Dissension underscores discussion of Wilson Brewer Park plans

Harmony School is just one of the many historic buildings at Wilson Brewer Park. The City Council of Webster City heard ideas for the future of the park during a work session with the Wilson Brewer Park Board on Monday.

The work session planned for Monday night’s City Council of Webster City meeting with the Wilson Brewer Park Commission got off to a rocky start when only two of the Commission’s members attended — Doug Bailey and Gary Groves.

This prompted Councilman Logan Welch to ask whether the session could proceed, given a quorum of the Commission’s members weren’t present.

Missing from the meeting were Kim Anderson, Ketta Lubberstedt-Arjes, and Lindsay McCormick-Welch, who is Logan Welch’s wife.

Mayor John Hawkins added that every member of the Council had received an email prior to Monday’s meeting from an unnamed source advising that there were members of the Wilson Brewer Park Commission — and names were not mentioned — who had not seen or approved any proposal regarding further action on the proposed 28E agreement with Hamilton County.

Clarifying how the Council expects all its advisory boards to work, Welch said: “We value our advisory boards, expect all members to participate, and reach uniform recommendations in harmony.”

Before that exchange, Groves presented a review of improvements at Wilson Brewer Park since 2016, which include moving and substantially restoring two pioneer cabins, significant restoration of both Harmony School and Mulberry Center Church, and upgrades to the park grounds, including all new concrete walkways connecting the six historic buildings in the park.

Groves said more than $660,000 had been spent in this work, and that a balance of approximately $67,000 remained in the Wilson Brewer Park account. He added that $43,000 is left in a separate endowment account.

Earlier this year, an agreement was reached between Groves and the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors for the county to increase its participation in Wilson Brewer Park. Specifically, the county proposed to donate $180,000 toward the restoration of the first Hamilton County Courthouse, which is on the park site, donate an acre of land adjacent to Wilson Brewer Park’s present nine acres, and allow automobile access, and parking, for visitors to the park.

Additionally, Hamilton County proposed that a building owned by the county and currently leased to the State of Iowa, and additional land around it should it ever be put up for sale, would be offered preferentially to Wilson Brewer Park.

Speaking briefly, Rick Young, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, told the Council on Monday that, as a token of its good faith, the county was moving forward with the aforementioned $180,000 donation to the park, and would soon deposit the funds in an account at the Enhance Hamilton County Foundation.

He reminded everyone present that the County wished to see management of the park assumed by a new elected Board of Trustees, with half the members from Webster City and half from the county at-large.

He referred to this change as “a simple ask.”

Dean Bowden, of Webster City, whose family announced a gift of $1 million to Wilson Brewer Park earlier this year, outlined his vision for the park. In addition to being a source of pride to everyone in Hamilton County, he said the park “had great potential to bring the county and city together.”

In a reference to the need for the city and county to work out final details of their agreement, and joking that, at age 84, he wasn’t sure “how much time he had left,” he said: “I’m trying to give away a million dollars, and having trouble getting the job done.”

Conveniently, the Wilson Brewer Park Commission has a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. in council chambers this morning. Groves assured the Council that the Wilson Brewer Park Commission would reach a recommendation and forward it to Council by the end of this week.

The issue will return to the City Council agenda at its next regular meeting.


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