Letter to the Editor

'Iowa Lakes?' Community College

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

I am a 1969 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College (ILCC). That year, John Denver and the Mitchell Trio performed in concert on the ILCC campus. The commencement speaker was the then Iowa Governor Harold Hughes.

Since my graduation from ILCC, I have watched the college grow and increase the number of campuses to five; one each in the principal counties served. During that 50-year period, the school has added a number of career and technical programs.

Over the past few years, I began to question the logic behind the campus placement of some of the new programs. Here I offer some statistics regarding the five principle counties served and a summary of some of the programs that were assigned to campuses that seem to miss the mark completely in terms of serving potential students and entities that could benefit from these programs.

Statistics for perspective:

Population: (July 1, 2018 US Census bureau estimates)

Dickinson County17,153
Clay County16,134
Kossuth County14,908
Emmet County9,253
Palo Alto County8,929

Property Taxes levied by ILCC, per each county auditor's office, for fiscal year 2018:

Dickinson County$2,982,02444.2%
Kossuth County$1,236,33318.3%
Clay County$1,194,12117.8%
Palo Alto County$691,05610.2%
Emmet County$639,1959.5%
Total$6,742,729100%

Campus capital improvements funded by a recent general obligation bond sale and college facility funds:

Estherville campus (Emmet)$6,852,14737.5%
Emmetsburg campus (Palo Alto)$6,215,02134%
Spencer campus (Clay)$2,599,94414.2%
Algona campus (Kossuth)$1,836,40010%
Spirit Lake campus (Dickinson)$772,0054.3%
Total$18,275,517100%

(Amounts per Feb. 2, 2016, proposed bond referendum brochure distributed to the public)

Career and technical programs assigned to a specific campus:

Emmetsburg (Palo Alto)19
Estherville (Emmet)17
Spencer (Clay)4
Algona (Kossuth)0
Spirit Lake (Dickinson)0

The county with the largest population base and the county that is asked to contribute the largest amount in property tax revenue to ILCC receives little in the way of programs or services in return. The following ILCC programs have been placed on other campuses that seem most logically suited for the Spirit Lake, Dickinson County campus:

HOTEL AND RESTAURANT MANAGEMENT, EMMETSBURG CAMPUS

Dickinson County is home to one of Iowa's largest tourist destinations. According to the Okoboji Tourism office, over 1,400 lodging rooms, 200 vacation rentals and nearly 50 restaurants operate in the Iowa Great Lakes.

MARINE SERVICE TECHNOLOGY, EMMETSBURG CAMPUS

POWERSPORTS AND POWER EQUIPMENT TECHNOLOGY, EMMETSBURG

Dickinson County has at least seven marinas and three powersports/motorcycle dealerships, plus the Polaris Industries Indian Motorcycle assembly facility.

CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY, EMMETSBURG CAMPUS

HEATING, VENTILATION AND AIR CONDITIONING TECHNOLOGY, ESTHERVILLE

ELECTRICAL TECHNOLOGY, ESTHERVILLE CAMPUS

Building permits issued in 2017 per U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts Building permits vary in number from year to year but the proportion of permits issued by each county has remained fairly constant over several years.

Dickinson County239
Emmet County10
Palo Alto County6

The question must be asked: Why have programs been established away from the campus that clearly could be serving the unique needs of Dickinson County?

Looking to the future, ILCC plans to establish a cosmetology program on the Emmetsburg campus. This program will be in competition with a long established private cosmetology school in Spirit Lake. This not only duplicates an already existing program in the ILCC service area but could potentially be detrimental to the existing school of cosmetology.

The final irony is that Iowa Lakes Community College has taken a name that suggests an association with the Iowa Great Lakes but, in reality, hardly has a presence. It may be time for the residents of Dickinson County to consider if they are receiving a fair return and due consideration in light of the support they provide to Iowa Lakes Community College.

The information in this letter was presented to and discussed with representatives of the ILCC administration at a meeting on May 29, 2019.

Steve Franker

Resident of Dickinson County