RIPLEY - The campaign to save Cedar Lakes got an unofficial pledge for financial support from the City of Ripley at Tuesday night’s meeting of City Council.

Delegate Steve Westfall appeared before Council to update the panel of the state of the push to keep the sprawling conference/education center open amid state budget cuts.

Westfall said that Mayor Carolyn Rader, Senator Mitch Carmichael, himself and others met with State Superintendant of Schools Dr. Farris on November 14. At that meeting, a committee was formed for the purpose of working to save Cedar Lakes, and a five-year plan was discussed to work toward reducing the $1 million per year funding by the state.

Westfall said incremental  increases in fees over the next five year will help generate some $350,000 to $375,000 in income at the conference center.

Additionally, the group hopes to be able to raise $325,000 to be matched by the state to increase the conference center to seat 750, effectively doubling its size.

In addition, Westfall said plans including grandfathering in current employees, but moving the pay scale for new hires from the Department of Education to the Department of Labor. Some job combinations may also occur turning part-time positions into full-time positions, all aimed at reducing costs of operation versus income.

Westfall said he and Senator Carmichael and the rest of the new committee are asking for annual financial help from the City of Ripley, City of Ravenswood, Jackson County Board of Education and Jackson County Commission.
The five-year plan will be laid out December 10, and Westfall believed Dr. Farris will recommend that Cedar Lakes be funded its $1 million allotment for next year with a yearly evaluation to follow to ascertain the progress on the plan.
Westfall and Rader both told Council that the groundswell of support from the public has helped change minds and educate many as to the worth of the conference center and its educational and recreational importance to the county and state.

Mayor Rader said the City of Ripley and Jackson County benefits from the events at Cedar Lakes. She said she believed financial support could be budgeted from hotel/motel tax receipts.

While Council could take no official action at the meeting, all members agreed that the city should financially support Cedar Lakes and add an annual amount to be determined to their budget planning, and informed Westfall of their feelings which he can add to the plan to be laid out on December 10.  
Doug Skeen reported on his work with GIS Mapping and Josh Singleton of the MOVRC in GPS mapping of the City of Ripley and Evans covering hydrants, water lines including flow and pressure data and sewer lines.
Skeen also reported that the city’s web-site is up and running and is at home at City Hall where it belongs with secure access codes and protocols set up. He has additionally created promotional and marketing pieces for the city.
“I’ve had a lot of fun,” said Skeen. “I’m a Ripley guy and I love my hometown. I’ve enjoyed doing things to help promote it.” He thanked council for allowing him to do what he has done.

Councilman Bryan Thompson offered a “big thank-you” to Skeen for jobs well done.
“You’re thanking us, but it’s us who should thank you,” added Councilperson Carolyn Waybright.

In other action, Council:
• Voted to pay employment incentives of $250 to all city employees. Councilman Ed Moore made the motion and Councilperson Carolyn Waybright seconded. The vote was unanimous.
• Heard the October police activities report by Chief of Police Jim Fridley.
• Heard a report that the Veterans Day Parade was very successful with some 130 veterans participating.
• Set a Safety Meeting for Friday at 2 p.m. Doug Skeen said fire extinguisher safety would be covered including OHSA-required operational training.
• Announced that City hall would be closed next Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.
• Announced that the lighting of the city Christmas tree (donated by Julie Donohew) will take place November 29, followed by cookies, hot chocolate and caroling in partnership with Main Street Ripley.  
• Announced that the Ripley Christmas Parade will be held on the evening of November 30 with Cedar Lakes employees as parade marshals. Santa Claus wil greet childen afterward at the Alpine Theater.
• Announced that Santa Claus will be on Ripley city street December 7, 14 and 21 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.