that’s the same number of program participants that Linn County has with five Naturalists in the Cedar Rapids area,” said Sedivec.
Fox and Sedivec also said that the ELC is going to be larger than was first planned due to the mammoth bones that will be on display.
When it came time for the public to ask questions, there were some in the audience that were against the new branding of Oskaloosa.
Members of the community said that music has stood the test of time, and that Oskaloosa already has a brand and slogan. Jensen responded by saying that he believes Oskaloosa is more than just music.
“We absolutely celebrate our musical history, but Oskaloosa is much more than just music. In the time that I’ve been here, there are so many awesome things going on in Oskaloosa, and the question is how do we tie those things together,” stated Jensen.
Another member of the community broke the tension in the room.
“Granted I may have lived under a rock for the 27 years I’ve lived here, but I did not know this was known as the City of Music. Just saying,” said the community member.
One community member asked about the location of the ELC. Sedivec answered by saying it will be just to the east of Oskaloosa. He also said the ELC is in a great location, and he believes the location will help the local economy.
“You have the Lacey Sports Complex with all the kids and tournaments out there. In between games if people want to see the nature center and the mammoth bones, they have to go through town and they have to go past every restaurant, they have to go by gas stations and everything, so I think that’ll also help with the economic impact for the community,” Sedivec said.
There was also a question asked about whether or not the pool at Edmundson Park will be closed when the new Recreation and Early Childhood Development Center opened. Willett replied by saying it is all speculation, and also that there are no plans for an outdoor pool at the new facility.
The next session of Eggs and Issues will be with state officials, and it will be held on March 12th at 8:30 am at Smokey Row Coffee Shop in Oskaloosa.
Story by George Henry