The drive to determine if Belle Plaine wants a community center and, if so, what should it include begins tomorrow evening when a committee holds its initial meeting.
The committee of 25 residents plus three representatives of the Belle Plaine School Board and three city council representatives will be held April 20, 6 p.m., at the Belle Plaine Schools District Center Building on South Willow Street. The initial plan was to select a dozen residents for the committee via a blind application process. But the applications were so impressive, the decision was made to include all the applicants on the committee, said School District Superintendent Ryan Laager.
“That was really powerful. Their passion for this was really nice to see,” he said.
The citizens on the committee members are Rachael Posusta, Crystal Doyle, Jake Balk, Kyle Sammons, Andrea Kuenzel, Terry Hawes, Douglas Sloan, Michelle Garcia, Linda Schwichtenberg, Betsy Ollhoff, Shaun Yahnke, Mark Dahn, Steven Kelm, Eric Johnson, Rachel Kelm, Shadd Gutzke, Laura Wiger, Tracy Bergland, Kristy Bieder, Brian Grant, Rick Krant, Brian Kruschke, Matt Lenz, Connie Lehman and Jim Van Zummeren.
The early aspects of the committee’s work will likely include a survey of the community to determine if residents want a community center and what would it include. The survey would also include questions geared toward what the community is willing to fund, said Belle Plaine Mayor Chris Meyer.
“Then we can begin to formulate a plan,” he said.
The 31 members will likely work in groups of five or six focusing on various aspects of the community center proposal and then report back to the group as a whole, Laager said.
If the committee decides to move ahead with asking residents to fund the construction of a community center, Laager sees it built in phases with the bulk of the work built in the first phase. He is hoping to see some initial concepts presented by the end of May.
The proposal still has more questions than answers. Yet to be determined, besides if the community wants a community center and what would be in it is operational funding. Meyer noted the city and school district have an agreement on shared facility maintenance. A community center might be added to that agreement, he said. “I guess that’ll all be determined,” the mayor said.
The driving force of a community center would be to add another amenity to the community that would make Belle Plaine a more attractive destination for new families and businesses. The proposed facility, along with planned improvements to the softball facility and cricket complex would hopefully host as many as 40 or more weekend events that would generate a potential economic development opportunity potentially drawing a chain restaurant to Belle Plaine.

Softball Complex
Friday (April 21) around 2 p.m., the school district will open bids on its proposal to improve the softball complex at Oak Crest Elementary School.
The project will include the construction of a building in the confluence of the four fields. The building will house a concession stand, bathrooms and storage space on the main level. On the second level, it will have an observation area. City sewer and water lines will be run from Schoolhouse Drive to the building. Laager said the district’s budget for the project is about $150,000.
The district is bidding the project for a general contractor. Laager said they are expecting one or two bids for the project.
The district is also planning to build concrete dugouts and a batting cage on the varsity field. That project is separate from the building proposal. It will be funded through donations. Laager said the district has already received approximately $35,000 in donations toward the projects -- $30,000 from Connie and LeRoy Chard and $5,000 from the baseball and softball associations. An area block company is considering a proposal to donate the block for the dugouts, Laager said.
“That would be a significant savings,” he said.
The softball fields have already been re-cut and sprinkler heads relocated so the fields can host youth baseball games and tournament play. Construction is planned to begin after the completion of the high school softball season this spring.