Muscatine Firefighters, public pause to remember Fallen Firefighter Mike Kruse

Michael Kruse was remembered with the laying of a wreath at the Firefighters Memorial Saturday (Sept. 14) during a special service commemorating the 17th anniversary of his death.

Kruse was 53-years-old and a 27-year veteran of the Muscatine Fire Department when he lost his life while fighting a house fire on the night of September 14, 2002. He was the first and only Muscatine firefighter to die in the line of duty, the only Iowa fire fighter to lose their life while on duty in 2002 and the 131st in the state of Iowa since records began in 1890. A total of 147 fire fighters have fallen in the line of duty since 1890.

Muscatine Fire Chief Jerry Ewers was just named a fire lieutenant when he first met Kruse as part of his team at Station 2.

“I remember that night very well,” Ewers said.

Muscatine Fire Department’s Green Shift responded to a structure fire at 10:30 p.m. on that Saturday night (Sept. 14, 2002) finding a wooden three-story multi-family home at the intersection of Orange and East 6th streets engulfed in flames. Kruse was one of two firefighters who were working on the structure’s roof when Kruse fell through and into the structure below.

When Ewers arrived at the scene he issued an all-call to bring in other shifts and relieve Green Shift in containing the fire.

“The tragedy suffered by Green Shift was felt by all those who came to the scene,” Ewers said. “But it was best to relieve that shift and allow them to grieve. We still had a job to do but it was a very emotional night.”

Kruse’s dedication to job safety and protecting Muscatine residents is a lesson that can be taught to firefighters of today and those of the future. His sacrifice and loss of life while on active duty, the emotional toll it took on his family, co-workers, and Muscatine residents, and the hope that Muscatine will never experience a tragedy such as this ever again are all part of the message presented during each memorial service.

“Mike was one of the most safety conscious firefighter’s on the department,” Ewers said during a speech in 2012 commemorating the 10th anniversary of Kruse’s death. “Mike always looked out for other firefighters to make sure they were doing the job safely and that they had their full protective equipment on at all times.”

Ewers first met Kruse in the 1990’s as a newly appointed Fire Lieutenant assigned to Station 2. Kruse and firefighter June Anne Gaeta were his crew.

Ewers admits that as a very young, very green fire lieutenant he was book smart but lacked the fire ground command and exposure to structure fires.

“Mike was a true teacher and mentor to me,” Ewers said. “His experience in fighting real fires, his expertise with the equipment, and his knowledge of the city helped this young lieutenant grow.”

Kruse joined the department in 1975 and was one of the first members to obtain his fire science degree at MCC.

“He was a true firefighter dedicated to protecting property and saving lives,” Ewers said. “He was very detail oriented, liked everything clean and in its place, and took his job very seriously.”

Ewers spoke of the difference between commemoration and celebration during his 2012 speech. Commemorating an event, he said, is done to honor the memory of that event. Celebration is a time or rejoicing, a time to feel good about something that has happened.

“Commemorations often remind us of what we have lost,” Ewers said. “Commemorations are important, not because of the words spoken, but because of honor, courage, and sacrifice that were displayed during the time of the event itself.

“We all know in our hearts that firefighting is a dangerous profession,” Ewers said. “Mike knew this when he was hired in 1975. Not every firefighter who responds to the sound of an alarm is guaranteed a safe return to quarters. Some will be mentally scarred for life with what we see and encounter at emergency scenes, some will be seriously injured, and some will pay the ultimate price.

“So it was with Mike Kruse on September 14, 2002 while battling a house fire at 6th and Orange just a few blocks from here,” Ewers said. “We have gathered here to commemorate that tragic event that took one of our own and left behind a painful gap in our ranks. We will continue to do this as long as the Muscatine Fire Department is in existence.”

Muscatine’s Firefighters Memorial is located at the intersection of Cedar and 5th Streets.

Kruse is among the fallen firefighters to be honored with inclusion on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. In his memorial, his children wrote:

“Mike was a ‘True American Hero.’ He never wanted to be recognized for all the wonderful things he did. Mike always stood up for what he believed in. He was always honest‚ even though the other person did not want to hear what he had to say. Mike always followed the rules‚ unless someone gave him a direct order to do otherwise.

Mike always put others before himself. He always talked about his family which he was so proud of. Mike stood by them through thick and thin. He gave his children unconditional love. He taught them to respect other people for who they are. Mike explained to them to love life because life is short. He became their best friend. He loved them for who they are. He was so excited about his little grandson‚ who bore his name. He took time out of his busy life to spend lots of loving moments with him.

Mike always went the extra mile at home and at work. He kept track of every run he had ever been on. He stopped by some of the houses while he was out for his morning jog and checked on patients to make sure they were doing all right. He never passed up the opportunity to play in the yearly basketball game with the Special Olympics. Mike always enjoyed carrying the boot and receiving donations for MDA.

