Why We Believe in Jasper

First off before we get to the topic, we have a little clean-up work to do.
It has come to our attention there are some rumors about our organization we’d like to clear up. Recently a community member revealed a claim that our organization is “showing favoritism” by hiring one local contractor to do all our work.

This is untrue. It’s unfortunate that I even need to say this, as we have been very open and public with all our efforts.

Terry Skyberg is local contractor who serves as a volunteer board member. He regularly DONATES his time and labor to our organization. We have had several small projects like patching the locker room roof, and installing shoring beams at Bauman Hall. We purchase the materials from our fundraiser income, and Terry and our other team members DONATE THEIR TIME to complete the work in the buildings. Terry’s experience working with quartzite masonry has been incredibly helpful in keeping conditions improving in them.

As a 501(c)3, with grant funds, we are REQUIRED to follow strict procurement guidelines with regard to hiring contractors. We must put out public RFP’s and document our hiring process in order to get grant funding.

We strive to be trustworthy, ethical and transparent. That is a requirement of being a nonprofit, because you lose that license if you aren’t.
In our community we would like to normalize good intentions, that we all care about honesty and integrity, and that we all are trying to do our best.
Those are the most important qualities I personally look for in people I admire. We look to inspire people who care about each other and their community more than themselves, who can be trusted because they speak directly, clearly, and kindly. They tell the truth, and they try to help others. They encourage others, champion others, believe the best about others, and talk people UP, not talk down on them. These are qualities we strive to embody, and build up in the community around us.  This means we want to encourage you to come to us with all your questions, so that we can avoid the rumor and gossip mill. We would be happy to share.
I appreciate that several community members told us this rumor directly instead of spreading it, so we could address it and move on. Instead of assuming the worst, with something you don’t know about- just stop and think, and take some time to ask.  

The contractors we HAVE hired to work on our project:
Advanced Health and Safety
: We raised $3,090 in 2017 to have asbestos abated in the boiler room, which was required in order to be able to fix the electrical panels. 

Mark’s Electric:  we raised $13,500 to restore the electricity in the school in 2017. His bid was the one that fit best in our budget, and our repair needs, out of several bids received, as he was able to repair and reuse some of the existing panels. We contacted multiple electricians for bids. That was NOT a grant funded project it was donation funded. Electricity was needed to reduce the humidity in the school from 75-80% to around 50%, which prevents mold and deterioration.

Akay Consulting – Historian and Researcher who completed our Jasper School National Register Nomination funded by a $10,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. https://www.akayconsulting.com

LHB, Inc: Architecture and engineering firm that completed our 2019 Conditions Assessment for Bauman Hall, funded by a $10,000 MNHS grant.
-Also completed our 2020 Working Drawings and Construction Blueprints and specifications for the wall repair, funded by a $53,300 MNHS Grant. Required in order to apply for construction funds to fix the wall.
– LHB is currently working on our Historic Structure Report to assess the complete repair needs and rehabilitation work for the Jasper School, funded by a $75,00000 grant from the MNHS. This is required in order to apply for construction funds. This report will be completed November 2021.

In addition to those expenses, we have spent $4,800 on large roll-off dumpster service from VanDyke Sanitation. Our Facebook photo albums are full of photos and videos of the clean up work. Our volunteers spent hundreds of hours per person each year removing the rotten, moldy drywall, cabinets and ceiling tiles that were ruined while the school sat vacant and abandoned. For those who spread rumors that “nothing is being done” at the school, if they had simply come and helped, gotten a tour, or looked at our Facebook page, they could have avoided that misconception.

$1200 on the purchase of a security camera system for the school that a local volunteer installed.

We implore the community to please don’t listen to gossip and spread rumors. Our records are public information. We constantly invite everyone to get involved, attend our meetings, and ask us questions.  We hope you’ll take the time to ask us any questions you have.

