Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
This has been a crazy week for my family. Last weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day with Cherry and my mom…all our children and grandkids (pictures here) came to our house. It was low-key…our kids helped us with yard work and we built a campfire and made s’mores (perfect Mother’s Day). Then on Wednesday of this week we all drove to Oskaloosa, Iowa to celebrate the life of Cherry‘s mother, Evelyn who passed a week ago today…she was 97. It was a great turnout of family and friends. One of the realities of living to 97 is you’ve outlived most of your contemporaries. It was a good day of remembering her life with funny idioms and great memory stories. Nine of her 10 grandchildren served as pallbearers (here are their pictures)…they range in age from 47 as the oldest to my son Todd who is 28 and the youngest.  When the funeral coach pulled into the cemetery and next to the gravesite, a sinkhole opened up in the blacktop and the front of the car dropped into the hole. Evelyn would have gotten a kick out of that…I’ve got to figure something out like that for my funeral!!
 
Richard Jackson:
 
It was a sad/glad experience attending Richard Jackson’s retirement last Friday…he has served ECKAN for over 50 years (pictures here). You don’t replace 50 years of experience with just a snap of the fingers. Crystal Anderson has the task of trying and I have no doubt she will do a fantastic job…she has some seasoning already. Still the institutional knowledge of a lifetime of work greatly benefited not only ECKAN but also all of greater Ottawa. Richard has been at the forefront of any significant community initiative for the last 30 years providing leadership and sweat equity. He told his well-wishers he’s not leaving…just slowing down. I expect this is a good depiction…Richard still currently serves on several local boards…and in the past is a long-serving City Commissioner and Mayor. Congratulations Richard…here’s wishing you a great retirement!!
 
Franklin County Attorney: 
 
I was at an event this week in which Brandon Jones (pictures here), our Franklin County Attorney was the speaker…we have a good man at the helm of our local prosecutor’s office. Brandon brings over 20 years of experience investigating crime and courtroom experience…additionally he has a (much appreciated) efficiency-in-government management style. Brandon challenges his team to bring criminals to trial as quickly as possible and file paperwork in a timely manner…and to make strict but fair plea bargains. All this has the effect of reducing overcrowding in the local jail and moving lawbreakers to justice in a quicker more efficient way. Our County Attorney’s office runs lean and mean in addition to Brandon, there are 3 additional prosecutors. Brandon shared with the crowd that by far the greatest crisis/challenge locally is methamphetamine crime…those who make it to sell – and those who steal and rob to have money to buy it. Clearly it is at the root of near 90% of all crime locally – this is staggering.
 
Legacy Square:
 
A lot of good construction took place this week…it’s amazing what can happen when the sun shines for more than 3 days in a row! The structural bones of the restroom are near completion…pictures here. Also the vertical beams of the large pavilion are installed (pictures here). The trusses which go on top are being delivered but production of the trusses has been slowed by flooded fabrication plants in Nebraska and Missouri. The installation of the trusses will begin soon. Also the trash enclosures along the alley were built this week.
 
Next week will be challenging for traffic and pedestrian flow. Beginning on Monday contractors will start excavating 1st Street to replace the storm piping under the street…this work is scheduled to take place on Monday and Tuesday. While 1st Street is torn up, traffic flow will be reduced to a single lane and parking will be restricted…also pedestrian access to the alley from the north end will be restricted too. Pedestrians can access the backs of businesses from the south end and through the hallway at 106 S. Main Street…both will remain available on Monday and Tuesday.
 
Wednesday and Thursday contractors will begin milling and overlaying the alley between Main and Walnut Streets from 1st to 2nd Streets. Pedestrian traffic will be completely restricted while this work progresses. Mug Shot coffee drinkers will need to access the back of the coffee shop through the hallway at 106 S. Main Street…or possibly more convenient – through Take it Outside (once the store opens at 10:00 a.m.). Contractors will be lenient with those seeking their morning coffee fix…but remember you are entering a construction zone – so think and respond appropriately.
 
On Friday, the alley will reopen to pedestrian traffic but the parking stalls will be in the process of being stripped. On Saturday morning the alley will reopen to motor traffic and pedestrians. Completion of this week’s work will open the alley for the rest of the project. Of course this aggressive schedule is predicated on weather and not encountering something unforeseen underground when installing the storm piping. Fingers crossed…no significant weather events next week!!
 
Office Changes:
 
Last week I mentioned the Chamber is getting back to full steam with Sydney becoming fulltime and Ryland in the office about 30 hours a week. Here are Sydney and Ryland’s pictures for those who haven’t had the opportunity to meet them. With the addition of 2 employees we are making a few other changes. Sherri is moving off the front desk after 13 years. She will move into the first office which will allow her to more efficiently concentrate on organizing Chamber events and seeking additional methods in which we can raise non-dues revenue. Sydney, our Membership Director will move to the front desk and be the first person you see when you come in the door or call on the phone. Our membership director will be greeting our members and be immediately available to those with membership questions…or inquires about joining the Chamber.
 
Ryland, our Community Liaison will be in the next office down the hall. He is charged specifically to develop events and programming in which we can more completely integrate the life of Ottawa University with the life of the Ottawa Community. He will also be a team player in the office…currently he is helping me with Legacy Square stuff and working hard to get our webpage up to top speed. This summer he will also work on the Chamber Community welcome video and he and Sydney will both help with our new directory for this year. All four of us are committed you giving great customer service…not only to our members but visitors to the Chamber and the Ottawa community.
 
Pre-School Graduation:
 
Last Tuesday evening I attended our almost 5-year old Evie’s preschool graduation (pictures here)! Evie (named Evelyn after her great grandmother who died this week) is starting Kindergarten next fall…hard to believe. Her Grandma Teresa (Mark’s mother) was telling Evie I can’t believe we are already attending your pre-school graduation…my comment was a little snarkier and made so that Evie couldn’t hear – I can’t believe we are attending a pre-school graduation. It seems we graduate from everything anymore…once upon a time we referred to changing grades as passing or maybe an end-of-school program. Admittedly, the kids were extremely cute…and really proud of themselves. I just question whether we put too much emphasis on un-extraordinary life events which takes a little of the bloom off of really big accomplishments when they occur (sorry to wax philosophical).
 
Here’s hoping we get our potatoes planted this evening…May 17 – clearly 2 months late by many standards. We’ll see…it might be our best crop ever!
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000