Mike was a veteran at the fire department for twenty-seven years. He was still able to keep up with some of the younger guys. He was able to give the younger firemen the knowledge he had learned over the years. He was very respected for that.

Mike was taken from us at a moment in time when his family and friends were so proud of who he was. He will always remain alive in our hearts as a ‘True American Hero.’”

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Disinformation is prevalent on development project for Carver Corner in Muscatine

The 7.4 acres owned by the City of Muscatine known at “Carver Corner” is the subject of development proposals currently being reviewed by a committee of individuals from both the private and public sectors.

MUSCATINE, Iowa – A recent post on social media concerning the proposed redevelopment of the area known as “Carver Corner” has spurred a tremendous amount of discussion. However, the post has more disinformation than actual facts.

For the past seven years or more, staff from the City of Muscatine and various outside consultants have been working on ideas of how to revitalize “Carver Corner” along with the Mississippi Drive corridor and the Grandview Avenue corridor. And with Mississippi Drive done and Grandview on tap for 2020-21, the final piece of the puzzle is what to do with the city-owned property located at “Carver Corner”.

The advice of outside consultants, and not from city staff as indicated in the social media post, was that the traffic pattern at the “Carver Corner” intersection be left out of the Mississippi Drive and Grandview Avenue projects until a suitable developer could be found. The intersection could then be blended into the development design and serve as a catalyst for future economic growth along Business 61.

In 2018, the Community Development staff began to gather information that would form the Request for Proposals (RFP) on development of the seven-acre “Carver Corner” site. During the April 11, 2019, in-depth City Council meeting, an overview of the RFP was presented by Community Development Director Jodi Royal-Goodwin.

“It has taken the City over 20 years to acquire all the pieces of property in this area,” Royal-Goodwin told the Council. “The main goal is to secure a developer who would provide Muscatine with an appealing and economically beneficial gateway from the south end to downtown.”

The final version of the Carver Corner RFP was completed in early June and distributed to over 60 local and regional development individuals and companies. The release of the RFP was also publicized and made available on the City of Muscatine web site for anyone to download, complete, and submit should they desire.

“The City did email the RFP to a list of local and regional developers but also made the RFP available to anyone who was interested on the City web site,” Kevin Jenison, Communications Manager for the City, said. “We also have a notification system called “Notify Me” that we use whenever notices for bids or RFP’s are published by the City. Any local developer or contractor has the option of receiving these notices or visiting our web site to download the bid packages.”

At no time was anyone denied access to the RFP package or prevented from submitting a proposal.

Proposals were due in the Finance Department at Muscatine City Hall on August 14 but before that deadline, a pre-proposal meeting was held on July 30 in the Muscatine City Council chambers. Representatives from several local developers, representatives of the Peace Park initiative, and representatives from regional developers were in attendance along with a number of other interested individuals. All had copies of the RFP in their possession. Those in attendance were reminded of the deadline to submit proposals, all proposals would be considered and reviewed, and the top proposals presented to the City Council for their consideration.

The process to determine the viability of all proposals received is currently ongoing with a committee assigned to review the proposals, check references, and determine which proposals to move forward in the process. Once that is complete, the City will ask the Council’s permission to enter into a development agreement with the potential developer that will iron out details of the project.

City policy does not permit the release of any information on project bids until that project is presented to the Muscatine City Council, and then only the presented bids are made public. The “Carver Corner” project will be presented at a future in-depth council meeting with details made public before the presentation so that the public may provide input on the proposal.

The final decision on whether to accept a proposal or reject all proposals and start over is up to the members of the City Council and not up to any member of City staff.

One of the arguments pushed by the social media post was that the development would block views of the river from drivers on the Mississippi Drive-Grandview Avenue corridor. However, most views are area already blocked by a 27-foot tall levee (almost as tall as a three-story building). A preliminary design of the actual structures to be built will be part of the presentation at the City Council in-depth session.

Another argument suggested by the social media post was that the potential for a developer who is not local to let the development deteriorate without any accountability is high. The City of Muscatine holds local and non-local developers equally responsible for their properties and offers programs to assist with redevelopment or remodeling of structures currently in existence.

“As a gateway between the south end and the downtown, this property will have a high impact on the economy of Muscatine,” Gregg Mandsager, City Administrator said. “I am sure that the City Council will put a high value on the ability of any developer to maintain the property as promised in the development agreement, and will not choose a project that does not meet the standards Muscatine residents expect.”

The potential for millions of tax dollars that could be added annually to the City budget is also an incentive is ensure the viability of the developer and of the project. Those added funds could be used to repair city infrastructure, enhance neighborhoods, or be used to building owners to rehabilitate their properties to further enhance economic development.

Disinformation used in social media has the potential to hinder any project that could be an economic benefit to the City of Muscatine. Therefore, the City asks residents to allow the committee to do its work free of responses to disinformation, let the project speak for itself, and let the City Council decide whether to pursue this course or not.