Transport Ambulance is added to Muscatine Fire Department fleet

The Type 2 van style Transit Ambulance provides for patient comfort and Basic LIfe Support operations while transferring a patient from one hospital to another. Not only is it a smoother ride for the patient, it is more cost effective for the Muscatine Fire Department to operate.

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Patient comfort, better gas mileage, and decreased maintenance costs are just three of the benefits from a Type II Transport Ambulance that was recently added to the Muscatine Fire Department (MFD) fleet.

“It is a much smoother ride,” Andrew McSorley, Muscatine Firefighter/Paramedic who worked with Battalion Chief/Emergency Medical Service Chief Ted Hillard in the purchase and outfitting of the new rig. “We have some long distances that we drive to take patients from one hospital to another. This unit is just a smoother ride for the patient and easier to drive down the road for the paramedics.”

The 2019 Type II Ford Transit, medium height roof, 3.7 liter gasoline powered van was purchased for $85,591.00 from Foster Coach with the purchase authorized by the Muscatine City Council in November 2019.

There is not much room in the Type 2 Transit Ambulance for patient care but enough for Basic Life Support operations.

“Some of the feedback we get from citizens is that the modular ambulances are not a very comfortable ride,” Jerry Ewers, Muscatine Fire Chief, said. “The way this transit is built will provide a smoother ride for the patient.”

Hillard noted that there will be a cost savings in gas for the new unit and less overall maintenance costs for all of the ambulances in the fleet.

Earlier this year, the MFD had 12 trips to the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City or to Davenport in one day. Those trips amounted to over 1,000 miles accumulated on one of the bigger units in just a single day. That is extra miles that would be bettered served in response to 911 calls than in transferring non-critical patients.

Hillard said that the department gets roughly 200,000 to 250,000 miles on a unit before actually have to do major work on them.

More room on both sides of the cot for patient care in Type 1 Advanced Life Support ambulance.

“Once we get that high of mileage, it starts to nickel and dime us because of all the little things that start to go wrong,” Hillard said. “Plus we are constantly having to maintain them.”

Reliability is important along with maintenance costs when working with units that have high mileage, and MFD mechanics work hard to maintain the fleet and keep the ambulances in working order so that they are dependable and reliable for use.

“We do have a fleet replacement schedule that we follow when mileage increases and repair costs skyrocket,” Ewers said. “This addition to our fleet may help to extend the useable life of our ambulances and that will help keep costs down.”

The transit ambulance, Squad 356, has been in service for several weeks and the MFD has already had some feedback.

“We responded to a 911 call with our regular ambulance, drove the patient to the hospital, and then drove the patient to a different hospital in the transit ambulance,” Hillard said. “The patient said the ride was completely different in the transit and more relaxing.”

Relaxing while being transferred from one hospital to another may be a stretch in regards to patient comfort especially if the patient has a back or neck injury or something similar.

Anyone with non-critical injuries will tell you that being bumped around as you are in the bigger ambulances is not that relaxing.

“This is all about patient care and patient comfort,” Hillard said.

McSorley added that comfort is especially key when transporting psychological patients.

“Just being uncomfortable can set them off,” McSorley said. “So this type of transport is beneficial to them and to the paramedics with the patient.”

This type of BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulance is not meant to be used as an ALS (Advanced Life Support) unit but could be if the situation warrants. McSorely said that Squad 356 has not been used a lot yet with the MFD being rather selective on what calls the unit goes on. Predominately, the unit will be used for patients who are not critical, do not require medical treatment but still need some monitoring, and cannot be transferred by private vehicle.

While patient comfort, better gas mileage, and cost savings are key factors in the units use, there are some drawbacks. One of the bigger downfalls is that the attending paramedic cannot access the patient from both sides of the cot.

“While it is definitely more comfortable, when you get in the back you really see the difference between these rigs,” McSorely said. “However, the lack of room is not that big of a deal for a BLS transport.”

Firefighter Andrew McSorely shows just how tight the interior of the Transit Ambulance, a Type 2 van style ambulance, that will be used by the Muscatine Fire Department to transport non-critical patients from one hospital to another.

The unit is designed for BLS transport and not intended to be used for any 911 calls, but if something would go wrong, the unit does have ALS capabilities including an ALS monitor, certain medications, the ability to do IV’s and intubations, and much more.

“So even though this is for BLS, we can still turn it into an ALS transfer if we needed to,” McSorely said.

Squad 356 joins five ALS ambulances that have primary responsibility for responding to 911 calls. Four of those ambulances are housed at Station 1 in the Public Safety Building, and one is housed in Station 2 on the south side of Muscatine.

“This is a great investment in what we do,”McSorley said. “As many transfers as we are starting to get, this is the best option for us and for the patient. And, for the many long distance transfers that we have, we would rather go that distance with this rig than one of the other rougher riding rigs.”

Transit ambulances have been out for several years but not many departments utilize them because they are normally used for non-emergency transfers. Transit ambulances are not used for 911 calls since there is less compartment space, and there is less room for patient care especially when you have critical patients that may need the more enhanced ALS services. Non-emergency transport services have been using them and using them well according to Ewers.

“We are trying to fit it into our organization and evaluate to see if it is something that we can continue with or if it is something that we utilize now but does not have a practical application in our future operations,” Ewers said. “We will not know that fit until we have the opportunity to try some research, accumulate data and feedback, and see how it works within our organization.”

If it does work, the department would not rule out adding another transfer unit to its fleet, especially if a third station is built.

“This is our initial investment to see how it works for our department,” Hillard said. “Where we go really depends on how call volume goes, and the potential for building a third station on the north side.”

Hillard said the department is maxed out right now with all bays filled up at both Station 1 and Station 2. Squad 356 is housed at Station 1 where the transfers are dispatched from. The ambulance at Station 2 does not do transfers unless the transfer requires more critical care.

