Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
2021 is a week old and already we have our largest snow of the winter and the Nation’s Capitol building has been stormed by insurrectionists. Crazy, crazy…I hope this doesn’t mean this New Year will remain as much in upheaval as 2020. To be fair, lets give it a month or two…the real craziness didn’t start until about March/April. Maybe we give it until then to level off…making it an official full year of turmoil.
 
The sights on the television this last Wednesday were beyond description and left us all shaking our heads. Who among us could have ever imagined our own citizens overtaking the Capitol in Washington D. C.? The last time the Capitol was breached was in 1812 by the British. Now with only 12-days left in Trump’s administration the talk has turned to impeachment and/or invoking the power of the 25th Amendment…again I say: crazy, crazy!! 
 
There is disagreement as to who the first person was to use the phrase, “May you live in interesting times”…and even whether it was/is intended as a blessing or a curse. I think today most would agree…we in the 21st century certainly have a perspective and understanding on this blessing/curse regardless of its original author and intent. 
 
COVID Update:
 
In terms of the disease…last week the Franklin County COVID numbers were down – this week back up. Currently there are 194 active cases…up 8 from a week ago and there are 8 hospitalizations. The death count remains the same at 18 (Wednesday, January 6 report here). The percent positive rate has crept back up by 1.5% in the last week too…now standing at 19.62%. I keep thinking soon the numbers will drop and we’ll experience continued improvement…but we hoover in a “one-week better…one-week worse” holding pattern. Please continue to keep your resolve strong. A reminder if you want to get on the list for vaccination the phone number is 785.229.3531. Here’s hoping the inoculation pace can pick up and we make significant progress through the next month or two at immunizing our community.
 
MOP Train Station:
 
Diana Staresinic-Deane, Director of the Franklin County Historical Society, shared some fun information with me this week. Many will remember the Missouri/Pacific railway (fondly referred to as the “MOP”), which moved east and west through Ottawa on 1st Street. It seemed it never failed if you were in a hurry you would get delayed by a slow-moving train at the 1st and Main intersection…and if you were traveling east and west and came to the stoplight, you had to make sure you pulled away from the tracks far enough in case train came while you were stopped. Additionally there was an old MOP train station on the north side of 1st Street between Cedar and Hickory Streets – now north of City Hall…the loading dock and foundation remain there today. 
 
Recently, Greg Ohlmacher of the Lawrence Model Railroad Club researched and designed a to-scale model of the old MOP depot. He actually measured the remnants of the foundation on First Street in order to get the right size and scale (pictures here). This last Tuesday, the to-scale model was placed on the model railroad train display in the Old Depot Museum. If trains, or history, or just the need to get out of the house interest you…stop by and see the entire display. The museum is open 11:00-3:00 Wednesday, Thursday and Friday… and open 10:00-4:00 on Saturday. Here is the Fr. Co. Historical Society webpage if you want to see more of what’s available at the Depot.  
 
Good News/Bad News:
 
It was announced this week Melissa Reed (picture here) will be the new City Clerk…the post has been vacant since Amy Finch took a City Administer position last fall in Wisconsin. Melissa is the long-time director of the Prairie Paws animal shelter. This is great news for the City of Ottawa…Melissa brings a wonderful skill set of management and experience to a very important position in City government. Of course…everything the City wins – the animal shelter loses. Melissa will be hard to replace and the shelter is an integral aspect of our community…it takes a special person to effectively manage our furry friends in the community. Fingers crossed as the search for her replacement is sought and hired!!
 
Small Business COVID Relief Resources:
 
The new relief package, passed by Congress and signed by the president (as the clock struck midnight 2020), still tends to be a bit of a moving target…here is link to the Small Business Administration (SBA) describing all the relief packages – albeit it hasn’t been updated since the new legislation has passed. I found this article which does a much better job at describing how this third round of funding will shake out. At one point the article says, “the Act’s 48 separate provisions are not well organized, and in many cases are opaque in intent and meaning”…yet, they go on to boil it down and categorize the available funding which we can expect to be coming soon. As I hear details, I will let you know. If this funding is something in which you are interested, I would begin looking into it now…the last round of available funds went quickly.
 
Happy New Year:
 
I didn’t wish you a Happy New Year at the beginning…let me do it now. 2020 will certainly be a year we talk about for a long time. Most of our family stayed up to say good-bye to the tumultuous epoch formerly known as 2020. Here are pictures we all texted to one another at midnight.
 
January 1 was a beautiful snow day…Cherry and I never even opened the door except to let the dog out. What a peaceful and relaxing way to begin a new year – here are a few pics.
 
Here’s looking forward to great things this year…talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000