Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Laurens Wins What Gamblers Lost

More than $15,000 in casino winnings were transferred to Laurens today when the Pocahontas County Foundation awarded its 2011 grants. The money went to four projects. An additional $65,000 went to other projects around the county.

The proposed Memory Lane park on South Third Street was granted $10,000. It was the second largest grant given this year, topped only by the $15,000 award to the Palmer fire station.

The Laurens Library will receive $4,000 to replace computers for patron use. The City of Laurens gets $2,000 for its work of digitizing the cemetery records.

Kids Korner Day Care will buy a Wii and two laptop computers with the $1650 it received today. Director Michelle Sandvig predicted the audience would be able to hear squeals of delight from the children when the computers arrive.

The Havelock fire department won $6,000 for new protective gear for firefighters. The Pocahontas Hospital's new wound center received $6,000. Libraries in Rolfe and Plover also received grants for computers. Among other recipients were Pocahontas Congregate Meals, the cities of Fonda, Pocahontas and Rolfe, Pocahontas Chamber of Commerce, the Pocahontas Community Band, and the Fonda Arts Center.

The Foundation grants were preceded by a speech from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey at the Rialto Theater in Pocahontas. The Foundation is a creation of the Pocahontas County Economic Development Commission. It has operated since 2006.

Prettiest Train in Havelock

Two long rows of brand new identical hopper cars sit on the Union Pacific Railroad siding at Havelock. When the Union Pacific took control of the old Chicago and Northwestern rail line in the mid-1990's a similarly good-looking set of hopper cars came down these same tracks for the maiden voyage by the new owners. Nothing that attractive had been seen since. Until now.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Prosperous New Year: Local Governments Have Little Debt

Laurens may be surrounded by a debt crisis--from Wall Street to California, from Athens to Washington, D.C.--but local governments are in excellent shape.

Pocahontas County carries no debt whatsoever.

The city of Laurens owes $2.6 million, about $2200 per resident. All the cities of Iowa average about $1500 in debt per resident of Iowa. (Unfortunately this figure assumes all Iowans live in a municipality.) Emmetsburg and Pocahontas each carry about $1800 per resident.

The Laurens-Marathon school district is paying off a debt of $2500 per student. Sioux Central's debt is similar. Pocahontas Area Community School owes nearly eight times as much per student as Laurens, due to the new construction nearing completion. Their enrollment will also increase if they combine with Palmer-Pomeroy in the near future. A vote will be held this winter.

Iowa Central Community College also appears on our property tax bills. ICCC owes $37 million. Its debt ranks exactly in the middle of Iowa's thirteen community college districts.

So that leaves personal credit card debt and mortgage or car payment debts. How is your new year looking?

The figures in this story are derived from data at the office of the State Treasurer.