“Our odds of picking up a patient at the hospital in a timely manner is better from here (Station 1) plus this station is where our manpower is and it is easier to back fill staff when needed,” Hillard said.

A third station is being planned at the former Iowa Department of Transportation site on Lake Park Boulevard but construction for that site is still several years away from being implemented. A third station would allow ALS ambulances and fire trucks to be housed at that location and free up a bay or two at the main station for the potential of another transfer unit if the data warrants.

Unlike the bigger modular ALS ambulances, the transit ambulances cannot be refurbished and will have to be eventually replaced. The price difference between a Type 2 BLS transport ambulance and the Type 1 ALS modular ambulance may make replacement feasible.

“We are always trying to find alternative ways of providing services while still being cost effective,” Ewers said.

A Type 1 Advanced Life Support ambulance is modular by design with the patient “box” sitting on a truck chassis. The larger size provides better critical care for patients being transported to the hospital but a rougher ride for patients being transferred from one hospital to another.

Use of consumer fireworks may increase due to COVID-19 and cancellation of Fourth of July Fireworks show

Residents urged to follow safety guidelines for an injury free holiday season

Fireworks and the Fourth of July have a long standing relationship but this year’s celebration of our nation’s independence will be different and without many of the festivities that were enjoyed by Muscatine visitors and residents a year ago.

The Fourth of July holiday season will, undoubtedly, still be accompanied by the discharging of consumer fireworks from the homes of area residents including the use of sparklers, firecrackers, and other large displays.

Residents are reminded, however, that the legal discharge of consumer fireworks is limited to just two days in July. Muscatine City Code states that consumer fireworks can be legally discharged July 3 and July 4 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. only.

The Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GMCCI) decided to cancel the annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks demonstration out of concern that residents would not be able to practice the social distancing guidelines recommended by the Iowa Department of Public Health in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. The decision was made after consulting with the City of Muscatine and with Trinity Muscatine Public Health officials.

“As disappointing as it is to cancel this long-standing community tradition, we want to take every precaution to keep members of our community safe and healthy,” Erik Reader, GMCCI President & CEO, said. “We are still looking to have a community celebration of sorts, but later in the summer. At this time we are exploring rescheduling the fireworks, adding live music, and trying to find ways to support small businesses that have been impacted by the recent events.”

Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson echoed Readers’ comment and joined with other City officials in stating the importance of public safety.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our citizens and of the visitors to our community,” Broderson said. “The current health crisis has brought significant challenges to our lives. While it is disappointing that this celebration cannot be held, we will be able to enjoy these types of celebrations in the near future by following the guidelines provided for social distancing and personal hygiene.”

Consumer fireworks will still be, and currently are (although not legally), discharged by residents in the weeks and days leading up to the Fourth of July. Citizens are urged to be responsible regarding the use of fireworks and to remain within the guidelines established in the Muscatine City Code.

Public safety is also the foremost concern for local and state officials in the governance of the sale and use of consumer fireworks.

“Fireworks can have far reaching consequences that are usually not considered when they are ignited,” Kevin Jenison, City of Muscatine Communications Manager, said.

Local government and public safety officials share deep concern for the individuals who discharge the fireworks, those individuals who are in the vicinity when fireworks are discharged, those individuals who may be affected by the noise created by the explosions, for the homes, businesses, or other structures that may be ignited by fireworks, and for household pets.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission states that the Fourth of July, and the month surrounding it, is the most dangerous time for fireworks related injuries. The majority of fireworks-related injuries involve the hands and fingers (41 percent) with the head are second (19 percent).

Trinity Muscatine Emergency Department received six trauma cases from the surrounding area due to severe firework related injuries in July 2019. Muscatine County Public Health also reported additional firework related impacts including a reported dismemberment and one death in the area. Many more firework related injuries went unreported.

While the skies may be dark along the Mississippi River riverfront without the annual fireworks show, expectations are that reaction to the COVID-19 health crisis will create more celebrations at the homes of Muscatine residents.

“The Police Department had about a dozen firework calls over the weekend,” Mike Hartman, Assistant Fire Chief, said.

Applications for tents have been received for various locations including the Muscatine Mall, Blain’s, Fareway, Hy-Vee, Wal-Mart, and Menards, and inside sales at planned at Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Mainstreet, Wal-Mart, and Menards. The Muscatine Fire Department have approved two tents to sell and beginning their safety inspections of the other locations.

The City of Muscatine encourages residents to be good neighbors when discharging fireworks, to be considerate to any neighbors who might have a sensitivity to fireworks noise, to be mindful of pets who may become frightened by the firework explosions, and to be mindful of the property lines of others who may not want fireworks on their real property.

Per state law, a person shall not use, explode, or discharge consumer fireworks on real property other than that person’s real property or on the real property of a person who has consented to the use of consumer fireworks on that property. Sidewalks, the right-of-way between sidewalks and the street, and the City streets are all public property and thus are prohibited. Parks, trails, public parking lots and so on are also off limits.

Using fireworks outside the designated dates and times listed below is considered to be a violation and can result in fines of no less than $250 per violation. Anyone discharging fireworks or allowing the discharge of fireworks on their property assumes responsibility for that discharge and the consequences, if warranted.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers these recommendations:

  1. Do not allow young children to play with fireworks. Sparklers, a firework often considered by many to be the ideal “safe” device for the young, burn at very high temperatures and should not be handled by young children. Children may not understand the danger involved with fireworks and may not act appropriately while using the devices.
  2. Persons under the age of 18 shall not discharge any fireworks without adult supervision.
  3. Do not allow any running or horseplay in or around the fireworks firing area or with fireworks.
  4. Set off fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from houses, dry leaves, or grass and other flammable materials.
  5. Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that fail to ignite or explode.
  6. Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  7. Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  8. Never light fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
  9. Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
  10. Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  11. Check instructions for special storage directions.
  12. Observe local laws.
  13. Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
  14. Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

Report any fires in buildings, vehicles, or greenspaces by calling 911 immediately!

