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Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Sioux City West soccer players from left, Jose Ortega, Byron Cota, Rafael Serrano and Esake Hasen believe a summer of hard work will lead to good results on the field.

Community Action Agency reaches $1.5M settlement with former Argosy owner


SIOUX CITY -- Dozens of local nonprofit agencies will receive an unexpected revenue boost as a result of a $1.5 million legal settlement between a Sioux City nonprofit agency and the owners of the former Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino.

The Community Action Agency of Siouxland and the Belle of Sioux City, which operated the Argosy, and Penn National Gaming Inc., the Belle's parent company, last week settled a suit in which the nonprofit had sought unpaid revenue-sharing funds.

Community Action Agency executive director Jean Logan said letters would be sent this week to 54 nonprofit agencies to sign a release agreement to claim a $10,000 share of the settlement. Counting Community Action Agency, which will receive a somewhat larger share as the lead plaintiff, the total returned to local charities will be at least $550,000.

Other settlement money will be held back to pay attorney fees and expenses and in case there are any other legal claims that arise, Logan said.

"I'm so happy we were able to reach an agreement. We won't have a protracted legal battle. I think it's really going to be a great boost for our community agencies," Logan said.

Community Action Agency sued in U.S. District Court in Sioux City in November 2016 for $1.93 million in monthly revenue-sharing payments that Belle and Penn withheld from Missouri River Historical Development Inc. The nonprofit agency sought the money on behalf of itself and the other nonprofit groups that in the past received grants from MRHD, the state-licensed nonprofit gaming group that collected and distributed a portion of Argosy gambling profits to charitable and civic organizations.

The amount being sought was later reduced to $1.79 million before the final settlement amount was agreed upon.

"I feel this money was owed to our community, and I'm proud to have played a role in recovering that money. I think it's going to make a big difference for some of (the nonprofit agencies)," Logan said.

Jeff Morris, vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Penn National Gaming, said the company was pleased to have the matter settled and put behind it.

The settlement shares will not have any restrictions, meaning each agency will be able to spend the money how it chooses, Logan said. The money could be used as matching funding in grant applications, capital projects, salaries or paying for expanded hours or services.

"It's not very often that money comes to us as nonprofits without a lot of strings attached," Logan said. "I'm guessing it'll be used 55 different ways."

Logan said the Community Action Agency's board of directors has yet to decide how to use its share.

Belle stopped making the revenue-sharing payments -- 3 percent of the boat's adjusted gross revenues -- to MRHD in May 2013, seven months after it had sued MRHD for breach of contract.

The monthly payments ceased two months after the IRGC awarded Woodbury County's first land-based gaming license to MRHD and developers of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which opened in downtown Sioux City on Aug. 1, 2014, two days after state regulators ordered the Argosy to close because its state gaming license had expired.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial in June. Community Action Agency attorney Terry Giebelstein, of Davenport, Iowa, said the settlement removed the uncertainty of what could happen if the case were to go to trial.

"We're pleased this matter could be settled without going to trial," Giebelstein said.

The breach of contract lawsuit involving MRHD is pending in Polk County District Court. MRHD has countersued in the case, which is scheduled to go to trial in September in Des Moines.

The story behind a historic designation
Fond memories led to Emerson park's inclusion on National Register

EMERSON, Neb. -- Childhood memories hold a special place in the hearts and minds of many of us.

Though he didn't grow up in Emerson, Joseph Dale cherished the family visits to his maternal grandparents here, forming a special bond with the town.

Dale grew up in Omaha, and his family moved to San Francisco when he was 11. He's since settled in Huntington Beach, California, but memories of Emerson remain with him.

"My heart's always been back in Nebraska," said Dale, a public works construction manager for the city of Huntington Beach.

That love of Emerson and his memories of time spent in the Emerson City Park led Dale and his sister to get the park, unique for the grand fountain in its center, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A couple weeks ago, the park officially received the designation from the National Park Service and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

"It's really an emotional experience for us. We wanted to do something special for the people of Emerson," Dale said.

