By BARBARA WALLACE HUGHES
Abstract Associates of Webster County Inc. has been named the initial winner in a beautification contest designed to encourage pride among downtown businesses.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Carolyn Sandvig, an abstracter at Abstract Associates of Webster County Inc., waters some of the plants in front of the business on Central Avenue as Shelley Stanek, administrative assistant, and President Ted Hugghins, inspect another planter. The display won the first SSMID Flower Display of the Month award.
The initiative, sponsored by the Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District, places flowering plants and foliages in metal planters positioned on the sidewalks in front of businesses.
The planters were given out to businesses for free on a first-come, first-served basis. The businesses are then responsible for filling the planters and taking care of them during the growing season.
The district is conducting a monthly contest to recognize the most creatively maintained planter, with an overall winner to be named in November. That winner will receive up to $150 worth of plants paid for by the district next year.
Abstract Associates President Ted Hugghins said Carolyn Sandvig, the company's principal abstracter, first mentioned the planter program to Matt Doyle, who owns the Snell Building, which houses the land title transfer business.
"Matt quickly responded by contacting Rich and Jo Seltz, representing the Self Supported Municipal Improvement District board, requesting to be involved in the initial placement of the planters. We understood this project to be driven by and funded by SSMID. We, as a business, wanted to partner and create a pleasant sight for our office front and along the entrance to the Snell Building," Hugghins said.
Doyle, he said, "has been working to revitalize the elegance and history surrounding the Snell Building, after purchasing the building in December 2009. This opportunity rang a bell with his enthusiasm. There are other projects on his agenda for the building, but Matt saw this as a visible reminder to all who traffic Central that the Snell Building is back."
Sandvig, Administrative Assistant Shelley Stanek and abstracters Susan Anderson and Hillary Lenz selected the planting material for the Abstract Associate planters.
"Each of them have regularly watered the planters and pinched the dead heads to enhance growth. Comments have been fun to hear. Our office front is certainly more attractive with live plants. Often, Fort Dodgers stop by to say thanks and comment on the elegance of the growth. Many, many passersby have enjoyed the colors and the difference these planters make to our Central Avenue," Hugghins said.
Being downtown has been beneficial for Abstract Associates, he said.
"Our location at Eighth and Central ... serves our business needs with easy access to the Webster County Courthouse offices and records, attorney offices and other clients" in the area.
Stephanie Houk Sheetz, senior planner with Fort Dodge's Business Affairs and Community Growth Department, said "SSMID has had a great response on the 38 planters they initially ordered."
And, it's not too late to get involved in the program. SSMID plans to order 20 more planters this summer, she said.
To reserve a planter for this year or next, a business representative can complete a form and submit it to Houk Sheetz. Forms are available online at www.fortdodgeiowa.org under the Departments menu bar for Business Affairs and Community Growth, where there is a webpage for SSMID, or by calling 576-8191 to request a form by email.
The Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District is a roughly 33-block downtown area in which property owners pay an extra tax to finance improvements there.