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What were the key takeaways from the Clark Town Forum?

 

The initial Clark Town Forum took place last week on the 13th at City Hall. Choose Clark County Board members and the executive director were joined by 40 community members, including representatives from various groups such as the City Council, Fire Department, Business Owners, Housing Committee, Chamber of Commerce, and County Commissioners. The topics covered during the meeting were Housing, Businesses, City Recreation opportunities, Childcare, and Healthcare. All of the topics were discussed in depth, with a significant amount of information and input from the attendees.


The discussion on Recreation started with the state of the aging pool. One attendee suggested adding a splash pad to the north of the current pool, as it requires no supervision and would be great for children of all ages. It was noted that the kiddie pool at the current pool was initially intended to be a splash pad, but concerns were raised about entry risks due to the incline and slick bottom.


Our mayor, Kerry Kline, raised concerns about the high costs associated with maintaining the 65-year-old pool, which currently requires an estimated $250,000 per year. The pool is considered an amenity rather than a primary source of income for the city. It is estimated that over $5 million will be needed to completely renovate the pool into a likely smaller version. 

When city officials were pressed for more detailed planning, Kline responded, "Something will get done" regarding the pool. Attendees agreed that the pool should be replaced instead of continually addressing its ongoing issues due to its age. A group has been formed to start planning and looking into the pool project.



The need for new additional softball and baseball fields was discussed, but it was noted that there are more pressing needs in the community at this time, despite the potential scheduling flexibility and benefits for the teams.


Another significant topic was the need for walking paths in the community. Concerns were raised about people walking and biking on roads instead of using available sidewalks. It was suggested that a walking path be created along the golf course. Questions were raised about the zoning and ordinances related to sidewalks, as many sidewalks have been removed or not installed. The ideal location of the path, whether in town or on the outskirts, was also discussed. The Lions Club mentioned a previous study that estimated a million-dollar cost for the project, not including maintenance.


The meeting also addressed concerns about the local clinic's ability to provide healthcare. It was noted that the clinic does not have sufficient staff to operate when LouAnn is unavailable. This relates to the lease agreement with Sanford, which provides staff when needed. Efforts are being made to gather contact information to communicate the community's concerns about the clinic's needs to Sanford's management. 


The discussion covered daycare, HeadStart, and 3-year-old preschool. Many parents take their children to neighboring communities for preschool due to the growing class numbers at the Clark School. The limited space at the school means that children can only be enrolled in preschool for one year, posing a challenge for parents with children with late birth dates or who are not quite ready for school after one year of preschool. Daycare providers and parents in the community are also facing struggles, such as finding good staff members and available space for children, with waitlists growing monthly. There is a statewide push to find unique solutions to these issues, and hopefully, useful information will be available to create a better plan in the future once funding is distributed and tested in other communities.


The discussion then shifted to service businesses, starting with the need for more restaurants in the community, particularly on Sundays. The conversation quickly turned to the need for a hotel in town. Baron Yexley is working to build a 10-room hotel across from the Dollar Store, which will be run on AirBnB and could bring much-needed visitors to the community. The main hurdle mentioned was the city's support for commercial businesses in terms of taxation. There was a lot of excitement about this, as it is one of the most discussed needs for the City of Clark.



This led to a discussion of the possibilities that could arise with an event center. The 4-H building was mentioned, but concerns were raised about investing in a flood-prone area. The potential income from hosting events, particularly weddings, was also highlighted, but there were discussions about who would run and own the property.


Choose Clark County asked the group about the types of businesses they would like to see in Clark, with limited suggestions including a laundromat, and the conversation returned to the need for a hotel and recommendations for extended weekend food hours. The conversation then focused on the extreme need for housing, with comments emphasizing the lack of housing, job opportunities, and space to start a business. Questions have been raised about the progress of plans to build housing by Clark County and other entities. While there is a pressing need for more housing, the ability to construct apartments, duplexes, or single-family homes of sufficient quality to last is pushing the costs beyond what is reasonable for renters and buyers. Relying heavily on grants is also not a solid plan, especially when the grants are so competitive.


Our school was unable to attend the meeting due to a school board meeting scheduled for the same night. I would like to share some significant accomplishments that we should all be aware of, as the school is heavily investing in the education of our students.

Clark School acquired Tony's Collision's building and will now be hosting career and technical center classes, including auto, machine tooling, and shop classes. Another building will be dedicated to building trades and agricultural structures classes. The acquisition of the building and staff will expand the offerings available to our students. The school has also expanded its offerings to include wildlife and fisheries, as well as horticulture, providing hands-on trade experience for students in areas of high demand in our county.

The school is putting in a lot of effort to prepare our kids not only for college but also for careers after high school.


It was emphasized throughout the meeting that we need to collaborate with our city council to plan for our future. This includes considering future projects, planning the layout of our community for growth, and preparing for the future residents and businesses we hope to attract. Although we cherish the small-town atmosphere, we also aim to become a desirable destination for visitors and residents due to the incredible opportunities available within our city limits.



As the director of Choose Clark, my next steps are clear. We need to promote our wants and needs to our leaders. The focus will be on bringing housing opportunities to the community by working with the city to improve planning and zoning, in addition to learning about appropriate economic incentives for new businesses and building opportunities. Choose Clark will be focusing our grant search efforts on assistance for the pool project once plans are created, as well as researching the best ways to solve our challenges with daycare. Further into the future, we will be keeping our eyes open for opportunities for a community event center, but it will not be our chief focus at this time. We have some exciting new initiatives beginning in our schools and community. By developing a comprehensive plan for our community and the efforts of Choose Clark County, we will be able to sustain the growth and prosperity of our wonderful community.



 

For concerns about medical availability in our community, please address letters to the following individual: Dale Gillogly, VP, Sanford Health Network, 1305 W 18th Street, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57105.

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