Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 18, 2018

Busy group strives to make Winfield the best

Jul 27, 2017

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


WINFIELD — What began as a group of Winfield individuals sharing a desire to improve the downtown has expanded to so much more.

The Winfield Community Development Group (WCDG) began less than a decade ago “with the main focus to get new lights in the business district and improve the district,” reflected Lisa Rees, secretary of the group.

Since that humble beginning, the group has changed names and is striving to improve Winfield in any way possible.

Now known as the Winfield Community Development Group, a 501c3, the group’s mission “is to better the Winfield community by providing opportunities through events, fundraising and development.”

Mayor Chris Finnell serves as president of the 11-member board of directors of the WCDG, Larry Jennings is vice president and Ryan Kinneberg, a member of the Winfield City Council, is treasurer.

Currently, WCDG’s main focus is a new swimming pool, which it hopes will be open by Memorial Day 2018. Some $658,000 has been raised for the $1.5M project, Rees said.

Fundraising and planning for the pool began roughly 18 months ago. The current city pool, which is located at the country club, is about a half century old and in need of major repairs. City leaders believe it would be more cost-effective to build a new pool than sink money into a structure that has seen its better days.

A considerable portion of the money raised thus far has come from grants. The City of Winfield topped the list at $100,000, The Washington County Riverboat Foundation awarded WCDG $50,000 and the William M. and Donna L. Hoglin Foundation Incorporated gave the group $40,000. There have also been numerous other smaller grants.

Rees said the pool project has been divided into two phases. The group hopes to have the poolhouse, which will cost in excess of $100,000, built this September with work to begin on the pool later this year. “I can’t really answer when we start on the pool because it is dependent on funding,” Rees said.

There have been a few hitches in the pool campaign. The first design of the pool was met with disapproval from a number of community members and groups. “They thought it was too big and too fancy,” Rees reflected. A second design is set to be released either later this month or early August.

WCDG is hoping to be awarded an Iowa CAT grant in the fall, which could vary between 18-25 percent of the total project. But more work must be done before the grant application. “You need to have raised at lest 50 percent of the project funds before applying for a CAT grant,” Rees said. “The CAT grant is considered a ‘last dollar grant.’”

Rees said the committee is pleased with the fundraising thus far. “It is about what we expected. We knew it would start slowly and once we got grants, the ball would start rolling.”

What if fundraising falls short for the new pool?

Rees said construction would be delayed a year but the poolhouse will be built regardless. “We could operate the current pool from the new poolhouse.”

While the pool project is gaining headlines now, it is only one of many things on the committee’s agenda.

Rees said WCDG attempts to have an activity every month with the exception of July and November. Some of the major activities are the Haunted House on Halloween; Tour of Homes; Winfield Stay Active Day (5K run/walk); a meal with homemade ice cream at the fire station; and a tailgate party the day of the Iowa-Iowa State football game.

Despite numbering just 11 members, the committee says great volunteers make its tasks so much easier. “Chris’s (Finnell) motto is that we have 1,100 people on the committee; every community resident is a committee member,” Rees said.

“People have been so receptive, we have no problem getting volunteers,” recounted Rees. “I’ve learned a lot during my years on the committee the greatest of which is how to work with volunteers.”

She said the ages of the volunteers range from middle school to grandparents. “We have a lot of high school kids take part in the events and volunteering. We award silver cord hours to the high school kids. It takes a lot of volunteers for the projects we do. There are some people who just want to work on certain things.”

Asked how the committee prevents burnout, Rees said that a number of sub-committees have been formed. “That helps people from getting burned out.”

In addition to the pool, WCDG is tackling the city-owned Veterans Building, a building which hosts many community meetings. WCDG has applied for a grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement and funds would go to new lights, walls, ceiling and windows.

Also on the group’s horizon is a new library with fundraising to begin once the pool has been finished.

“We stay busy,” Rees understated. “We don’t want to be known as a fundraising group. We want to be known as a group that betters the community.”

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