High Prairie Community Council Changes

Spring is here, and as always the Daffodils and Lupine make me smile while I await the Balsamroot and Phlox. However, life today does not resemble anything we would have imagined at Oktoberfest time last fall. So many changes! I hope you all are doing well with social distancing. I know I have found that concept closer to my norm in my cabin in High Prairie than would those who live in the more densely populated areas of our state or even this county.

Closer to home, the High Prairie Community Council and its Board of Directors have also been going through changes.

People Old and New

Last year saw Audrey Bentz, Roberta Cockeram, and Ken Hansen leave the HPCC Board after donating many hours over years of valuable service. Audrey and Roberta have been long-time supporters of the HPCC and its activities, and of the Community Center. Ken, as Treasurer, recorded and balanced all the HPCC financial activity and, with Chris Sattem, formed the backbone of the 2019 Oktoberfest event.

Added to the Board in their stead were Deborah (Zifra) Weber, Suzi Tennison, and Henry Gerhard.

New meeting dates 

Previously the HPCC Board met on the 3rd Monday of every month, and the full community met on the 4th Thursday. In the future the Board will continue meeting monthly, but the High Prairie community will meet only five times a year (near to quarterly). Over the past year or more we’ve had an issue with low turnout at the monthly community meetings. Our plan is to increase our outreach to the community and to have fewer, but better, community meetings that will draw more interest and attendance.

As before, we will work to invite interesting speakers to provide information about the geology, water, nature, flora, fauna, and economy of the county as well as the activities of the county administration. In fact, it works both ways – higher attendance encourages speakers to come and provide information we can use. The meetings are also about encouraging the building of relationships with your neighbors while conversing over light food. 

Of course, improving the meetings has been and will be impossible in a time when meetings are not a good idea. So our meeting schedule is tentative until we get beyond the medical dangers. When the authorities indicate meetings are acceptable, we will notify everyone exactly where we’ll pick up with the High Prairie Community meeting schedule. Specific dates will also be posted beside the Community Center door and on the High Prairie website when we are open for meetings.

New Joint Operating Agreement with Fire District 14

In the preparations for the 2019 Oktoberfest, a number of incidents arose in which HPCC and Fire District 14 had differing understandings of who was to do what. Their old Operating Agreement (from 2009) did not clearly spell things out to either HPCC or FD14 satisfaction. In the recap of Oktoberfest it became obvious that HPCC needed to look at changes to the Community Center (including the section of property to the west of the Community Center) to make the site more effective for larger events and to perhaps attract more rental income from the facility. A number of ideas were floated such as:

a. Constructing a concrete patio off the west side of the Community Center covered with a shed roof. This could serve as a stage or an outdoor grilling and buffet area depending on the event.

b. Development of a dance floor for HPCC events or for weddings, etc. In this case a modular dance floor was constructed for Oktoberfest and is stored for the time being in a corner of the Centerville Highway fire station.

c. Erecting pole lighting in the west area most often used for event parking.

d. Improving the kitchen to make it safer and provide more capacity to attract more rental events, weddings, gatherings. It’s been suggested that this could serve as a feeding site in emergency situations. But no definite needs have been identified, let alone what improvements those needs may require.

e. Moving the large tarp-covered metal frame closer to the imagined “Community Center Stage” and dance floor, to work better for events and rentals. 

None of these ideas has gone beyond conversations and, in a couple of instances, an estimate of the cost.

Both the HPCC and FD14 could see that a new Joint Operating Agreement was needed to define how to explore the future uses and financing of the Community Center and the section of property to the west, which are owned by FD14. In seven 2 to 3-hour meetings from January into March, HPCC and FD14 crafted a new Joint Operating Agreement. This Agreement clarifies the relationship between HPCC and FD14 and provides the room and authority for HPCC to explore improvements to generate more income and ways to finance them. FD14 reviews any projects, protects its property for the future and has no financial responsibility for any HPCC investments. The agreement even spells out how the two bodies reach a common decision when they are at odds. The Joint Operating Agreement is on the HPCC website.

The Future

At the last HPCC meeting we began plans for two or three community picnics/potlucks. We also plan to create a committee to begin exploration of improvements, and we plan to reach out to the community. We need your talents and ideas. 

And it all waits on Coronavirus.

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