Enjoy a safe holiday season.

More information can be found on the City of Muscatine Firework Safety page.

Successful bulky waste program gets a needed makeover; changes to help residents schedule collection days

A load of bulky waste collected from residents heads to the Muscatine Transfer Station.

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Curbside bulky waste collection has been a tremendous success, so much so that the Department of Public Works (DPW) has doubled the number of collections per day and lifted restrictions on scheduling to allow residents to plan for pickups weeks or months in advance.

“Maybe it is because more people are staying home following the Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines, or maybe it is just the season to do spring cleaning,” Brian Stineman, Public Works Director, said. “Whatever the reason we have been receiving a lot of requests and have modified our procedures to meet those needs.”

Following discussions by Public Works staff last winter, the Curbside Bulky Waste Collection Program was launched in February to ease the financial, equipment, and personnel costs associated with was formally called Spring Cleanup Week.

The Solid Waste Division of the Department of Public Works recommended the elimination of the designated Spring Cleanup Week in favor of a program that residents would be able to use throughout the year. Residents were already offered three free pickups per calendar year, which was never fully utilized, and the new program combine and expands on the old programs.

“The financial, equipment, and personnel costs associated with the collection effort associated with Spring Cleanup Week were unnecessary,” Stineman said. “And it took resources away from work on other projects such as street repair.”

Initially the program had residents calling or emailing the Transfer Station to schedule a collection at least two days before and up to a week in advance of their refuse collection day. A maximum of 20 collections would be scheduled each day.

Demand for the city service exceeded expectations and resulted in increasing the number of pickups per day and allowing residents to schedule collections as far in advance as needed.

“Not only have we gone from 20 to 30 and now to 40 collections per day, we are now allowing residents to schedule future pickups as needed.” Stineman said.

Solid Waste Manager David Popp added that another reason for the changes was that the piles that the staff was seeing were exceeding the size limits of the program.

“Many of the piles that we are seeing are exceeding the size as listed in the program,” Popp said. “If residents need to, they can schedule more than one week while on the phone.”

Remember … the sticker may be in the mail but you have to request one first

Stineman also noted that residents who want to dispose of yard waste at the Compost Facility can do so during regular site hours but a Compost Facility Sticker is needed. If you do not have one yet, contact the Transfer Station and one will be mailed to you after verification of address.

Stickers would normally be available for pickup at the Transfer Station, Public Works, or City Hall but these facilities are currently closed to the public in response to COVID-19 guidelines.

Once the Transfer Station, and other City buildings, reopen to the public, the Compost Facility Stickers will be available at locations. Residents requesting a sticker will be asked for their name, address, phone number, and make and model of the vehicle they will use to bring waste to the Compost Facility.

The site is located at the Muscatine Transfer Station, 1000 S. Houser St., Muscatine. Regular hours are 12-6 p.m. Sunday through Friday and from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays.

So what can be left curbside for the city to collect?

Among the items accepted for residential curbside pickup are furniture (couch, chair, recliner, table), mattresses (must be in a bag), carpet (no longer than four feet, rolled, and secured), dismantled swing sets, minimal building materials (not to exceed a pick up load measuring 8’x4’x2’), extra trash bags (smaller items must be bagged), and appliances (two free per year per address).

“We are only accepting small quantities of construction materials,” David Poll, Solid Waste Manager, said. “And these materials should not have nails or screws protruding from them that may injure staff as they are picking them up.”

Bags for mattresses are available for free at the Transfer Station. With the Transfer Station closed to the public at the present time, residents need to call the Transfer Station for directions on how to obtain a bag. Residents can also use the bag their new mattress came in.

What is not accepted for curbside pickup?

Among the items that will not be picked up as part of the bulky waste curbside collection are sheds, garages, and excessive building materials, concrete or brick, paint and household hazardous waste, camper refrigerator and camper air conditioners, car bodies, tires, electronics, and fencing.

Concrete or brick can be taken by the resident to the Public Works yard on Washington Street. Paint and household hazardous waste will be accepted at no charge at the Transfer Station once that location has reopened to the public.

Electronics will be accepted at the Transfer Station for a fee once that facility reopens to the public. A Free Electronics Drop Off Week is scheduled for July 13-18. During this week, residents who have City of Muscatine refuse service can bring three (3) electronics to the Transfer Station for disposal at no charge with proof of address (driver’s license or piece of mail).

Tires will be accepted at the Transfer Station for a fee one that facility reopens to the public. A Free Tire Drop Off Week is scheduled for July 20-25. During this week, residents who have City of Muscatine refuse service can bring four (4) tires (off of the rim) to the Transfer Station at no charge with proof of address (driver’s license or piece of mail).

Essential services maintained during COVID-19 outbreak

The stay-at-home guidelines associated with COVID-19 may have helped to increase interest in the collection effort, and the Department of Public Works has responded to meet that increased interest. This service to the citizens of Muscatine and Fruitland, along with the curbside collection of refuse, recycling, and yard waste, has continued during the COVID-19 outbreak.

CALL TO SCHEDULE CURBSIDE BULK PICKUP

Residents can call 563-264-JUNK (563-264-5865) or email bulkywaste@muscatineiowa.gov to schedule a curbside collection on the resident’s regular collection day. Due to the popularity of the program, residents are urged to contact the Transfer Station as soon as possible.

Pickups are completed on the residents’ regular refuse collection day but can be scheduled weeks in advance.

The schedule for each collection day fills up fast and a resident may have to postpone their collection to a future date.

