(Milford)– Reaction is coming in from this (Fri.) morning’s announcement that Imagine Iowa Great Lakes is withdrawing its $1.1 million offer to purchase the Okoboji Middle School property in Arnolds Park. The organization that’s backing a $10 million beautification of the Iowa Great Lakes Corridor made the announcement in a press release saying, in part, it is not their goal to own property or cause controversy, adding, “Imagine Iowa Great Lakes seeks to unite and strengthen the community”, saying they believe that by “working together the region will continue to prosper”.

Okoboji Superintendent Todd Abrahamson had this reaction to the development…

“It’s unfortunate but I understand their position. Their intent is to beautify the entire Iowa Great Lakes community and, you know, without knowing more than that it’s unforunate. I understand just for the fact that, you know, the district continues to believe the proposal approved by the board was in the district’s best interest in selling that Okoboji Middle School to the beautification project.”

This morning’s announcement follows a petition that was filed with the school district earlier in the week that seeks a public vote on the process used to sell the middle school site. Abrahamson says it has not yet been forwarded to the County Auditor…

“Now what our process is, because we’ve been working with Molly, legal counsel for the Iowa Secretary of State, and also Jordan at the Dickinson County Auditor’s Office because this just does not happen, so we want to make sure we do this well. Molly sent us parameters based on the Iowa Secretary of State, so. Katy Sporrer, the board’s secretary, is now going through the list of signatures, addresses and the date they signed, and so once we go through that we will then forward that to the County Auditor for placement on the ballot in the appropriate election.”

Abrahamson added in another statement: “If the ballot measure proposed by the petition passes, it appears to require the District to sell the property to the highest bidder, regardless of that person’s intended use of the property or whether that person is financially responsible. While the District continues to believe the proposal approved by the Board was in the District’s best interest, it will carry out its obligations to the public to ensure the petition, if valid, is forwarded to the County Auditor for placement on the ballot in the appropriate election.”

One of those behind the petition drive, lakes area businessman Tom Clary, had this reaction to the latest development…

“Well we acknowledge the Imagine Iowa Great Lakes group’s statement and certainly understand their position. We respect their commitment to enhancing the Okoboji area and we share that commitment with them. We are especially encouraged by the fact that in their statement they express their desire to help unite and strengthen our community as well as their willingness to support the intention of a new buyer. We hope that the school board recognizes this opportunity to reassess and reevaluate this whole potential to help pay down the $25 million bond issue. We look forward to working with the Okoboji school board and all interested parties including the Imagine Iowa Great Lakes group to achieve our common goals and the best possible outcome possible for the citizens and taxpayers in our district. At this point the ball is in the school board’s court and we look forward to hearing from them soon.”

The petition calling for the public vote had some 445 signatures on it.