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Clarion/Goldfield: focused on housing

Wright County seat anticipates influx when Prestage opens

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Jordan Cook, Clarion city administrator, stands along North Main Street in Clarion recently.

CLARION — Housing is one priority Jordan Cook has at the top of his list.

Cook, a native of Nebraska, is Clarion’s new city administrator. He began his duties on Dec. 4, replacing previous City Administrator Dustin Rief, who left for another position out of state about six months ago.

“We are working on housing right now,” Cook said. “We need to get some housing in here, That way when Prestage comes to town, we have places for them to live.”

Prestage Foods of Iowa is building its estimated $300 million pork plant south of Eagle Grove. More than 1,000 workers will be employed there in late 2018 when the plant is set to open.

The plant is located about 18 miles from Clarion. Some of Prestage’s workers may locate in Clarion, a city of less than 3,000 people.

-Messenger file photo by Chad Thompson
Sonna Johnson, a member of the Goldfield Women’s Club, looks on as crews from SafetyFirst Playground Maintenance, of Princeton, Minnesota, work on getting the new equipment installed at Old School Park in Goldfield during warmer weather.

White Fox Landing is a housing development the city has worked hard to develop in recent years. It is located in the northeast corner of the city.

The land for White Fox Landing was acquired in a trade with Clarion-Goldfield High School. In exchange for the six acres used for development, the high school was given ownership of the football field.

“It’s a safe area,” Cook said. “That is a place we would like to see developed. That’s probably an area we will continue to work on. I think that will continue to go well.”

He added, “That’s probably the main focus right now.”

White Fox Landing has 22 total lots. Fifteen of those lots are still available.

Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
John Clarin, supervisor for SafetyFirst Playground Maintenance, of Princeton, Minnesota, front, and Mallory Bernardson, get to work at Old School Park in Goldfield. Mike Rogalski is operating the Bobcat.

“I think the one thing Clarion is trying to do is capture some housing, so that when we do grow, there is places for people to live and things for people to do,” Cook said.

Workforce has been another priority for the community in recent years.

Rief, the former city administrator, reported in 2016 that companies were struggling to find qualified workers.

Hagie Manufacturing, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows Community School District, Iowa Specialty Hospital, Clarion Mosaic, North Central Cooperative and Clarion Packaging are among the largest employers in Clarion.

According to Cook, a new wastewater treatment facility is close to completion.

“It’s looking good,” he said. “There’s some punch list items that need to be completed.”

The facility cost an estimated $6.8 million.

The project was started in August 2015.

The facility is located on the southwest edge of town.

About Clarion’s new city administrator

Cook grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska, where he attended elementary and junior high school.

He graduated from Scottsbluff Senior High School in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, in 2007.

Following high school, Cook attended the University of Nebraska Omaha.

It was there that Cook discovered his passion for city government through a class called urban studies.

“I started in architectural engineering and ended up falling in love with urban studies,” he said. “It’s kind of like public administration, but goes into a lot more depth of all of the surrounding studies.”

That was in the spring of 2010.

“I had received my associate’s for architectural drafting,” he said. “My passion before was buildings and designing and I took an urban studies class and that’s really what sparked my interest in government and public administration.”

Cook held a management position for a company called Complete Nutrition for about three years.

“During that time I was managing these stores, I realized I wanted to help more people and be part of the community,” he said. “I realized I needed to get my master’s degree to become a city administrator.”

He added, “I realized that I had a void in my life and needed to go back to school to get my degree to fill that void.”

During his last semester of college, Cook worked under a city engineer for the city of La Vista, a suburb of Omaha.

“I did that for a year and a half and then I found this job,” he said.

Cook graduated with master’s degree in public administration and urban studies from the University of Nebraska Omaha in the spring of 2017.

He was attracted to Clarion in part because of its size.

“I liked the town,” he said. “I liked the community. I like rural areas, so to me it felt like it was a perfect fit.”

He said people in rural communities tend to be welcoming.

“They are friendly, welcoming, and it’s like a big family,” he said. “It’s fun to socialize with them and talk and get to know everyone and hear their story.”

Cook said he’s impressed with the structures around town.

“They have beautiful buildings — historical buildings,” Cook said. “A magnificent museum, hardworking staff in the community. A great water park. Amazing schools. Their school system is amazing.”

Cook has also been impressed with several businesses.

“We have a state-of-the-art movie theater,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s old fashioned. It’s renovated. It’s a great atmosphere. We have a great downtown area with homemade restaurants. A great water park. An amazing library as well. It’s gorgeous.”

Goldfield

GOLDFIELD — A 60-year-old school building in Goldfield may be developed into apartments at some point, according to Barbara Jergenson, Goldfield city clerk.

Jergenson said an apartment feasibility study was recently conducted and the results would be discussed at future city council meetings.

The council has to look at everything along with our city attorney,” Jergenson said. “I hope it goes. I really do.”

Iowa Area Development Group, of Des Moines, is one firm involved in the planning, Jergenson said.

The city of Goldfield took ownership of the structure in 2017.

The school was closed for educational purposes in 1993, when Goldfield merged its school with Clarion.

The city rents out the space to Clarion-Goldfield-Dows and community members for sporting events or special receptions.

“It’s being rented as a community building,” Jergenson said. “Walkers go in there during the winter and pay $20 each and they can go in and walk anytime.”

She said birthday parties and an exercise class have also been held in the building.

One possibility is that the classrooms in the school would be converted into studio apartments.

Other parts of the school would function as city offices.

If the building is repurposed, the gymnasium area will likely stay.

None of the plans have been finalized.

She said the city has had to wait on tax credits among other things.

“The investors will go through the feasibility study,” he said. “They said a few things would have to be changed and then the developers will look at the plans again. We are excited. It just takes time.”

In terms of housing, Jergenson said most of the city’s homes are occupied.

“As far as I know, there is only about five houses for sale,” she said. “The houses get sold. People like the small town atmosphere. It’s quiet. We are an older community and I think that really helps us.”

Also in 2017, the Goldfield Women’s Club helped bring new playground equipment to Old School Park, located just off Main Street.

The club, which has about 30 members, began raising money for new equipment in 2016.

The cost of the new equipment was $45,358.

It was installed in the spring of 2017.

Three pieces of equipment were added.

The main piece is called Jungle Falls. It includes slides, climbers and a play wheel.

That equipment is for ages 5 to 12.

Another piece, the Happy Hippo, accommodates younger children ages 2 to 5.