Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

April 22, 2013

City upbeat about working with the VA

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Knoxville — Assistant Knoxville City Manager Dylan Feik, with Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Larissa Van Donselaar, met with representatives of the VA Central Iowa Healthcare System on Friday. Feik believes the City and VA can work well together on upcoming summer events. 

“The VA is interested in working with the community for a variety of events and in doing so, must ensure liability issues are addressed,” VA Spokesman Dwayne Rider told the Journal-Express last week. Rider was among three VA representatives to meet with Feik and Van Donselaar. The others were Maureen Nichols and Susan Martin. 

One of the products of Friday's meeting is a plan to develop an application for the City to utilize when it wants to use the VA grounds for a special event. This application will be submitted for each purpose, and each will specifically detail the request, dates, times and areas to be utlized and for what purpose.

"We've got to be very specific," Feik said. 

Feik added that the VA is aware of the urgency of responding to City event applications. He is confident the VA will respond in a timely fashion. 

Some of the liability related to events, for which the City requests use of the grounds, will befall the City. The VA does not want to take the risk of spending more on maintenance than necessary. Its mission is to care for veterans and that's how the department wants to spend its money. 

RAGBRAI® is the major event that opened this discussion, though there are more events for which the City would like to have access to VA grounds. The VA is still waiting to execute an enhanced use lease with the Knoxville Veterans Alliance. The KVA is waiting on a major tenant to commit to locating on the campus before signing the lease. Feik intends to keep KVA involved in discussions of campus use for events, in case the lease is signed before an event. 

As for RAGBRAI®, a route through Knoxville is expected to be announced soon. Feik believes every campsite in the City will be occupied, and a call will come out soon for host housing. Though the City is trying to plan for as many riders, support vehicles, etc., as it can, unregistered vehicles can be expected to. Feik encourages anyone who wants to be a part of RAGBRAI® in Knoxville to register with RAGBRAI® to allow better accommodations. 

According to Feik, volunteers have already put in hundreds of hours in preparation for RAGBRAI®. He is grateful for the cooperation he has already received from Knoxville Schools and Marion County. 

"We're very appreciative to the County and all they're doing," Feik said. Planning is ongoing for the event. Everyone interested in learning more about the event is encouraged to attend a special, town hall meeting at the Village Theater  on Wednesday, May 1, at 6:30 p.m. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs also intends to have a booth downtown, to showcase the partnership between the City and VA over the years, and what the VA is doing for veterans today. RAGBRAI® will overnight in Knoxville on Wednesday, July 24, and travel through Marion County on Thursday, July 25.