Imagine Iowa Great Lakes addressed some skepticism stemming from the group’s decision to withdraw its $1.1 million offer for the Okoboji Middle School property earlier this month. The school district agreed to sell the property and apply the profit toward paying off a $25 million bond for a new building in Milford and other district improvements. The Imagine group announced its withdrawal after a group of voters petitioned the district for an election ballot item which would let the public decide whether the property should be put up for public bid. Rumors circulated in the community, saying Imagine had intended to sell the school lot to Tallgrass Village, which has apartment and townhouse properties in Okoboji.
Duane Mueske, board member of Historic Arnolds Park Inc. and co-owner of Tallgrass, said the rumors are untrue.
“That is is completely erroneous, false, put out — and, of course, if you say it five times, it’s true — that’s all bull****,” Mueske said. “I’m just saying that is completely false. You got it right from the horse’s mouth.”
Jill Harms, HAPI board president and owner of Blink Marketing, which represents Imagine, echoed Mueske. She said selling to the Tallgrass group was not the Imagine’s plan and was not discussed.
“I think what got confused was that Imagine did put a bid in, and we had, as a group, planned to obviously beautify that corner,” Harms said. “One of the things that had been talked about was possibly selling off a portion of that, because there’s so much property there for something to be developed. There was never any discussions with that Tallgrass group, there were never meetings — nothing of that nature. … If that were to happen obviously, being a non-profit organization, any money that they would profit from selling a portion of that property would go back to the school.”
Okoboji Superintendent Todd Abrahamson said, to his knowledge, the purchase agreement between Imagine and the Okoboji School District, though ultimately null since the offer’s withdrawal, would not have required Imagine to give profits from a potential sale to the district. That said, Harms claimed the group is not in a position to own widespread real estate.
“That is not the intended purpose of the Imagine Iowa Great Lakes Fund,” she said. “The intended purpose is to beautify the area. This just happened to come up as an opportunity where they knew they could make an impact.”