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FAIRFIELD — It was the “wow” factor that put Fairfield in the winning category as a Great Places designation Friday as the community’s second bid to become one of Iowa’s Great Places was the charm.
Within hours of the announcement, community movers and shakers were already getting poised and ready to take full advantage of the funds, grants and expertise soon to pour in from various state agencies.
David DuBois, one of many who put together the application effort in Fairfield, was in Des Moines Friday morning when the Great Places board announced the six winning cities.
“They said we made a fantastic presentation Wednesday and the wow factor was so evident in our community that they felt that that attitude would benefit not only our community, but the state at large as well,” said DuBois.
He said the board “really loved that we focused on what was unique about Fairfield and that our great diversity was very important to them.”
DuBois said community projects like the new radio station KRUU-FM was a perfect example of taking an idea that wasn’t on anyone’s radar six months ago, “but only a gleam in someone’s eye and making it a sudden operating reality.”
Calling them “creative, spontaneous eruptions,” Dubois said efforts like KRUU radio showed the commission that the “entrepreneurial vitality of the community was real and viable,” and “this community is fertile ground for these eruptions to occur at anytime.
“The commission really liked the radio station and we talked about it in terms of it being a real opportunity to engage the youth of our community,” he said.
“You just don’t know when something is going to explode on the scene and take root like that. It’s a perfect example of what the commission wanted to see in terms of a spontaneous eruption of creativity,” he said.
DuBois said the commission was also impressed by the sustainable community eco-village, the Jefferson County trail system as well as the arts and culture.
“They liked it because it makes Fairfield stand out as an example of the cultural tourism plans they want to promote as part of their overall economic development of the state,” said DuBois.
Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy said, “I think the real reward for Fairfield is the recognition that we are one of Iowa’s outstanding communities and it’s something we should all be happy about and share.
“It just goes to show,” said Malloy, “that the train of optimism is a real entity and this is a testimony to its power.”
Malloy said the Great Places program will have a $3 million budget but he isn’t sure how the funds will be divided among the six communities.
“It will allow us to enhance some projects under way like the Maasdam Barns that will serve as the gateway to Fairfield off the future bypass. It will serve as a welcome center and a place of historical distinction,” he said.
Malloy said they will now have the funds to restore the passanger train depot at Howard Park bringing it into the street scape project “where we couldn’t before.”
DuBois said the next step for the city will be to sign a “memorandum of understanding” in January. It will be a formal agreement between the city and the Great Places board.
Executive Director of the Cultural Affairs department Anita Walker will organize a formal presentation in Fairfield in the near future.
The other five cities enjoying a Great Place designation include Dubuque, Guttenburg, Mason City, Adams County and Jackson County.
“What we went through last year was a collection of spontaneous bursts of ideas. This year, all of that became integrated into a larger vision for our community as a whole, allowing Fairfield to rise above the rest,” said DuBois.