Apex organizes for the future

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 1, 2000

Apex Austin has entered a transition phase that was evident at its Thursday meeting.

Friday, December 01, 2000

Apex Austin has entered a transition phase that was evident at its Thursday meeting. Specifically, committee membership changes, new ideas and a shift in focus defined the evening.

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Mayor Bonnie Rietz informed the members that executive committee member Jerry Anfinson is leaving his position on the committee. Anfinson, absent from the meeting, will continue to be a liaison between the committee and Hormel Foods Corp. Rietz thanked him for his service and welcomed new member Maryanne Law, who was unable to attend.

The past year was reviewed, including the first gathering of members that took place more than a year ago on Nov. 10, 2000. Additional highlights included the openings of the Catherwood Child-Care Center and the Welcome Center. The focus of the remainder of the meeting involved an examination of each committee.

Housing co-chairmen Jay Nelson and Paul Johnson discussed the possibility of acquiring funds from the Mower County Home Ownership Fund for transitional housing. However, they stressed that that is only one option, as is searching for funding elsewhere. In either case, "the money has to be well-spent," Johnson said.

Welcome Center director Liliana Silvestry reported that the center has served 301 families in the past month, finding homes for 26 of those families. The remaining 274 involved integration and language-barrier issues.

Silvestry, with education co-chairman Dr. James Hess, is drafting a grant proposal for $100,000 to aid at-risk minority students. The project would involve a networking system in which students would spend time learning coping and academic skills, and would require

funding in addition to the grant amount. Silvestry witnessed the success of such a program at her previous position in South Bend, Ind. After one year, four students were on the honor roll because of their participation in the program.

She stressed the need for transitional housing for young families coming to the area. In her past experiences, housing is required from one week to a year, with six months as the average.

Kermit Mahan, administrative services, suggested that perhaps a small rent payment could be charged to ensure that the families were interested in staying in Austin, and at the same time pay for the home’s operational expenses.

Child care co-chairwoman Diane Sherman informed the committee that Austin’s budget allocation for busing students equals the cost of services. In other towns, she said, the residents have voted for additional bus funding.

Transportation co-chairmen Paul Boisjolie and Glenn Baker are working on creating a specific bus route for the city. Heartland Express also would service demand-based riders in addition to routes. However, filling the bus during the routes will provide some nominal revenue. Their goal for a proposal, route system and cost summary is 30 to 60 days.

Sherman requested funds to publish brochures in English and Spanish to inform minorities of community services and emergency information. Catherwood now has six employee partners. There is currently a waiting list on the second shift; so additional day care may be necessary in the near future.

Comprehensive strategic plan co-chairman Craig Johnson said that his position has evolved to that of adviser to the executive committee and sounding board. Johnson acknowledged that the focus of the committee has shifted from the executive committee to the Development Corp. of Austin and Welcome Center, indicating that operations are moving in the right direction. But Brophy and executive committee member Pat Ray warned that the committee must be careful not to overwhelm Silvestry and DCA Director George Brophy.

Miguel Garate, minority and international student adviser at Riverland Community College, has received numerous positive comments about the effectiveness of the Welcome Center.

At the next meeting, scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 23, committees will establish a structure and game plan for 2001. With one-half of the committee members absent, the committee plans to make contact with them to answer the following questions:

n Who will chair each committee?

n Who are the members of each committee?

n What has been accomplished to date and what do they wish to accomplish?

n What is the committee’s economic need and how do they expect to finance it?