Now to the main point:

In the last few months, and at many events I’ve had some great conversations with a number of community members who I’ve not gotten to know before this project. I appreciate those of you who have taken the time to stop, get a tour of the buildings, and find out more about what we are working on, ask questions and offer ideas and support. And especially those of you who have served on other organizations, collaborated with Quartziter Days, and show up at our events, and help serve when you can. WE APPRECIATE ALL OF YOU.

Some people who haven’t taken that same approach to come learn about our efforts may be a little surprised when we come out forcefully against hearing about plans to tear down another Quartzite building. You might wonder why we are a little sensitive about that subject, and its because we have put A LOT of thought and energy into our strategy to put Jasper on the map and try to make it a better place for everyone.
 That’s because the historic buildings in Jasper are THE critical part of the entire revitalization plan we have been developing.

If you had seen the thousands of hours of work that our board members and volunteers have put in in the last five years, trying to find funding and creative ways to bring these buildings back to life, to bring new industry and new people to the community and create jobs and a destination for visitors to see when they come to see the National Monument, Split Rock State Park, Blue Mounds, and Palisades, and YES, even visitors from Sioux Falls; then I bet you’d be frustrated in hearing and seeing that some of the community didn’t appreciate your work – or at least be openminded and willing to give it a chance, too, before dismissing it.

That’s because its not just about saving buildings for the sake of the buildings.
They are tools that can be used to bring income and investment back from where it left.

We are leveraging the history of the quarry, the stonemasons, and the businesses and people who lived in Jasper- their stories, successes and legacies- to bring people to Jasper.

Not just new residents. New visitors, and regularly.

We want them coming to visit Rodman’s Windmills. We want them coming to Jasper to visit the museum and take a walking tour past the historic quartzite buildings and other businesses in town. We want them reading about Sacks Grocery, Frackman Hardware, and the many cafes that were popular hangouts. We want them watching a demonstration of stonecutting and blacksmithing, and learning about the process of building quartzite structures and the master stonemasons who did it. We want them buying books that Jasper alumni wrote, art that alumni make, and quartzite coasters and cutting boards and countertops from the Jasper Stone Company. We want them touring the quarry, buying monument stones and driveway markers, camping at the park. eating at the Stonewall Bar and buying hotdogs and marshmallows at the Mini Mall, and gas at Houg’s station. We want them eating at a local coffeeshop, staying in a local AirBnB or Bed and Breakfast. We want them taking the Casey Jones Trail currently in development, from Jasper to Ihlen, Pipestone and Luverne, and visiting THOSE towns and spending money there too.

We are preserving and elevating the most unique quality about Jasper, because THAT’S HOW YOU CREATE AN ECONOMY.
This is a proven strategy from the Main Street America program, and its the single most effective economy revitalizing program of all.

Visitors to your town spend money there. They stay there. And if they are history, geology or masonry buffs, they will spend 2-3 more days here and $600 MORE per visit than regular travelers through the area.
The more money visitors AND residents CHOOSE to spend here in Jasper locally, the more everyone makes. More traffic means more businesses make more money. The owners and employees have more money to spend, more employees are needed, and more people either move to town to work, or local people get to start working IN Jasper instead of commuting elsewhere.
Historic Preservation work itself creates jobs. Every $1 Million spent on preservation rehab creates 5-7 more jobs than new construction.
We hire architects, engineers, contractors, vendors providing food, printing services, t-shirts and mug printers, accountants, marketing, consultants, and we buy lumber from local shops. As we finish the planning stage for our buildings, we will be hiring more local contractors to do the construction work, and there will be PLENTY of work to go around, especially for contractors trained in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
Our project is going to create jobs- not only IN OUR ORGANIZATION, but elsewhere in the community, because of the programs we are developing right now.

