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EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

The City of Storm Lake signed a bad lease with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources six years ago under which the city assumes management of the state-owned Storm Lake Marina on the lake’s west side. The state has declined to help pay for new dock slips that ice and other acts of nature have damaged. Estimated cost of replacement is more than $300,000. Neither the city nor the marina operator, Buoy’s, has the wherewithal to replace the slips.

If the state does not want to be a partner in making its own marina thrive on the lake it owns — one of the top recreation and natural resource assets in Iowa — then the city could consider terminating the agreement and walk away from oversight. The agreement states that the city may terminate the agreement on 30 days notice if “through action of the legislature or the governor, the city cannot, in the sole opinion of the city, meet its obligations under this contract; (or) if there is a natural disaster or some other event that destroys or damages any portion or aspect of the property in such a way that interferes with either party, in the sole discretion of said party, fulfilling the terms of this agreement.”

The city council could determine that the governor, acting through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and its strictures, cannot meet its management obligations. It could further state in its termination letter that acts of nature have destroyed property and made the city’s position untenable — which it is.

That would be a bad resolution for everyone. But the IDNR by refusing to help is leaving local authorities with little choice.

Buoy’s can’t scrape up enough revenue to cover $300,000. The city agreed to oversight simply so the marina operator could sell beer (prohibited at a state facility). Without beer sales, for certain the marina would languish as it has for generations. Buoy’s was just getting some business going there for the first time since the 1970s. But it will wither and die without adequate infrastructure. That will be bad for IDNR and for one of its marquee natural resource attractions.

IDNR does not want the headache of managing the facility. It should be open to re-negotiating the lease so it can use its resources to help keep the marina up to standards. (We would add that Storm Lake’s lobbying, and the efforts of former Sen. Steve Kettering, were crucial in increasing the state marine fuel tax. That tax could pay for decent docks at this state marina.) Eventually, perhaps enough revenue could be generated to sustain capital improvements without state aid. We are not at that point.

The best course is for the state to approach the city with an open mind and develop a capital plan that is fair, involves contributions from all stakeholders, and assures that a vendor can make a go of it at a facility that has washed through more operators than we can recall. A real partner does not hold the city responsible for an untenable agreement signed by a former manager who was elbowed out. A new agreement should be developed that responsibly accounts for depreciation and necessary improvements. If the state does not want to entertain such an idea, perhaps it would like to resume the headache of oversight and management of a failing facility without the city’s help. The existing agreement leaves a huge door through which the city can exit with a month’s notice. Eventually, it might be the only option. It would signal the end of what was a fantastic multi-level partnership between this community and IDNR. The implications of that are deep.

Biden wakes up

We have heard plenty about how Joe Biden didn’t do well in Iowa or New Hampshire because of their lack of diversity. He ran a late and lackadaisical campaign in each state thinking that it was his turn to be the nominee. He woke up in South Carolina, where Rep. James Clyburn endorsed him and urged major changes to the Biden campaign for its lack of organization, fundraising and focus. The changes were made, and Biden roared to life across the Super Tuesday states. Few thought Biden ran an inspired campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada. South Carolina saved him and reoriented him. It’s hard to see a way that Iowa remains first in the next cycle, regardless, especially if Biden is elected President. Maybe we shouldn’t be first. It probably would be better for Iowa if we weren’t. But to say that Biden didn’t do well here because of diversity is to ignore how disjointed and asleep the campaign was here. Clyburn rousted it into a force that can defeat President Trump.

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