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Pass the hat for the community center

About nine months ago, I wrote that it probably wouldn't be long before the outpouring of financial and volunteer support for Wadena after the June 17, 2010 tornado would come to an end.

I think that time has come.

While we all need to be appreciative of the helping hand we were so generously given to clean up after the tornado, there are many, many unmet needs, and we're likely on our own now.

The Wadena-Otter Tail Long Term Recovery Committee has been working diligently to help homeowners with unmeet needs get more assistance, but they're far short of fundraising goals. A delegation from Wadena has twice made their case to the Minnesota Legislature for help in building a community center, but those hopes have not been realized. Any hope of multi-use facilities co-located with the new school is likely over.

And we have come to the point where relying on help from the Minnesota Legislature is probably misguided. Local legislators either cannot, or don't want to, help.

We shouldn't be surprised or frustrated or outraged that Wadena won't get much help now. It's a sad reality: people move on. They forget.

This past year, we saw a bonding bill around $50 million get constructed for debate, and we heard we were right on the outside looking in on that measure. Then it was cut to $28 million, and we were on the cusp but not in the bill. Then it ballooned to $500 million, and we were still not included. There's no reason to believe if it were $1 billion, or $2 billion, that we would have gotten funded. I hope I'm wrong about that, but I don't think I am.

Either way, it's time to start a local fundraising effort to build the facility we want. Can we raise $3 million locally? How about $5 million? Can we build a nice, useful facility on our own with local donations in addition to insurance money? Certainly it would be nothing lavish, but we could have something that we could afford and meets our needs.

Even if the Legislature does a 180-degree turn and funds the Wadena project in its 2012 session, they're more likely to give bonding a serious look if we already have money in the bank.

So can we get some in the bank before the gavel falls on the 2012 session?

It seems like whether we ever get funding or not, this is a needed step.

The Pioneer Journal editorial represents the collective voice of the paper's editorial board. Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, editor and publisher.