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Committee meets with county board about old hospital site

By GREG SCELLIN
Signal Editor

More than a dozen members of the Geneva Community Center Committee and concerned citizens met with the Fillmore County Board last week during the supervisors regularly-scheduled meeting.  The group's appearance on February 12 was intended to start negotiations with the county to potentially acquire a section of the property that the old Fillmore County Hospital stood on in the middle of Geneva.  Committee members noted that a survey, which the committee is using for many of its decisions, indicated a vast majority of responders suggesting the former hospital site as the best location for a new multi-generational, multi-faceted complex in Geneva.
"We want to begin the conversation about the land and other long-term discussions," said Geneva Mayor and committee member Eric Kamler.  "That's why we are hereā€”to start the process."
Kamler and fellow committee member and Geneva City Council President Josh Turner also noted that some potential donors are hesitating pledging money for the project when they learn the city hasn't acquired the building site yet. Fillmore County Board Chairman Jeff Neiman commented that the county has over $100,000 tied up in demolition and other costs with the old hospital property.
"I have to answer to the people of Fairmont on this," Neiman said.
Supervisor Larry Cerny expressed concern having the city structure connect to the county-owned Wellness Center.  He indicated he would not be in favor of this connection as shown on an architect-generated rendering of the building.
"It could be there or it could not be there," Turner said.  "Don't get hooked up on that.  This is all just information right now...nothing is set in stone."
A potential trade/share situation involving the current Geneva Fire Barn was also mentioned.  The county also has a free-standing brick storage building on the site.
Geneva City Administrator Kyle Svec said the proposed architectural drawings of the building would fit in the open area at the former hospital.
Geneva Senior Center director Victoria Verhage said she sees the new multi-generational center as a great addition not only to Geneva, but Fillmore County as well.
"This will not just be a building for Geneva," she said.
Svec agreed.
"You will see kids from every community in the county using it," said Svec, because the building will be used to house GAED activities, too.  "With this facility, we can offer a much broader scope of things than we currently offer."
Svec also noted that GAED and senior center staff would be housed during regular business hours in the new building.
Committee member Nancy Meyer urged the supervisors to look at the new building as something for all county residents to enjoy.
"Look at this as an investment into Fillmore County," she said.  "Something to improve the quality of life here in Fillmore County."
Neiman appointed a committee of Supervisors Wade Sluka, Ralph Graham and Merle Noel to meet with Kamler and two Geneva City Council members to work on the possible land acquisition and report back to the county board.
"I want to say you've done a great job here," said Graham of the committee.  "You've put a lot of work in...I think it's a great thing."
The committee, which includes Turner, Kelly Stroh-Heath, Svec, Michele Rayburn, Bob Higel, Verhage, Joe Miller, Joni Karcher, Kamler, Jane Cronk, Meyer, Mary Stoner, Rod Renken and Koby Head noted they are gearing up for a full launch for the facility this spring.  They also said they know they need to take fund-raising for the project to the next level.