By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
A crowd of about 50 people showed up for the official groundbreaking of the Jones County Youth Development Center at the Great Jones County Fairgrounds in Monticello on March 30. The overnight rain didn’t stop the festivities, as dry dirt was brought indoors for the groundbreaking ceremony.
Nick Hein, Facility Committee chair, started the morning off giving a brief history of the Center. He said in the fall of 2009, a group of people sat down to discuss the idea of building such a facility to house the Iowa State Extension offices, Jones County Fair offices and be a permanent home to the 4-H kids of Jones County. Hein said little did he know, this idea actually started in 1996 but was put on the back burner for whatever reason until three years ago.
“It took a diverse group of people and a tremendous amount of time and commitment to put this thought and perspective into a plan,” said Hein. “You’re only as good as the people on your committee.”
Hein said the idea and concept was brought forward to what turned out to be key contributors towards the project and saw firsthand how the fundraising world worked.
“We had the privilege of meeting some very very special people, not only within this community, but throughout Iowa and internationally,” said Hein about those who helped finance the Youth Center. “This was a project that was well received not only within our Jones County community, but throughout the ag community and in general. It made fundraising entertaining and fun. A lot more yeses and ‘How can I help?’ that went a long way.”
Jones County ISU Extension Director Joe Yedlik has been working in Jones County for 18 years now.
“It didn’t take long to figure out that one of the key events taking place in Jones County is the Great Jones County Fair,” praised Yedlik. “They don’t put the word ‘great’ in front of that for nothing!”
Yedlik said the idea of where 4-H fits in with the GJCF is easy to understand. In asking for a show of hands from those who were 4-H members in years past and present, half of those present were proud to acknowledge their 4-H involvement at one time or another.
“You’re part of the history of Jones County 4-H right now,” he said.
Yedlik said in years past, there have been issues with the 4-H food stand and finding that facility a permanent home and location. Now with the Extension and Fair offices coming together, Yedlik said it just made sense.
“More and more Extension offices are moving to county fairgrounds throughout the State of Iowa,” he said. “We’re a proud organization and this is a good fit.”
Great Jones County Fair Manager John Harms offered information on the ownership of the new Youth Center. He said from the start those involved looked at Iowa State University Extension as possible owners, the City of Monticello and Jones County.
“They all play a role in this concept,” he said.
Harms said when it all came down to it, they realized the fair, a non-profit 501c(3) entity, needed to own the facility.
With that distinction as a non-profit, Harms explained they were able to utilize as many local contractors as possible for the construction and more.
One stipulation in owning the building was that the fair would not take on any debt.
“Fair profits would not pay for the building,” Harms said. “Rain lends a problem when you have to be profitable.”
With all of the funding in place, this groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the start of the construction process of the Youth Center.
“Weare where we need to be to start,” exclaimed Harms.
In designing the Center, Harms said they did not want a complex structure, but also did not want it to look like a machine shed. With that, Harms introduced Katie Harms with OPN Architects in Cedar Rapids, and a former Monticello resident. Katie is also a past Jones County 4-H member.
“We wanted something simple so our local contractors could be involved,” Harms said. “We pictured having all of the construction vehicles in the lot with Jones County license plates.”
With a lengthy list of entities ready to break ground, the first person to turn the first clump of dirt went to Fred Williams of Monticello. Williams bid on the first shovel full of dirt at the Winter Gala in Oxford Junction on March 10. Unfortunately, he was unable to be at the groundbreaking due to health issues, but was recognized for his efforts.
Harms then introduced a 50-year Jones County Fair Board member and former teacher from Monticello who taught for 30-plus years for the district. Harms said last summer, this gentleman turned in his keys for the fairgrounds. As Andy Anderson stood, the group gave him a round of applause. Anderson was honored to overturn the first pile of dirt.
Others recognized for their efforts and help over the past two years were:
PHOTOS: Top: Joe Yedlik, Jones County Extension director, Nick Hein, Jones County Youth Development Center facility committee chair, and John Harms, GJCF manager, pose during the groundbreaking of the Center on March 30. Bottom: The major donors of the Youth Development Center were recognized during the groundbreaking. From left, Becky Cooper, Above & Beyond; Pat Sperfslage, CPS; Nels Petersen, Citizens State Bank; Kevin Gassman, Cargill; Mark Burke, Alliance Pipeline; and Bill and Cammie Greif. (Photos by Pete Temple)