CLEAR LAKE — The Clear Lake City Council this week approved a letter of intent with leaders of the North Iowa Children’s Museum supporting their efforts to construct a museum in Clear Lake. The council also set their March 4th meeting for a public hearing on a proposal to issue up to $700,000 in general obligation debt for the project.

The Children’s Museum is a registered non-profit that plans to create an up-to-25,000 square foot destination for learning and exploration with hands-on exhibits that would encourage different learning styles including gross and fine motor engagement, imaginative and dramatic play, and collaboration.

The letter of intent memorializes certain preliminary understandings related to the planning, development, construction and operation of the museum and outlines conditions under which a financial contribution would be contemplated in the future. It also calls for a feasibility study to be done, jointly funded by the city and the museum, to show the museum is economically feasible and sustainable.

Children’s Museum leaders are wanting to construct the museum on property located in the Emerald Edge Subdivision, but several on the council expressed that it may be wiser to find an empty building to start their efforts.

Councilman Bennett Smith supports the letter of intent, but has concerns about the size and sustainability of the museum due to north-central Iowa’s limited population.  “I would actually suggest and encourage the North Iowa Children’s Museum to pursue an existing building perhaps, or continue that search, in north Iowa that could be repurposed and used and become better established in the community, and I do appreciate the work that they have done and the vision they have. I just think the kind of capital campaign that they are currently pursuing may be more appropriate down the road and more feasible in a few years when you have a firmer foundation and donor base.”

Councilwoman Beth Ann Schumacher is the director of the Clear Lake Historical Society, a group that moved into the building where the Parks & Recreation Department used to be. She encouraged the Children’s Museum leaders to look at any potential options of repurposing an existing building.  “I would encourage you to think about that possibility that we wouldn’t have to maybe start with brand new, we could start with something already existing, create it, start it and then grow it. Let it be seed and see how it flies, because I just don’t want everything to collapse on us.”

If the general obligation debt proposal is approved, it is subject to a reverse-referendum under Iowa law as a general corporate purpose issue. 

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