Letter to the Editor: Community vision

To the Editor:

Mayor Monserud’s most recent column entitled “The Definition of a Small Community” left me both perplexed and disappointed.

I will agree that for the past year it has been an extraordinary privilege to serve on Waterville’s School House Development Board (SHDB) committee. For close to 30 years, as a paralegal, I have achieved a considerable amount of experience in commercial transactions and corporate governance areas of law. In addition, I am co-owner of a property management company that specializes in managing multi-family housing communities. Like myself, other members of the committee bring and offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise that informs our collective commitment to repositioning the former school. It is this experience that we each offer and contribute to the SHDB.

I am far from naïve and realize the publication of this letter jeopardizes my appointment, but it is imperative to ensure that additional context is provided so that community members fully appreciate what SHDB is grappling with.

Waterville’s June 21, 2018 city council minutes clearly establish SHDB’s role as it relates to the renovation and development of the 1923 portion of the school. Your readers should fully understand that under no condition would SHDB consider opportunities that create considerable risk exposure to Waterville.

As Mayor Monserud pointed out, Waterville is a “Small Community” and our committee has been aware of that fact. Mayor Monserud continues to highlight that Waterville is constrained because of its limited resources.

However, the unnerving part for me is that in this article, Mayor Monserud also acknowledges how the Waterville community has benefited from the support of surrounding communities. In fact, much of the success that Waterville has experienced in revisioning the use of the 1953 portion of the school can be partly attributed to the interest, support and engagement of community members from surrounding communities.

So, which is it? Are development efforts hampered by Waterville’s limited resources or is there a potential to lean into growth and development knowing that you’ll have the continued support of surrounding communities?  For Waterville’s sake, I hope it is the latter.

SHDB committee members have been mindful in our view of community. At no time have we limited our view to define community exclusively to geographic borders but rather our vision extends to the role that Waterville plays not only for its residents but for residents who are members of the Allamakee

community. In essence, for over a year we have continued to offer and provide ideas that focus on what could and would be beneficial to both Waterville and Allamakee County. Achieving that is a win-win for all stakeholders.

Since acquiring the school, this has been both SHDB’s and Waterville’s commitment to individuals and organizations who have financially supported this endeavor via grants, monetary contribution (fundraisers, auctions, talent shows) and volunteering. It has, indeed, taken a village to get here.

But now is a critical point.  SHDB has achieved its first major milestone with obtaining a feasibility study and interestingly enough this study reaffirms what SHDB members understood in regard to a critical need for the broader community. While SHDB appreciates the risk that comes with development, our pursuit is borne out of its understanding with the Waterville City Council that gave birth to the committee. In the end, Waterville leadership is fraught and perhaps paralyzed by fear of the unknown.

Potential cost, possibility of failure and liability exposures are all considerable risks that should not be minimized. However, SHDB has and continues to provide Waterville leadership with options that seek to lessen if not eliminate such risk. Our efforts continue to fall on deaf ears. In the end, no one wants a building - a building that is solemn to many and holds so much potential - to become a dilapidated edifice of what once was.

Yes, Waterville is a small community, but like every other community in Allamakee County, it continues and it is here because of its reliance on both its community members and members of its surrounding communities. You have given your dollars in exchange for Waterville leadership to deliver a plan that respects the structure of the school while contributing to our overall community. As a community, regardless of size, it is your duty to hold each of us accountable.

SHDB’s next meeting will be held at the Waterville City Council Chambers Thursday, September 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Chris Jordan
City of Waterville
School House Development Board Member


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