BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison marina project got a potential boost this week as another charitable grant organization committed up $1.5 million in matching funds.
The Fort Madison Southeast Iowa Regional Riverboat Commission’s nine-member board voted to infuse $1.5 million over the next five years, if the project can secure an additional $3 million from investors.
SIRRC Board president Steve Link said the commission had a in-depth discussion about the project and decided to support the effort if the other working parts come together.
“Our contingencies are that the city due exactly what they told SIRRC and the public they intend to do, which included the $1.5 million from the city and another $3 million from other investors,” Link said.
“If they deviate from that, the city would have to come back to SIRRC before we allocate any funds.”
Link said SIRRC is engaged in funding other projects in the community and spreading the commitment to the marina over five years helps the commission stay engaged with those other requests.
SIRRC has been receiving riverboat gambling revenue since the early 2000s, which is now a revenue share with Catfish Bend Casino, as part of the Great River Entertainment complex in Burlington.
The commission has been integral in helping fund projects such as the Baxter Sports Complex, the Fort Madison Public Library, the Tri-State Rodeo VIP sections, Fort Madison Food Pantry, Fort Madison Area Arts Association, and Sheaffer Golf Course to name a few.
The group was also involved in the economic development package for Siemens when that company moved into the former Fruehauf facility.
Link said the commission looks at the value of the project and its ability to use SIRRC funds to leverage other investment from within and outside the community as criteria for grant funding.
“We don’t just look at the rosy side of things. We also look hard at what can fall apart,” Link said. “This is not our money and we don’t want to make a mistake.”
He said the city’s commitment, coupled with the increased commitment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in mitigating past and future flood damage to the marina area, a potential for additional federal monies from Congressional grants, and other potential funding streams, made the marina project intriguing to the SIRRC board.
“If the city can hit those contingencies and we help fund the marina project as intended, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
The commitment is just the second in almost two decades that has surpassed the $1 million mark. The commission put close to $1.5 million into the construction of the Baxter Sports Complex.
“We’re always interested in economic development and quality of life and how SIRRC money can be used as seed money to draw in other investment in Fort Madison,” Link said.
“A big component of what we do is how we can leverage other moneys and that’s key to where SIRRC comes from.”
He said SIRRC got involved in helping fund new cart paths at Sheaffer Golf Course because of the fundraising events it hosts with organizations like Fort Madison Community Hospital, the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of the Great River Region, Fort Madison Football and the Holy Trinity Athletic Board.
“These are very good investments because they help generate investments in these other groups and that’s what we want to be a part of.”
The SIRRC board is made up of three members of the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce, three members of the Fort Madison Economic Development Corp and three members from the city of Fort Madison.
Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld told the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting about the commitment from SIRRC to applause from the council members in attendance.
Mohfeld said the SIRRC board was impressed with the city’s commitment, but the money would be contingent upon securing other matching funds.