Council OKs wellness, cultural authority

New entity would build center, parking garage on First Avenue South

A new authority that would own the planned cultural and recreation center in downtown Fort Dodge is nearing reality.

The City Council on Monday unanimously approved the articles of incorporation for the Webster County Wellness and Cultural Authority.

“All of us agree that this is a great thing,” Councilman Terry Moehnke said.

The Webster County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider the authority’s articles of incorporation when it meets at 10 a.m. today in the courthouse. If the supervisors approve them, the authority will be established.

“I really want to thank the county supervisors for taking on this endeavor,” City Manager David Fierke said Monday. “I think the county supervisors see the worforce benefits and the economic development benefits.”

“We are going to set a really high mark in city and county cooperation and build an awesome facility,” he added.

The authority, led by a three-member board, would finance the construction of the new center proposed for First Avenue South near the Warden Plaza. Once the center and an accompanying parking garage are completed, the authority would lease it to a non-profit entity that would run the day-to-day operations.

The authority would not be involved in the renovation of the Warden Plaza, 908 First Ave. S., which is a private project being planned by KDG LLC, of Columbia, Missouri.

The authority is being created under the terms of a state law that allows counties and county seat towns to enter partnerships.

The authority board will consist of one member appointed by the City Council who must live in the city limits, one member appointed by the Board of Supervisors who must live outside of Fort Dodge, and one member picked jointly by the council and the Board of Supervisors.

Authority board members will not be paid.

The authority board probably will not have any employees. City and county staffers will be assigned to assist the board as needed.

The authority board will have the power to issue revenue bonds to pay for the building. Those bonds would not count against the debt limits of the city and county governments.

The planned facility would replace the Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center at First Avenue South and 15th Street that was built in the early 1960s. The replacement of that center has been discussed for about eight years, according to Fierke.

In addition to pools, a running track and exercise rooms, the new complex will have some cultural amenities. Perhaps the biggest of those is a planned black box theater that could be configured in different ways to accommodate a variety of performances.

The facility is estimated to cost $32 million.