Work is continuing on the Elma Community Complex

Here is an update on what the committee has been doing the past few months. During the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application process this past spring, we found out that the school property was now included in the flood zone after a recent flood map update. This came as a surprise to the City and the committee. It meant that we were no longer eligible for a CDBG grant. It also meant that there were a new set of requirements to follow if we were going to build in a flood zone. The City has an ordinance on building or renovating in a flood zone. So we began exploring our options.

First, could we afford the project without the $600,000 CDBG grant money? The total project cost estimate was $1.5 million from the architect. We knew we could save some money if we didn’t have to follow federal guidelines without the CDBG money. So we got estimates from some local contractors and we came up with $1.2 million for a total project cost. Both the City Council and the ECC Committee felt comfortable proceeding with the project.

Secondly, how do we deal with the flood zone issue? We hired a surveyor to see if we could get a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) which would remove the property from the flood zone. No luck there. The survey showed that we would have to raise the elevation 3-4 feet to get out of the flood zone. We researched other options talking with the DNR and engineers.

The frustrating thing about this whole process is that the school property has never flooded to anyone’s knowledge. The last 25 plus years have seen a lot of flooding in Iowa. The City of Elma experienced its worst flooding in 1993. The school property did not flood that year or any year since. The City did a $375,000 flood mitigation project in 2000-01 that diverted significant water flow from the ditches north of the park to underground culverts installed south of the park. The City also paid for terracing and tiling on the farmland on the southeast edge of town to divert water to the south instead of coming into town. The project appears to have been successful.

So where do we go from here? Currently, the committee is continuing to research options and we are committed to our original goals of bringing a medical clinic to the community, providing additional space for the library, expanding the day-care and providing space for the City Clerk office. The committee still feels there is value in having these non-profit services in close proximity that will have short and long term impacts on the community and the services that can be provided.

The next steps include looking at the alternatives to determine construction and flood mitigation tactics to meet the requirements and talking with the Iowa DNR, architects and engineers. It is our hope we can find a solution and begin construction and renovation in the spring.

We are continuing fund-raising efforts through private donations, grants and community events. A “Roaring 20’s New Year’s Eve Party” is scheduled for December 31, 2019 at the Elma Memorial Hall. Save the date and start planning your 1920’s outfit because it is going to be fun night that will include hors d’oeuvres, champagne and more!

Posted: November 1, 2019 in Community Complex