The city bought the full square block along Main Street in 1901 for $1,000 and established it as a park. In 1928, lodges and civic groups in town built arched gateways at each corner of the park. Sidewalks crossed the park diagonally, and in the center, a tiered brick and stone fountain, which features buffalo heads with spouts for mouths that pour water into the bowls beneath, was erected in 1929 by the Masonic lodge.

"We'd climb the fountain and splash around in it," Dale said, remembering his visits to grandparents Don and Dora McCorkindale.

Over the years, various restoration work has been performed, but the arches and fountain maintain much of their original character.

The fountain has become a beloved landmark in Emerson, known for being located within three counties. Village utilities superintendent Dick McCabe said that aside from being the site of numerous family gatherings to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions, the park is a common setting for senior pictures and wedding photos.

The park's unique features certainly make it stand out, said Dave Calease, National Register coordinator at the Nebraska State Historical Society, whose office helped Dale write and submit the park's nomination for the National Register.

"Parks, sometimes they're not distinguishable from town to town, but this one really is," Calease said. "There's some really neat features there."

Emerson celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2013, and Dale had gotten a copy of the book commemorating the occasion and a photo album full of old photos of the town. He felt Emerson tugging at his heartstrings.

"I just thought it would be so cool to preserve something there," Dale said.

He and his sister visited Emerson for an uncle's high school class reunion two years ago, collected information about the park with the help of McCabe and took it to Calease's office in Lincoln.

McCabe brushes away any credit for getting the park listed on the National Register.

"Joe did it all. He was very interested in it," McCabe said.

State Historical Society workers gathered more details about the park, visited it to take photos in October and submitted the nomination to the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Review Board, which approved it and forwarded it to the National Park Service for a final decision. When the Park Service gave its final approval last month, Emerson City Park joined a list that includes hundreds of historic buildings, bridges, sites and commercial and residential neighborhoods and districts.

Thrilled with the park's listing on the National Register, Dale has ordered a plaque that will be placed at the park during a dedication ceremony for the same June weekend as high school class reunions. Dale chose the weekend so as many people as possible could be present.

"It's very emotional and personal for the memories I have," he said.

He knows that he's not alone, that many past and current Emerson residents likely have happy memories of times spent in the park, too.


Sioux City Council gives thumbs-up to riverfront schematic design

SIOUX CITY | Praising the plan's flexibility and stressing the need to do it right, the Sioux City Council on Monday unanimously approved the proposed schematic design for the riverfront development at Chris Larsen Park.

The council's approval now allows the project to move into further design phases and for organizers to begin a private fundraising campaign.

The schematic design approved Monday includes a variety of open green spaces, shelters, overlooks and other interactive features for the 12-acre site where the Argosy Casino used to sit along the Missouri River. 

Councilwoman Rhonda Capron said that though it will be a large investment, she supports the plan and what it will bring to the city. 


"The riverfront is going to be the jewel of Sioux City," she said. "We have one shot at it to make it right."

SmithGroup JJR, the firm hired to create a schematic design for the project, presented a layout and renderings to the council during last week's meeting. The council then decided to take a week to review the item-by-item costs of the proposed $8 million in park amenities for the project.

Councilman Dan Moore on Monday said he liked the plan's adaptability. 


"It's bold but has a lot of flexibility," he said. "You can add, you can take away from it."

The project's full price tag would be up to $14.5 million once base construction costs are factored in. Sioux City has tentatively included $8 million in city funds for the project in its capital improvements program plan over the next three years. 

Proposed amenities include a $2.7 million estimated cost for a potential Ferris wheel or alternate "icon" element that would serve as a main draw and attention-grabber to traffic passing by on Interstate 29.


Titled "Iconic Iowa," this concept for an "icon" along the Sioux City riverfront that could potentially replace a proposed Ferris wheel includes four half-arch fountain structures that would be visible from the interstate and symbolize the meeting of land and water. 


Inclusion of the amenities will depend on private fundraising. Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore told the council the city is already eyeing several state grants. 


Taylor Goodvin, executive director of the Taxpayers Research Council, a local watchdog group, recommended the city look into the U.S. Department of Transportation's TIGER grant program, which recently awarded Burlington, Iowa, $17 million for work along its riverfront. 