If you email or leave a phone message with your name and phone number, a staff member will call, review the items to be picked up to ensure they are acceptable, and confirm the day for collection.

Visit Curbside Bulk Collection for more details.

CITY STILL PICKING UP YARD WASTE CURBSIDE

The City of Muscatine continues to offer curbside pickup of grass clippings, leaves, and garden waste placed in City of Muscatine Yard Waste bags on the residents’ regular refuse collection day. These bags are available at Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Main Street, and Fareway. They will also be available at the Transfer Station when that facility is open to the public.

Tree limbs and other trimmings from trees and shrubs will also be collected curbside as long as they are bundled with string or cord in four-foot lengths. Contact Public Works (563-263-8933) for curbside collection of larger tree limbs.

Bags, tree limbs, and other trimmings should be placed near refuse container on the day of scheduled pickup.

Visit Yard Waste Collection for more details.

COMPOST FACILITY OPEN BUT ONLY WITH A STICKER

The Compost Facility at the Muscatine Transfer Station remains open for residents of Muscatine and Fruitland to deposit yard waste but only to those who have the Compost Facility Sticker. The Compost sticker identifies residents of Muscatine and Fruitland who can take yard waste to the Compost Facility for free.

Due to COVID-19 guidelines, the Compost Facility attendants will not accept cash or checks at this time, thus limiting access to the facility to those who can prove there are residents of Muscatine with a sticker.

For more information, visit Compost Facility on the City of Muscatine website.

Recycled asphalt “cooked” into hot mix and used in small street repairs by Department of Public Works

PHOTO GALLERY

MUSCATINE, Iowa – The Roadway Maintenance Division of the Department of Public Works (DPW) has a new tool in their arsenal to combat the numerous small street repair issues (pot holes, etc.) that are exposed every winter, a tool that that creates new hot asphalt mix using recycled asphalt.

Hot asphalt is usually not available during the winter months when the ground is not warm and dry enough. Hot asphalt is mixed at 300 degrees Fahrenheit but cool temperatures can cause the mix to cool too quickly and make it unusable as permanent asphalt. Manufacturing plants that create the hot asphalt mix normally shut down mid-November through March because of the cooler air and ground temperatures.

Muscatine, like most entities charged with roadway maintenance, uses a cold mix during the winter months. Cold mix does not require heat to become flexible and, with additives, stays soft when stockpiled for six months. However, this is a temporary patch that takes time to cure and not the best choice for high traffic areas.

While cold mix will still be used, the purchase of a KM International T2 Asphalt Recycler and KM 8000TEDD Hotbox/Reclaimer by the City of Muscatine means that hot mix would be available for more permanent repairs in small pot holes.

“We do not have the capability to repair large areas with the hot mix but we will be able to do repairs to smaller pot holes in high traffic areas,” Brian Stineman, DPW Director said.

The process to create a limited supply of hot mix asphalt begins with asphalt millings (recycled asphalt). For the past several years the City of Muscatine has required contractors on street projects to separate the asphalt, concrete, bricks, and dirt as they remove old pavement. Each of these items are recycled in various ways by the City of Muscatine.

Reclaimed asphalt is crushed, or ground up, to create millings that are environmentally friendly (lower carbon footprint than fresh asphalt or other paving materials) with characteristics similar to fresh asphalt or gravel. They have been used as a subbase in certain parts of road projects and as a temporary road surface when needed.

Now, this recycled asphalt takes on a fourth life and one that is saving taxpayers money.

Chunks of recycled asphalt and/or millings are delivered by a front-end loader into the loading chute of the KM T2 Asphalt Recycler. The material falls into a rotating drum with seven steel agitators that breaks down the material while it is being heated by a 700,000 BTU burner pointed into the drum. The burner not only heats the material but also dries the material as it is being broken down.

Two bags of asphalt cement are added to act as a binding agent as the drum continues to rotate. Heat is once again added as the material mixes (up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit) allowing the asphalt cement to evenly encapsulate the aggregate. The mix is heated a third time before the material is offloaded into the front-end loader and transported to the KM 8000TEDD Hotbox/Reclaimer where it is kept at a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Hotbox is then transported to the work site where the area to be repaired is cleaned and dried before the reclaimed asphalt hot mix is added. The Hotbox will keep the mix at temperature for most of the work day.

The Asphalt Recycler and Hotbox/Reclaimer were in use Wednesday (Feb. 26, 2020) for repairs on a section of Park Avenue West. One City crew prepared the area for repair while a second crew manned the Asphalt Recycler to “cook” new hot mix. The first application was moved into the Hotbox which was then transported to the work site.

The Hotbox keeps the hot mix at 350 degrees Fahrenheit as it is transported and then emptied into the repair area. Larger areas, such as the one being repaired Wednesday, take a second “cooking” of hot mix and transportation to the work site. Once completed, the “new” asphalt is compressed and allowed to cool and harden before opening the section to traffic.

Recycled asphalt “cooked” into “new” hot mix
“New” hot mix transported to work site in Hotbox that keeps the asphalt pliable even in cold tempratures

Call-in-to-schedule bulky waste pickup replaces Spring Cleanup Week in Muscatine

Unsightly piles of unwanted items were part of the problem of having a limited time period for residents to declutter their residences and have the City haul away the bulky waste.

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Spring Cleanup Week is no more … at least for the 2020 calendar year. During a presentation to the Muscatine City Council on January 9, Director of the Department of Public Works Brian Stineman and Solid Waste Manager David Popp revealed a plan that could save the City money and perhaps alleviate unsightly oversized, and potentially hazardous piles of bulky waste throughout the City of Muscatine.

“There will not be any need to stockpile unwanted bulky items for that one week of the year,” Popp said. “Instead you will be able to call the Transfer Station and schedule a pickup of those bulky items on your refuse collection day.”

