LETTS, Iowa–On Dec. 21, 2020, ZWB General Construction poured the concrete foundation for a community gazebo, set to go up this spring. This first step towards building the gazebo represented over a decade of progress for a previously dilapidated property.
More than 12 years ago, an abandoned school in Letts burned to the ground, leaving a field of hazardous waste behind. To further complicate matters, the schools’ builders used cement rather than mortar to hold its bricks together, making it impossible to salvage and recycle the bricks, as builders frequently do. Not far away, an abandoned bank building sat in disrepair, falling to pieces without a proper owner.
Citizens in Letts worked tirelessly to get these properties taken care of, but faced many hurdles, as the waste at the school site needed extensive and expensive remediation work, and acquiring the bank took some complicated legal work. However, advocates in Letts persisted, and eventually got the go ahead to dispose of the school debris and tear down the bank.
On the lots left behind from these ruins, William “Bill” Kemp and other Letts residents got to work creating new and usable public spaces. Where the old school once sat, the community can now enjoy a beautiful community orchard. Soon, a gazebo will go up in place of the old bank. As a nod to Lett’s rural roots, the gazebo will have a roof specially designed to make it look like a grain bin.
The people of Letts and the surrounding area have rallied behind this new project. A grant from the Community Foundation of Louisa County, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, will help fund most of the expenses of setting up the gazebo. The community will need to raise an additional $5,000 to $6,000 to complete the project, but Kemp and other organizers have confidence they can raise this sum quickly. ZWB General Construction graciously donated the labor and materials to pour the gazebo’s foundation. Muscatine Lumber sold Letts the wood for the concrete forms at cost. The Missouri based company Letts will purchase the gazebo from has pledged to deliver it for free, as Letts lies right on one of their main delivery routes on United States Highway 61.
After years of working and waiting, Letts anxiously awaits the installation of the new gazebo. Looking back on all the effort it took to get this community improvement in place, Kemp feels proud of the achievement and excited for what lies ahead. “I’m thrilled–I’m absolutely thrilled!” he shared.