That’s why we host fundraisers in town, advertising in Worthington, Marshall and Sioux Falls. That’s why we want to have a Food Forest at our school so people can grow vegetables, sell the produce, and we have a beautiful garden and grounds to use for parties, weddings, photos, vendor fairs, craft shows, classic car shows, community movies, picnics, and any other events. That’s why we want to use our grounds while we are still fixing the buildings. That’s why we want to paint murals, put benches on Main Street and decorate Bauman Hall with lights for Christmas. Because we can create more traffic NOW. We can do SMALL THINGS NOW to get the momentum going.

All of those visitors and new jobs and extra income? That means extra tax revenue for the city and county.

And not only that, we have SAVED every single person in the county money, by doing our work.

We have prevented Pipestone County taxpayers from footing a MILLION DOLLAR DEMOLITION BILL. for two buildings.

And we’ve done it on a budget of less than $20,000 per year, AND we had $148,000 in grant funding that paid for all those structural, mechanical, architectural, HVAC and electrical assessments and estimates, and construction plans and specs for the repairs for those two buildings. 

And we are currently awaiting approval of a grant application for $173,000 to FIX BAUMAN HALL in 2022. 

Do you think the Minnesota Historical Society would consider giving $321,000 in grants to an organization that didn’t have SOLID plans that were viable?  Would YOU?

I will personally be at Bauman Hall working tomorrow. If you are curious about our project and want the real story, I’d be more than happy to answer questions or give you a summary of what we are doing. I’m an open book. I do not say things based on rumors, I verify things before saying anything publicly. And I do my research on the facts and data I give out, and have citations of sources for it.

I personally have given up 10-20 hours PER WEEK for five years, with ZERO pay, for this nonprofit. I’ve written multiple grants. I’ve attended many conferences and trainings on my own dime all over the region. I personally pay a monthly Nonprofit leadership fee for assistance with logistics. And I donated many of the Food Forest trees we have installed MYSELF.
I personally did this all while I ALSO took in a bonus daughter (niece), had a baby, ran my own massage business, and a sewing and upholstery business on the side.

We have held over 30 fundraisers, we all personally have hauled SIX GIANT roll-off dumpsters full of moldy rotted drywall, cabinets and ceiling tiles out of the school, abated asbestos, restored electricity, fixed the furnaces and bathrooms at Bauman Hall and kept the heat on each winter. The board and volunteers have bent over backwards to solve these problems and come up with new ideas to try to revive Jasper, because if the old ideas aren’t working anymore, then we have to try something different.
We know that new ideas can be scary. But we also know what is possible because WE have seen how much we’ve accomplished in five years. Maybe not all the community members have seen it, but that ball is in YOUR court now, we have been proving we can do it for 5 years now, even if not everyone has been paying attention to us. We have demonstrated exactly what can be done with two dozen people. Can you imagine what we could accomplish with two dozen more?

Let’s find out. Jasper has a LONG history of volunteerism. There are hundreds of fantastically talented, capable, and interesting people in town. I wouldn’t have poured SO MUCH of my energy and soul into this project for five years if I didn’t believe in you all, and that we can do it together. Where’s that fighting Jasper spirit? Where is the strength of the quartzite beneath our feet?
Yes, its uncomfortable to talk about some of the things that haven’t turned out in the past. Some decisions that, in hindsight, maybe weren’t the best ones.
But if we DON’T talk about it, we can’t fix it and try something new. We have to acknowledge mistakes and failures or else we don’t learn from them.

Yes, this is hard work.

Is it a long process? Yes.

Is it complex?   Yes.

Is it a good investment?    40 years of research says it’s one of THE BEST INVESTMENTS ANY SIZE CITY CAN MAKE.

Trust me, it will be SO so worth it. We have given YOU five years, Jasper. Will YOU give us five, now?
Send us a message. We want to hear what ideas you have for Jasper.
We want to hear your concerns too- but we don’t want complaints. If you bring a concern, we want you to also bring one idea for a possible solution.

I look forward to making memories with all of you. I sure hope you’ll join us.

The only way we don’t succeed is if you don’t try.

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