Spring Cleanup Week was held the third week in April for the past several years. With the consent of the Muscatine City Council that designated week has been sent to the recycle bin.

Instead the city will offer residents of Muscatine and Fruitland unlimited bulky waste curbside collection on the resident’s refuse collection day at no additional charge on a call-in to schedule basis. The City anticipates a “soft opening” for the new bulky waste pickup policy the first week of February.

Residents wanting a bulky waste pickup need to call or email the Muscatine Transfer Station to schedule the pickup. The City is in the process of establishing a dedicated phone number and email address for scheduling bulky waste pickups. Until that process is complete, residents can call the Transfer Station (563-263-9689) for additional information or to schedule a pickup.

“If you call in and get the answering machine we will call you back,” Popp said. “If you email us, we will call you. Our effort will be to schedule the appropriate time for pickup and to ensure that the items being placed out for collection are allowable.”

If residents have a large amount of bulky waste items they would like collected by the City, multiple pickups can be scheduled to keep the piles to a more manageable size for both the resident and City staff.

The Department of Public Works will collect unwanted items and take them to the Muscatine Transfer Station for disposal. Once a pickup is scheduled with the City, residents will be permitted to place the unwanted items curbside the night before their regular refuse collection day or by 5:00 a.m. on the collection day.

Businesses are not eligible for this service.

Rampant abuse of Spring Cleanup Week was one of the reasons that City staff sought a change in the process.

“We have seen bigger and bigger piles appear throughout the City that caused delays and extra expense in the collection efforts,” Stineman said. “A lot of times piles of unwanted items were set out weeks in advance and that was pretty unsightly and made worse by those who would pick through the piles and leave items strewn about.”

Another reason for the change was the cost in equipment and employee time.

“The cleanup week collection required assistance from multiple divisions and the use of temporary workers,” Stineman said. “And it took away resources that should have been used for roadway maintenance projects.”

In the past the City has used 13 full time employees, nine temporary employees, and 14 pieces of equipment from the Department of Public Works along with eight full time employees, 17 temporary employees, and eight pieces of equipment from the Solid Waste Division.

“Going to a program where we schedule pickups on resident’s regular refuse collection day allows us to limit the workload to just two employees and one piece of equipment,” Popp said. “Having residents call in to schedule pickups will make better use of our time and of residents’ time.”

Stineman and Popp estimate that up to 20 loads per day can be picked up with one truck and two staff members.

Rules established for cleanup week will be used in the year round bulky waste collection effort.

Once Muscatine and Fruitland residents schedule a pickup, bulky waste items like furniture, carpet, dismantled swing sets, and small amounts of building materials can be placed curbside for collection by the City no sooner than a day before the scheduled collection. Small items such as household decorations should be bagged.

In addition, residents will be able to set out two appliances per year (washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator, microwave, or dishwasher) and have those appliances picked up for free. Camper refrigerators and camper air conditioning units are excluded from curbside pickup. Standard refrigerators and freezers need to have the doors removed for safety.

Additional appliances can be scheduled for pick up after the payment of a $10 fee per appliance. Fees can be paid at the Transfer Station, the Finance Department at Muscatine City Hall, or at the Department of Public Works.

Piles of unwanted bulky waste should be no more than 10 feet long, four feet wide, and two feet high, or about the size of a pickup truck load.

In addition, mattresses that are set out for pickup are required to be placed in mattress bags that are available for free from the Transfer Station, at City Hall, or at the Public Works office.

“It seemed residents hoarded items all year and then set out everything for the Cleanup Week,” Stineman said. “And the piles did not conform to size.”

Popp suggested another avenue for residents who have items they no longer want.

“Many items we see in these piles could have donated to local thrift stores so that they can be refurbished and obtained by those who have a need but cannot afford new items,” Popp said. “That is beneficial in two ways as it helps those in need and reduces the amount of material that is taken to the landfill.”

If a resident calls in to schedule a pickup, however, the City will collect and dispose of the items placed curbside.

Yard waste must be in City of Muscatine yard waste bags. Brush tied in bundles no larger than 18 inches in diameter and four feet in length will also be picked up on a call-in basis.

Items that will not be accepted for curbside pickup include torn down buildings (such as garages), car bodies, large trees or stumps, concrete (can be dropped off for no cost at the Public Works Yard on Washington Street), paint and other hazardous chemicals (accepted at the Transfer Station at no cost year round), and motor oil and antifreeze (accepted at the Transfer Station for no cost year round).

The following items will not be picked up curbside but will be accepted at the Transfer Station for a fee with proof of residency: car and/or light truck tires (maximum of 4) without rims, electronic waste items (maximum 3); propane gas tanks; and, camper refrigerators and camper air conditioners.

Tires will be accepted for FREE at the Transfer Station May 11-16, 2020, while electronics will be accepted for FREE at the Transfer Station April 27-May 1, 2020.

Proof of residency is required (such as the Compost Facility sticker or driver’s license) at the Transfer Station.

The Transfer Station is open 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Visit the Solid Waste Division page on the City of Muscatine web site for more information.

For a schedule of fees, visit the Transfer Station page on the City of Muscatine web site.

Click HERE to see the January 9, 2020, presentation to the Muscatine City Council.

Reception Thursday to honor four members who will complete their terms on Muscatine City Council

Public invited to attend ceremony from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 19) in Council Chambers at Muscatine City Hall

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Four members of the Muscatine City Council will participate in their final Council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, after each selected not to seek re-election this past year. The four will be honored during a reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on December 19 in the Muscatine City Council chambers.

All are welcome to attend and honor these four gentlemen for their years of service to the community.

The reception will be followed at 7 p.m. with the swearing in of four new Council members who will begin their terms of service at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2020. This may be the first time in the history of the modern day Muscatine City Council that four new members will be seated.

