At last

Hamilton County Supervisors’ approval of Wilson Brewer Park agreement clears the way for historic park’s new future

A new agreement between the City of Webster City and Hamilton County puts the two entities in partnership to help guide the future of Wilson Brewer Historic Park. The county last year committed $180,000 to rehabilitate the original Hamilton County Courthouse, pictured above. In the background behind it is a county-owned building that sits on the original land grant to the city by the descendants of Webster City's founder, Wilson Brewer. The city will get first right of refusal if the county decides to sell that property, according to the agreement approved by the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Daily Freeman-Journal file photo by Kent Bailey/OHP Marketing

The Hamilton County Board of Supervisors put years of negotiation to rest Tuesday morning by formally accepting an agreement to work with the City of Webster City to improve Wilson Brewer Historic Park.

The vote was unanimous.

“We’ve been doing this a long time,” Supervisor Jerry Kloberdanz said.

Anticlimactic though the vote may be, its impact on the park is seismic.

First, it assures that a $1 million donation offered by Dean Bowden and his family to create an endowment fund will happen.

Second, it pairs Hamilton County with Webster City in the financial support of the park at the busiest entrance into the city. They each have now committed to $50,000 a year in support of the complex at the intersection of Ohio and Superior streets for the next five years. Some of that will be cash support; some will be calculated as in-kind or maintenance value.

The county owns land adjacent to the park that was part of the original Brewer-Bonebright gift to Webster City. A portion of that land is now a parking area; another portion is the site of a modern office building that is being rented by the county to the Department of Human Services.

The agreement provides an easement for the park to use the existing parking areas and provides a first right of refusal option should the county decide to sell the office building to the city for park purposes. For example, it might become a welcome center for Webster City and Hamilton County.

The City of Webster City owns the park. It is the site of the town’s founding, gifted to the city by Harriet and Frank Bonebright, descendants of the town’s founder Wilson Brewer. The city maintains it. But over the years, the budget for that maintenance has fluctuated. And, over the years, buildings have been added to the park for which there was no adequate maintenance budget.

The park now is home to six buildings: a railroad depot, a country schoolhouse, a country church, the county’s original courthouse building, and the two cabins. It is now home to an Illinois Central caboose.

What the Brewer legacy did not provide was an endowment fund.

One of the conditions of the Bowden family gift was that a new board would be formed that would oversee the park and its endowment much in the same way the boards of trustees that run the Fuller Hall Recreation Center and Kendall Young Library. They are both legacy institutions, funded by endowments and supported to some extent by the city.

The agreement sealed by the supervisors’ Tuesday vote means that the existing volunteer advisory board, composed only of Webster City residents, will be disbanded over the next six months, giving that board time to wind down its current business, according to a City Council memo regarding the new agreement.

Its replacement will be a five-member Wilson Brewer Park Foundation board; the Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that already exists. Right now, its members are the five sitting advisory board members.

The agreement, according to the council memo, “transitions oversight and management to the Wilson Brewer Park Foundation with two members appointed by the City Council, two members appointed by the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, and one member appointed by the appointees to the board.”

The city council appointees must live within the city limits; the county appointees must live in Hamilton County, but outside the city limits of Webster City. The fifth appointee must live in Hamilton County, whether within or without the city limits of Webster City.

The City Council of Webster City and Hamilton County Board of Supervisors have 30 days from the signing of the agreement to choose their appointees.


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