By Alice Walkup

The Iowa League of Cities recognized four cities as its 2006 All-Star Community Award Winners at the Annual Conference & Exhibit, recently held in Coralville, Iowa.

The awards are given for specific community projects, in areas such as urban renewal, development, preservation, service sharing or other quality of life improvements that have been completed in the previous calendar year.

This year, Tipton was recognized as an All-Star Community for its James Kennedy Family Aquatic Center, with special merit in the area of service sharing with the Tipton Community School District.

Faced with outdated and non-functional swimming pools, the city and the school district combined forces to raise funds to build a new aquatic facility. The project features an indoor, competition-size and diving pool, while the outdoor pool is a zero-entry pool, designed for recreational use.

The total cost of the project was $5 million, with $2 million donated, and $2.225 million from a referendum sponsored by the School District. Tipton Mayor Donald Young said the Aquatic Center is “a crown jewel for the youth of our community and our older people; all different age ranges can use the facility.”

Fort Dodge won a 2006 All-Star Community Award for cities with a population over 10,000, for its Citizens Central Senior Complex. The complex, called C-2, by those who know it well, anchors the city’s downtown revitalization, which began in 2002.

The center was previously a furniture store, but now offers a large dining area, kitchen, meeting rooms, coffee shop, library, medical area for health advice, exercise room, billiards room and space for other activities. The program is a result of partnerships between different levels of government, the building and trades program at Iowa Central Community College, and downtown property owners. Funding for the project came from tax increment financing, self-supported municipal improvement district funds, grants and many other business and private donations.

The All-Star Community in the population category between 3,000 and 9,999 was Mount Pleasant, for its Mount Pleasant Library and Civic Center. The facility is housed in the old Mount Pleasant High School, built in 1932 and closed in 1999, and is one of the city’s oldest and most-recognized buildings.

The new facility now includes a 20,000 square foot library, offices for Area Education Agency 16 and the local school district, an updated auditorium, a gymnasium, classrooms for daycare and meeting rooms available for rent.

The project cost $8 million, and funds came from a bond issue, a Vision Iowa Community and Tourism (CAT) grant, tax increment financing revenue and the City of Mount Pleasant, with $1.5 million from private donations and fundraising events.

The City of Hartley was recognized in the cities with populations under 3,000 category for its Citywide Clean-up Program, initiated for a 125th Anniversary celebration in 2004. The program included property clean-up, downtown revitalization and demolition of condemned buildings.

One of the success stories from the program is that of Savings Bank, which will be able to build a new building for itself where two buildings were demolished, and will be more accessible and provide more services for its patrons.

The city was able to fund with assistance from a variety of people and organizations. The Hartley Economic Development Corporation offered no-interest loans to local businesses to improve their storefronts, and a volunteer group painted homes for those unable to hire someone.

The city also obtained Owner Occupied Housing Rehabilitation housing grants for 10 qualified property owners.

Source: National League of Cities.