Dennis Froelich (First Ward) will be replacing Phil Fitzgerald who chose not to run after 28 years as a member of the Muscatine City Council. Peggy Gordon (Third Ward) will be replacing Tom Spread who chose not to run after serving two terms (eight years) on the Muscatine City Council. John Jindrich (Fifth Ward) will be replacing Allen Harvey who chose not to run for reelection after four years on the Council. Dewayne Hopkins (At-Large) is the final new member of the council, replacing Santos Saucedo who also chose not to run for reelection after four years on the Council.

The four retiring members spoke about their years of service as a member of the Muscatine City Council.

PHIL FITZGERALD

Phil Fitzgerald has served for 28 years as a member of the Muscatine City Council representing the First Ward. Fitzgerald retired as an industrial technology instructor in the Muscatine School District in 2010 after 35 years, and currently operates Fitzgerald Construction. Since first being elected to the Muscatine City Council in 1992, Fitzgerald has seen a lot of changes in Muscatine.

Fitzgerald was instrumental in the development and establishment of the Muscatine Geographic Information Consortium (MAGIC) and was a charter member of the organization. MAGIC is a partnership between the City of Muscatine, Muscatine County, and Muscatine Power & Water established in 1999 that provides Muscatine County citizens access to property information and maps online free of charge.

He was also instrumental in the development and establishment of the Muscatine County Joint Communication Commission (MCJCC) the Muscatine Joint Communication Center (MUSCOM), serving several times as the board chairperson. MCJCC is responsible for the overall governance and fiscal management of MUSCOM.

TOM SPREAD

Tom Spread served eight years on the Muscatine City Council representing the Third Ward. The accomplishments he is most proud of fall into one of three categories: (1) the financial condition of the city; (2) the services that the city provides; and, (3) the public works projects that have been advanced.

“I start with the financial condition of the city simply because that is the foundation that supports the provision of city services and the development of public works projects,” Spread said.

He remembers 10 years ago when the city had to dip into the emergency fund to pay its bills, and was basically living paycheck to paycheck. In the past 10 years that reserve has grown from 10 percent of General Fund expenditures to nearly 24 percent, or from 30 days cash on hand to 82 days of cash on hand.

“That means that we have the capacity to fund the unknown such as repairs to the ruptured forced sewer main on the sound end, and the endless effects of flood conditions,” Spread said. “And we have been able to accomplish these thing without increasing property tax rates.”

Spread commended city staff for their success in finding sources to fund a long list of public works projects and operations from sources other than tax revenue.

“When my family and I relocated to Muscatine in 1999, our new friends and co-workers lamented the fact that Mississippi Drive was in dire need of repair,” Spread said.

The redevelopment of Mississippi Drive is one of the public works projects is proud of.

“We benefited from the change in jurisdiction, $13 million from the State of Iowa, and a $4 million contribution from Canadian Pacific,” Spread said of the project. “To the credit of city staff, the results are attractive and functional, and a significant improvement to the quality of life in our town.”

Mississippi Drive is just one of a long list of public works projects that have been completed, are underway, or are being planned that Spread is proud of.

“All of these are consistent with the city’s ‘Complete Streets’ policy,” Spread said.

Another project that Spread says deserves a special note is the planned development of the Water and Resource Recovery Facility that will have a lasting impact on municipal operations and the environment.

“Imagine the impact of converting waste into CNG to power the city’s fleet of vehicles, and perhaps develop a new revenue stream independent of the tax base,” Spread said.

Spread said he could not emphasize enough the importance of economic development as the means to increase the city tax base.

“It is the foundation for providing essential services,” Spread said. “Future councils will continue to be challenged by increasing costs, and by the unanticipated changes in code and appropriations coming out of Des Moines and Washington, D.C. The city has not yet fully realized the impact of changes to the real estate tax code (reclassification of multi-family, etc.), and the backfill promised by the state legislature will not last forever.”

Unfortunately, he said, Muscatine missed the opportunity to develop Carver Corner and that would have been a significant step toward the revitalization of the Grandview Avenue corridor and the much needed development in the south end.

“My advice to the next Council is to listen to the voices of everyone,” Spread said. A vocal minority is often the loudest. Our roles as elected officials is to do what is best for all 10,000 households and 25,000 residents. We all benefit from prosperity.”

ALLEN HARVEY

Allen Harvey spent the past four years on the Muscatine City Council representing the Fifth Ward.

“I must say that my four years on council were undoubtedly a page turner,” Allen Harvey said. “Most certainly it was not boring. It started with a bang and ended with a bang and there was lots and lots of excitement in between.”

Harvey added that he was grateful to be a part of several community improvement projects including Mississippi Drive, Riverfront beautification, Grandview Avenue, 2nd Street Improvement Project, and the Park Avenue three-lane project.

“We also welcomed our new public library,” he said.

One of his proudest memories is the fact that the City was able to hold the city’s tax level steady.

“With the help of the City Administrator, Finance Director, and the rest of City staff we were able to continue to avoid an increase in the property tax rate just as we have done for the last 10 years,” Harvey said.

Sadly, Harvey and the Muscatine community, lost a good friend during Harvey’s time in office.

“We lost our good friend and fellow council member Bob Bynum during my four years,” Harvey said. “He was a great advocate of the community and a great asset to the council.”

Harvey’s words of wisdom to the new council?

“I welcome our four new council members who will take office on January 1, 2020,” Harvey said. “I wish them the best of luck and I am confident they will continue to support all the good things happenings in Muscatine.”

SANTOS SAUCEDO

Santos Saucedo is finishing his first term as an at-large member of the Muscatine City Council and was elected the District 1 Representative to the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors in 2017. He will continue to serve on the Board of Supervisors.