Ian Richardson / Provided 


Mayor Bob Scott said he likes seeing momentum behind the project, which he has favored for years, but warned that the city needs to ensure community buy-in for the project to ensure it doesn't fall through. 

"We need to let the people know what we're doing here, and we need to make sure that we tell them that we're not locked into any one thing 100 percent, that this is the conceptual design, and get some feedback," he said. 


An overview of the various elements proposed in the schematic design for the Chris Larsen Park Riverfront Development. The project could begin as early as 2020, pending Interstate 29 construction and fundraising. 

YMCA demolition

In other action, the council voted 5-0 on an agreement with the owner of the former YMCA building at 722 Nebraska St. that would remove the order for the building's demolition if the owner corrects the deficiencies at the red-tagged structure within a year's time.

The council had voted on a 90-day stay of demolition last week. The owner, who plans to develop the building into offices, needed the demolition order removed fully in order to secure financing for the project. 

Civil penalty

The council also voted 5-0 to dole out a $300 civil penalty to PG Mini Mart, 800 Hamilton Blvd., for violation of Iowa's cigarette law against selling to minors. 

Cost of new sewer line under I-29 to spike an estimated $1.9M as crew hits snag

SIOUX CITY | A project to install a new sanitary sewer underneath Interstate 29 is expected to nearly quadruple in cost to the city after contractors ran into problems boring through debris underneath the roadway.  

The added cost may impact residential sewer rates in the future as the city absorbs approximately $1.9 million in additional costs. 

Iowa Trenchless, a subcontractor hired as part of the Iowa Department of Transportation's Interstate 29 reconstruction project, has been working on boring 525 feet of new casing pipe and sanitary sewer underneath the interstate just east of Wesley Parkway and just west of Perry Creek. 

While boring, city public works director Dave Carney said crews began hitting an unexpected amount of large debris in the ground, which slowed progress and required a worker to physically remove the obstructions from the pipe. Such debris was unexpected based on the information given in the project plans. 

KKaufman / Provided 


"What they're hitting is large chunks of concrete, brick, building material debris," Carney said Monday. "Every time they'd hit debris they'd have to have a man crawl up the 30-inch tube with air hose so he can have fresh air in there, remove the debris and then be pulled back out."

As a result, the subcontractor and the Iowa DOT recommended using a tunnel boring machine and increasing the size of the casing pipe. The new method is expected to be much safer and more efficient.

However, the project's cost is expected to rise from $702,000 to approximately $2.6 million -- a nearly 370 percent increase -- as a result, according to city documents. Under the contract, Sioux City is responsible for reimbursing the Iowa DOT for the costs.

As the workers wait on direction to proceed, Carney said, the subcontractor is receiving $2,000 per weekday. 

The Sioux City Council discussed the costly project amendment during Monday's City Council meeting en route to voting 4-1 to announce their intent to allow for the additional work. With the council's approval, the workers can now begin ordering the new materials needed. 


Mayor Bob Scott, who cast the lone no vote, lamented that the city had to abandon a relatively young sewer line in the area and construct a new one. Iowa DOT workers on site said it is a regulation that the sewer line be encased as part of the project, and the existing one is not. 

Councilman Dan Moore said he didn't favor the potential cost to residents but said the council didn't seem to have much of a choice. 

"It's the kind of vote that you have before you that you want to vote no because of the situation, because of the high cost to taxpayers," Moore said. "But if you vote no, then where are we?"

Ian Richardson / Provided 


According to city budget documents, the city was previously expected to pay $33.3 million for sewer infrastructure relocation related to the reconstruction of Interstate 29. Those funds will be repaid to the DOT using a low-interest state loan program over the next 20 years. 

City finance director Donna Forker said the city will have to work with the state on its loan and then run a rate projection to see how the higher cost will affect future sewer rate increases. 

Before the project was amended, city budget documents projected additional 5 percent sewer rate increases would be needed in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, as well as a 9.5 percent increase in fiscal year 2023. 

Sioux City is entering the 10th year of the $400 million project to widen I-29 to three lanes in each direction from Sergeant Bluff, through Sioux City, to the South Dakota border. 

Major construction of I-29 could be done sometime next year, with work to raise Hamilton Boulevard in the area beneath I-29 concluding in 2020.