Grow Greene County courts the IRGC

IRGC pre-hearing 2Jefferson was spiffed up and looking its best Thursday when the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission came to town. Members of Grow Greene County decorated store windows, tied green ribbons on almost everything vertical, and even chalked the walk to the Mahanay Bell Tower.

Offenburger 2After Commission members took a WITS bus tour around town, they arrived at the Greene County Community Center to the music of Rex Durlam on harmonica and Rick Morain on piano. About 125 casino supporters there welcomed them. Chuck Offenburger spoke for about 20 minutes. “We’re right on the cusp of a major rebuilding effort,” Offenburger told the commissioners. “We’re restructuring our towns, we’re restructuring our counties, we’re getting ready for the new era, and it’s all good.”

He talked about the impact on Jefferson of the “new” Highway 30’s track north of Jefferson rather than through it. “We lost gas stations, hotels, restaurants, banks, schools. In rural Iowa, what I’m telling you is we know cannibalization. We’ve lived it,” he said.

“In these last 10 years we’ve really hit bottom. Our county population went below 10,000 for the first time in 120 years, and I think it scared us. It made us rethink. We’re determined. It’s time to make a stand against cannibalization right here. We’ve opted to grow Greene County, and we think we’re going to win. But we need your help,” Offenburger told the Commission.

Guy Richardson (right) points the way to the Sierra Community Theatre to IRGC member Dolores Mertz. Behind them are commissioners Kris Kramer and Carl Heinrich.
Guy Richardson (right) points the way to the Sierra Community Theatre to IRGC member Dolores Mertz. Behind them are commissioners Kris Kramer and Carl Heinrich.

The Commission members were next taken to the top of the Mahanay Bell Tower to see the bird’s eye view of the county and the site of the proposed casino. By the time the commissioners arrived on the courthouse square, 500 Grow Greene County T-shirts had been distributed and casino supporters were enjoying conversation and a free lunch. Wild Rose Entertainment president Tom Timmons estimated 750 supporters were on the square. Unofficially, the Cattlemen and the Pork Producers grilled 800 burgers. The Jefferson Kiwanis Club helped with serving.

The commissioners opted to walk from the Bell Tower to their private luncheon at the Sierra Community Theatre. On the way, some stopped to chat with area residents. After lunch catered by Angie’s Tea Garden, they settled in for a long afternoon listening to comments from the public. See the News tab for the complete story and a list of all those who spoke.

IRGC pre-hearing 4The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission meets at Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington June 12. Members will make their decision regarding the future of a Greene County casino at that meeting.

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