“Overall it has been a great experience,” Saucedo said. “I truly will miss it.”

A long list of accomplishments by all City departments despite unusual weather events in 2019

The Sycamore Street bioretention cell was cleaned up and replanted in 2019, creating a colorful escape for pollinators of all varieties. This was the first of two bioretention cells created by the City, the second one located in Parking Lot 7 (between Cedar and Sycamore). Both stormwater projects have goals to reduce street flooding, clean the water heading into the Mississippi River, and provide a safe habitat for visiting pollinators.

MUSCATINE, Iowa – The past year was dominated by near historic weather events that taxed the resources of all City of Muscatine departments. It would be appropriate, then, if the citizens of Muscatine offered forgiveness if the list of accomplishments for each department and division during the past year was shorter than in previous years.

However, forgiveness was not needed. Thanks to the leadership from the top echelons of City administration, the knowledge and experience of professional staff, and the tireless effort and dedication by all staff members, the City was able to meet or exceed many of the 2019 goals adopted by the Muscatine City Council in December 2018.

The list of departmental accomplishments was compiled over the past month as department heads and supervisors meet to review past goals and establish new goals for the upcoming year. The list was sent to the members of the Muscatine City Council on November 4 along with a grant and contribution summary for Fiscal Year 2018-2019.

“It is pretty amazing when you actually read the entire document and read what has occurred in the city this past year along with all the successfully awarded grants,” Jerry Ewers, Muscatine Fire Chief, said.

With one of the snowiest and coldest winters on record followed almost immediately by the start of 99 consecutive days of the Mississippi River being above flood stage, not to mention the abnormally large crop of pot holes that were revealed this spring and the massive post-flood cleanup and restoration efforts, 2019 was one for the record books. And we still have two months to go.

“A lot of credit for these accomplishments has to be given to our city administrator as well as to the department heads and their staff,” Nancy Lueck, Finance Director, said. “Gregg (City Administrator Gregg Mandsager) really fosters and encourages the collaboration between departments and the coordinated efforts needed for many of these accomplishments as well as facilitating the discussion on how to overcome any obstacles and developing financing plans for the projects.”

The hard work, long hours, and pride in Muscatine that Mandsager demonstrates is not lost on those that work for the City.

“We all take great pride in the accomplishments in each of our departments,” Lueck said. “Some of that comes from the inspiration he gives us.”

One of the highest accomplishments during the past year was increasing the General Fund balance, which continued a 10-year trend in the growth of the fund balance after expenditures. Those reserves provide the City with enough capital to withstand changes in state appropriations or large scale emergencies for at least two months’ worth of expenditures.

The City ended the 2009-10 Fiscal Year with $1.7 million in the General Fund balance or 11.4 percent of expenditures. The fund has increased to $4.8 million or 24.1 percent of expenditures at the end of Fiscal Year 2018-19. The steady growth of the fund balance over the last 10 years resulted from solid fiscal planning and a leadership dedicated to fiscal responsibility while still improving the quality of life for Muscatine residents.

The City’s Finance Department recently received the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the 35th consecutive year and the GFOA Certificate of Achievement for Comprehensive Financial reporting for the 28th consecutive year. The awards recognize not only the dedication of the Finance Department staff to the overall success of Muscatine but also their work with the City Administrator and directors from each City department in laying out the short term and long term financial strategies for Muscatine.

Among those financial strategies are financial plans for capital projects, plans for the 2020 City Bond Issue, the economic development incentive program (TIF and Tax Abatement), CAT grant oversight, and the financial plan to eliminate the $2.5 million landfill debt that existed at the end of Fiscal Year 2009-10. The department also oversees work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on recovery from the 2019 flood event, and works with the Information Technology (IT) Department that continues to enhance internet security along with other IT projects.

Mandsager has been instrumental in the negotiations of TIF agreements that have positively affected the economic development of Muscatine. Along with key members from Finance and Community Development, Mandsager led the development of financial plans for capital projects that took advantage of available grants and private contributions to reduce the burden on taxpayers’ money and allow the City to keep the property tax rate unchanged for the past eight years, a key goal for Mandsager. The City has also not had a property tax rate increase in the past 10 years, and that is a credit to the fiscal responsibility and vision of City of Muscatine department heads and the administrator.

One of the departments hardest hit by the weather in 2019 was the Department of Public Works with seemingly endless hours of snow removal followed by seemingly endless hours of monitoring the level of the flooding Mississippi River. Still the department made significant progress in its annual battle with pot holes along with a second year of full depth patching to repair streets and prevent future pot holes, and alley resurfacing projects.

Plans for the Grandview Avenue Corridor Revitalization Project are near completion as is the Park Avenue 4 to 3 Lane Conversion project. The West Side Trail project will start construction on Nov. 11 and the roundabout at Mulberry and 2nd Street is on schedule to begin in January 2020.

The divisions within Public Works also had a solid year and are highlighted in the report.

Other highlights from the 2019 City of Muscatine Accomplishments report:

  • A little over $5 million in grants and contributions were received by the City of Muscatine during Fiscal Year 2018-2019 led by $2.5 million for the Special Revenue Funds and $1.2 million for Capital Projects.
  • The Department of Community Development worked with the developer to facilitate the first new, single-family residential subdivision in more than a decade (Arbor Commons), and supported work to address needs identified in the Housing Demand Study through TIF investment in Oak Park, Arbor Commons, and the Hershey Building.
  • The Housing Department provided 180 families with affordable rental housing, had 28 participants in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, and awarded 31 families with Certificates of Completion of Homebuyer Education Course.
  • The Water Resource and Recovery Facility began construction of the High Strength Waste Receiving Project and began three studies, one a wetlands study for two areas at the Pollinator Park, one for nutrient reduction from urban runoff, and one on the flooding issues in Iowa Field.
  • The Muscatine Fire Department continued to see an increase in run volume while also continuing annual public education classes, and increasing department training.
  • Several new programs were established by the Muscatine Police Department while continuing to promote community-policing efforts such as park and walk, bike patrol, and being visible to the public.
  • The Department of Parks and Recreation, another one of the departments hardest hit by this spring’s Mississippi River flooding event, still had a long list of achievements highlighted by another successful College Search Kickoff soccer event and the development of the Houser Street Athletic and Parking addition.
  • The Muscatine Art Center is creating a more aggressive exhibition schedule, secured several grants to provide additional funding, and served 15,654 individuals, their highest number in the last five years.
  • The Musser Public Library opened in a new home and has seen a large increase in the number of individuals visiting the facility.

