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Iowa governor holds Belle Plaine up as example of government and private sector working together


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Iowa Gov. Chet Culver holds up an aerial picture of Belle Plaine’s aquatic center. The I Jobs program helped with the funding of the project.

The temperature was in the single digits outside with snow surrounding the community center in Belle Plaine.

Summer and swimming were on the minds of those gathered at the center last Thursday morning as Gov. Chet Culver visited to promote his I Jobs program on his “Moving Forward” tour, and how it has helped in the construction of the new aquatic center in Belle Plaine.

City Administrator Bill Daily said Thursday, “Belle Plaine is a model for what is going in rural Iowa today. Just like so many other communities, we are fighting for survival, trying to move forward. Part of that fight is about quality of life issues such as an aquatic center. If we as community are to survive, we must have good recreational opportunities, a vibrant downtown, a good school district and jobs.

“Much of this is what I Jobs is all about ¬– improving the public infrastructure within your community by creating jobs, thus improving the overall economic climate. Belle Plaine has been very fortunate to be a recipient of I Jobs funding for the aquatic center through a $96,000 Vision Iowa CAT grant.”

He credited the grant with allowing Belle Plaine to move forward with the project, after it had exhausted all other fund-raising efforts.

He thanked Culver for his support for the initiative, and told him Belle Plaine is also shovel ready for downtown revitalization.

Mayor James Daily introduced Culver, crediting his work on education and balancing the budget, giving the state the highest possible bond rating. The program started by Culver, helped with the aquatic, center, and Belle Plaine hopes to get more money for downtown revitalization.

Daily stressed Culver is dedicated to moving Iowa forward.

Culver said there is a lot of competition for I Jobs grants, and the city did a great job in making its case. He said, “You have earned this support from the state.”

He held up an aerial picture of the aquatic center, and grinned, “I am very, very excited about coming back this summer or early fall to see this wonderful project. I might even bring my kids with me. I have a second and third grader, and I’ll tell you, they’re going to love that water slide.”

Culver side I Jobs is about Iowa families and quality of life, and the young people who will benefit for many years to come from the new recreation venue.

“That’s one of things that really makes Iowa special. We care about our people who live here. We want to have the best quality of life. Quality of life is not just related to good jobs. It’s related to recreational activities, having fun and getting some exercise.”

He pointed to the project as a good example of how the local citizens, city and state came together. “You hear a lot of negative things about government. There is a lot of criticism about government, and some of it is very fair. But this is an example of where it worked as the citizens expect that it will work.”

Central Lutheran one of 10 schools receiving $100,000 from  “Call All Communities” competition

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Andrea Weber and Jan Doellinger of Central Lutheran pose with Gov. Chet Culver and John Rooney, CEO of U.S. Cellular, at the presentation of $100,000 from US Cellular to the school.

NEWHALL - Governor Chet Culver joined U.S. Cellular CEO John E. Rooney and area associates struck a chord when they ambushed a concert at Central Lutheran School last Thursday, Feb. 11, by delivering a $100,000 surprise. The school was the third winner named in U.S. Cellular’s $1 million Calling All Communities campaign. Central Lutheran launched into the Top 10 early in the campaign. Community support kept the 133-student school there until the end. While news of their victory may not have been the biggest surprise, the messenger certainly was.

“I’m so glad I could be here today to congratulate Central Lutheran,” said Gov. Culver. “As a former teacher myself, I recognize the tremendous value to our communities when schools and teachers receive the support they need.”

The Governor kicked off the exciting celebration as U.S. Cellular associates paraded into the gymnasium tossing t-shirts, handing out 100 Grand candy bars and launching confetti. Students, faculty, parents and community leaders attending the concert burst into cheers as the news sank in that the school was $100,000 richer. Central Lutheran will join nine other schools in sharing $1 million. Two other winning schools, Seymour High School in Tennessee and St. Liborius School in Illinois, also were announced this week.

“Although we were in the Top 10 for several weeks, we didn’t take any chances,” said Principal Jan Doellinger, who was notified of the school’s victory but kept it a secret until the surprise announcement. “We pushed for votes all the way through the end of the campaign. Seeing the smiling faces of our students made the journey worthwhile.”

At the assembly held Thursday afternoon, Doellinger told her students, “You guys are just the tip of the iceberg. We know that there were thousands of people participating in this. Thank you! This goes to prove that with God, all things are possible. And it doesn’t matter what size you are, we can do these things.”

Central Lutheran rallied voter support by getting their alumni involved, using Facebook and rallying area churches.

Andrea Weber, secretary at CLS, added, “I think we finally answered that age-old question … size does not matter! You guys have rocked this contest. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles … we asked for something and you guys just kept coming and you brought it back over and over and over again.”

This is the second year that U.S. Cellular has awarded $1 million to 10 schools and the second time an Iowa school has earned the prize. Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll was among the 2009 champions.

“Our associates are thrilled to surprise another winner in Iowa,” said U.S. Cellular CEO John E. Rooney. “We believe a solid education is the very foundation on which futures are built. These children deserve every opportunity to succeed and we’re just proud to be a part of it.”

This year’s voter participation nearly quadrupled with 430,000 votes cast for 6,800-plus schools nationwide. More than 1,000 schools in Iowa joined the campaign.

UPDATED February 17, 2010 11:10 AM

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