By Michael Schaffer Managing Editor
The Daily Iowegian
---- — The nearly 200 who attended the Appanoose Economic Development Corporation annual banquet at Honey Creek Resort State Park Thursday night, March 27 walked away with a better understanding of the area’s water source.
But, before featured speaker John Glenn, Rathbun Regional Water Association CEO, could talk about RRWA’s beginnings and growth, the winners of three awards were announced.
Centerville Mayor Jan Spurgeon presented to Jon and Robin Schmidt the 2014 Investing in Appanoose County award.
The Schmidt’s own and operate Tangleberries, Schmidt Family Funeral Home and they rent suites on the Centerville Square.
The Schmidts moved to Centerville in 1994. They have three children: Blair, Avery and Graydon.
“We came to town 20 years ago to truly make Centerville and Appanoose County our home,” Jon Schmidt said.
He then thanked their employees to help get them to where they are now.
“We couldn’t continue to do what we do in the fashion that we do it without those people,” Jon said. “We owe them a gratitude of thanks.”
Centerville attorney Mike Craver announced Mike O’Connor as the 2014 Excellence in Service award recipient.
Craver said O’Connor took over KCOG radio in Centerville in 1974 and would operate the station until 1981. During that time O’Connor would start sister station KMGO.
Craver said the MGO in KMGO stands for Michael Goodwin O’Connor.
O’Connor has been the voice of the Big Reds for 32 years, Craver said, in addition to serving on many boards, volunteering in the community and a strong commitment to family.
“All can learn from the great examples that Mike has set during his life,” Craver said.
O’Connor appeared surprised with the award announcement but in his deep, natural, made-for-radio voice, he offered his thanks.
“It’s certainly humbling when you receive an honor in front of so many distinguished people here that mean so much to Appanoose County,” O’Connor said. “I truly am blessed with the family that I have and with the jobs that I’ve had and certainly the opportunity that I’ve had the last over 27 years with Iowa Trust and Savings Bank.
“This community has been so good to me and my family,” he said.
Nancy Huisman, with Hall Engineering, presented to Royal Simmons, the 2014 Cline Medal.
Simmons joins three others as Cline Medal award recipients first started in 2010. The first three recipients in order are Rob Lind, Frank Reznicek and Virginia Padovan.
“This year’s recipient, Royal Simmons, exemplifies the desire and vision to help make Appanoose County a great place to live and grow,” she said. “Which epitomizes the spirit in which the Cline Medal is awarded.”
Huisman said Simmons was one of 14 children born and raised in Darby just outside of Centerville. He served in WW II as a medic and was honorably discharged.
Simmons after discharge returned to Centerville and married his bride, Pat, in 1950. She has since passed away.
Simmons served on the Historic Preservation Commission board and was involved in several projects not only in Centerville but in Appanoose County, Huisman said.
One project in Centerville was the renovation of the Second Baptist Church first constructed in 1902 and where Simon Estes sang as a youth.
“His knowledge and expertise were essential for the restoration of the church, which is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places,” Huisman said.
In 1972 Royal and Pat opened Simmons Building Materials. Sons Mark and Steve work with Royal in the family business, Huisman said.
“Royal is an ambassador and advocate for the community, who lives up to the adage, ‘That what’s good for the community is good for everyone.’”
Royal had little to say, other than he thought there was only one Royal Simmons in the county.
Next, Faris delivered his report as the AEDC executive director.
After acknowledging several groups and individuals in the audience, Faris talked about the connectivity of today’s world and how easy it is for people to connect with others and share experiences.
“We want the word on the street everywhere that Appanoose County is a great place to be and wouldn’t it be awesome to live here or locate your business here,” Faris said. “People are looking at community. Is it progressing? Is it a progressive place or are there great improvements to be made?”
Faris brought up Safe Routes to School, city park projects, signage plan, the demolition of nuisance houses, projects and cabins at Lelah Bradley Park, sports park improvements and the upcoming paving project as examples of a focus on improvement that continues to make our area more attractive.
“Appanoose County is definitely moving in a very positive direction,” Faris said. “As Appanoose County continues to improve, that it will only happen with the efforts of many and not just a few. We’re destined for great things ahead here in Appanoose County.”
Faris said 90 new employees were added last year by six employers in Appanoose County.
Glenn assumed the podium and talked about RRWA’s growth since it was first organized in 1975 as private, non-profit water association governed by a board of directors.
By 1977, they had 1,300 installations, Glenn said. By 1980, they had 2,912 installations.
And ever since, RRWA has experienced steady growth.
RRWA is the largest rural water system in Iowa and the third largest in the country, Glenn said. RRWA serves 80,000 customers in 18 counties and 51 communities.
RRWA’s service area reaches west to Clarke County, east to the Mississippi River, south into northern Missouri and north to Mahaska County.
RRWA spent nearly $40 million and added a second water treatment plant and made various distribution system improvements completed and unveiled in October of 2013. System improvements include a water intake in Rathbun Lake, a new 1 million gallon water tower west of Moravia and miles of water pipe.
The new water treatment facility has at least a 6 million gallon per day production capacity and the plant’s design allows for daily production capacity of up to 9 million gallons daily.
In the next two years, RRWA plans to spend $3 million to rehabilitate portions of the original water treatment plant that went online in 1977 at a cost of $25 million.
And just recently RRWA signed a contract with Bloomfield to supply that city with water.
Glenn said the cost of water is less than 1/2 penny per gallon.
“So it’s really, truly a bargain,” Glenn said. “Think of all of the uses you have for it. So the next time you turn on the tap just remember how great water that is and how great a system we have in this county, that it’s so safe.”
Glenn talked about the efforts to help prevent sediment and phosphorus from reaching Rathbun Lake. He mentioned the efforts of non-profit Rathbun Land and Water Alliance to help prevent erosion from reaching the lake.
“They’ve been recognized throughout the state of Iowa and even nationally as one of the premier watershed projects that’s going on right now,” Glenn said.
Through RL&WA efforts and with farmers in the watershed, Glenn said, per year 44,000 tons of sediment and 180,000 pounds of phosphorus are being kept out of Rathbun Lake.
Less phosphorus means less algae blooms in late summer which means a more consistent smelling and tasting water supply.
Glenn had been the CEO and COO at RRWA for the past 16 years. RRWA has a staff of 60.
The banquet started at 6 p.m. and ended after 8:30 p.m.
Reservations for the banquet this year were 188; last year there were 169.