2019 CITY OF MUSCATINE ACCOMPLISHMENTS

FY 18-19 GRANT AND CONTRIBUTION SUMMARY

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.’”

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.

Biocell comes alive with the colors of summer

Despite spending time underneath the flood waters of the Mississippi River, the Sycamore Alley Biocell is alive and well and full of color for visitors to admire and pollinators to feast on.

One of the ways to manage stormwater runoff, and add a bit of natural beauty, is the creation of bioretention cells (biocells). One has been established in the City of Muscatine and more are in the planning stages.

Biocells have become one of the most widely used green infrastructure practices for managing stormwater. A landscaped depression that captures and infiltrates stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces, biocells are most notably found in settings such as parking lots and residential areas where soils do not adequately drain.

To the resident or visitor these cells look like flower gardens. Underneath, however, is an engineered subgrade that is designed to filter pollutants out of stormwater runoff. Native plants are widely used in these “gardens” since these plants have deep roots while maintaining soil quality and soil pore spaces (the liquid and gas phases of soil).

One such cell is located just off Sycamore Street between the #1 Alley and the City of Muscatine parking lot.

Jon Koch, Director of the Water and Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF), and his staff have spearheaded the creation and maintenance of biocells within the City of Muscatine.

“The Stormwater Department took over care of this biocell last year and after Public Works repaired the intake and put in a stone walkway, we teamed with the Muscatine Pollinator Project to bring this biocell to life,” Koch said.

The Sycamore Alley biocell was constructed in 2016 but problems were encountered that allowed more weeds than native plants to grow. With the combined effort of the City of Muscatine and the Muscatine Pollinator Project, those problems were corrected and the biocell replanted.

After years of painstaking nurturing and months of being under water from the flooding Mississippi River, the Sycamore Street biocell is producing a brilliance of color as the plantings take hold, mature, and spread across the cell.

“We had to do a lot of weeding, replanting, and mulching this year,” Koch said. “Then the flood came and we were worried if the plantings would survive. But go look at it now … just beautiful.”

The use of plants native to this area of Iowa was key not only for their survival but also to benefit the many pollinators that migrate through this area.

“The orange flowers of the Butterfly Milkweed and the purple flowers of the Swamp Milkweed are important elements to the cell as they are the only kind of plant that Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on,” Koch said.

Also included in the biocell are Heath Asters, Prairie Blazing Star, Blackeyed Susan, Bottle Gentian, and Blue Flag Iris.

It is a splash of color against the sea of concrete bleakness that permeates urban landscapes. And this is just the beginning. The Sycamore Alley biocell is serving as a proving ground for the biocell that will be built in the City Hall parking lot between Cedar and Sycamore. That project should begin within the next two months.

This is not the only project that the City has been involved with recently as a grass detention basin (Mulberry Native Habitat Basin) was established at the intersection of Mulberry Avenue and Baton Rouge Road. Again the Stormwater Department teamed up with the Muscatine Pollinator Project to add native plantings that were excellent for pollinators and loved the wet conditions.

“These basins are different than biocells and can be kind of tricky,” Koch said. “It is a larger area and we added rock to the bottom to aid in the filtration of stormwater.”

Native plants are ideal not only for greenscape projects like biocells but also great plantings for individual home owner flower beds.

“Native plants are a great way to beautify your landscape and provide a home and food for vital pollinators,” Koch said. “But you need to make sure that the native plants you purchase are ones native to this area. These plants are more beneficial to bees and butterflies than any other plants.”

The Butterfly Milkweed is a long-lived perennial with clusters of small, bright orange-red flowers. Caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly rely on milkweed leaves as their sole source of food. Butterflies and hummingbird are attracted to the plant throughout the growing season.

Swamp Milkweed is a perennial with rounded clusters of pink/red flowers. Pollinated by bees, insects, moths, and butterflies, the plant is one of the favorite host plants for the Monarch butterfly caterpillar. Several species of butterflies can be found feeding on the nectar at the same time.

Heath Aster, a native perennial aster, has clusters of small flowers typically in white but can be pink, yellow or blue. The plant attracts large numbers of native bees including honeybees and bumblebees. Butterflies, skippers, and moths are also attracted to the plant.

Prairie Blazing Star, a member of the sunflower family, is a tall, upright, clump-forming native prairie perennial with violet-lavender to rosy purple flower heads that is a magnet for butterflies, birds, and honeybees.

Probably the most commonly grown of American wildflowers, Blackeyed Susan is another native North American plant used in a variety of landscapes. This wildflower is in the Aster family with cheerful blossoms that attract a variety of butterflies, birds, and other insects.

Bottle Gentian is a native plant that is slow growing but long lived, requiring little care once established. The main pollinators are large bees, such as bumblebees, who are the only insect strong enough to force open the closed petals, crawl inside to sip nectar, and deposit pollen.

The Blue Flag Iris is a showy native plant with several violet-blue flowers that attracts a variety of insects including butterflies, skippers, bumblebees, and long-horned bees, as well as hummingbirds.