ECHO - Almost 50 residents of Echo, almost a fifth of the entire population, gathered in the community center on Tuesday night to hear what had been accomplished by the Echo Community Hospitality Organization committee, and what remained to be accomplished.
The committee was founded to explore ways to replace the Echo Bar and Restaurant that was destroyed by fire in August 2011. The restaurant was one of 22 businesses in Echo, and the only place residents could buy a drink or a meal for at least five miles around.
More than just a business, it was a center of social activity for people of all ages in town and a place for informal meetings.
"We're pretty much to the point we've got all the bid specs," said Rick Hanson, president of E.C.H.O. "We know what it's going to cost, and now we have to start raising money."
The committee handed out floor plans for a new restaurant prepared with the help of a local contractor. Hanson explained the current target is to raise $250,000 to build a secure building, meaning an unfinished structure that can be locked up. It will take an estimated $400,000 to construct a finished building.
The committee then took questions and comments from the floor.
"We owe it to our children to have a place for them," said Echo resident Brad Kurtz. "We have a school, and when we were young, we had a place that was warm and safe to wait for mom to come get us."
One question from the audience concerned whether there had been any interest expressed in running a restaurant.
According to Hanson, there have been inquiries, but nobody wants to commit to establishing a restaurant unless there is a building to house it.
Echo has faced this kind of problem before, when its school closed and when the grocery store closed. In both cases, residents organized to open a charter school and a new grocery store.
"It was about 10 years ago, a group of retired women organized to save the grocery store," said local resident Karen Pederson. "I think it's a great idea, we just need some volunteers to do some fundraising."
According to Hanson, the means of collecting donations, and if need be, returning them to the donors should the project fail, is in place. Now all they need is three or four people to volunteer to be the fundraising committee.
Theresa Iverson said she's thinking about it. Like a lot of residents, she works out of town and would like to have a place that people can gather in again.
"I want to see it happen and have my role involved," Iverson said. "I just miss coming to see people."