New job search, application process implemented by the City of Muscatine

MUSCATINE, Iowa – The City of Muscatine has implemented new applicant tracking software that will make it easier for individuals to search for and to apply for City employment. Gone are the days of visiting City Hall to pick up a paper application or downloading a PDF (portable document format) application from the website, filling it out, and returning the application to City Hall. The application process is now 100 percent online.

Job seekers can see a list of available positions and how to apply by clicking on the “Employment” button on the homepage of the City of Muscatine website (located in the upper left side of the main screen).

The Career Center will open in a new window and job seekers can view the list of current full-time, part-time, and seasonal opportunities by clicking on “available positions”. Search the list and click on the title to see the job description. Interested candidates can then click on the green “apply” button to begin the application process.

Potential applicants must register before applying by creating a profile. You only need to register once and can edit your profile at any time. Applicants can track the status of his or her application through their profile. Once registered you will also be able to sign up for email notification(s) of job openings in specific departments through the Talent Network.

For those who do not have access to a computer, the Department of Human Resources at Muscatine City Hall will have paper applications available for the job seeker to fill out. Human Resources staff is available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to answer questions or to help in the online or paper process. Contact Human Resources at 563-264-1550.

Current Employment Opportunities

A variety of full-time, part-time, and seasonal employment opportunities are available and the City of Muscatine is actively seeking applicants who have the desire and interest to work for an organization that takes pride in their community, pride in community service, and pride in their employees. Individuals within a 30-mile radius of the Muscatine city limits (including Iowa and Illinois residents) are eligible to apply.

Police Officer

If you are called to public service and want to make a positive contribution, the City of Muscatine invites you to join the professional, accredited, and dedicated Muscatine Police Department. Work involves responsibility for community protection of life and property, crime prevention, law enforcement and arrest, assigned patrol, traffic control and supervision, investigation, records and reporting processing, community outreach, and other special police related assignments.


The Department of Public Works (DPW) has an opening for an engineer who would assist with city/civil engineering studies, project design, review, and inspections relating to City infrastructure related projects. The position has responsibility to oversee and perform design for Capital Improvements as assigned. Other responsibilities include reviewing easement documents, design and construction projects in accordance with state laws and engineering standards.

Community Services Officer – Code Enforcement

The City of Muscatine is seeking a Community Services Officer (Code Enforcement) who will perform specialized technical and professional inspection work related to enforcement of adopted housing regulations and City Code. Work consists of inspections of businesses and residential properties to assure compliance with applicable regulations; communication of inspection results and required corrective actions to property owners; and coordination of abatement activities.

Ambulance Technician

The Muscatine Fire Department is taking applications for an Ambulance Technician. Work involves the performance of emergency and non-emergency medical duties in line with departmental operations as well as maintenance of all medical equipment and building and grounds. Responds to medical emergencies, responds to non-emergency calls for service, stands by at fire scenes and at community events prepared to respond to medical emergencies.

Assistant Library Director

Musser Public Library and HNI Community Center has an opening for an Assistant Library Director. The Assistant Director performs administrative and advanced professional work and oversees and manages select library operations and services. In addition, the Assistant Director serves as administrative manager for Adult/Reference Services and Special Collections

Refuse Truck Driver

The Solid Waste Division of the Department of Public Works is taking applications for a Refuse truck Driver. This is manual and semiskilled work in the operation of a refuse collection packer truck.  Work involves responsibility for operation of a refuse collection packer truck.  Work requires that employees of this class follow established routes and maintain collection schedules.  Emphasis of the work is upon operating the packer truck although on assigned routes employees of this class also collect and load refuse into the packer.

Muscatine Municipal Golf Course opportunities

  • Clubhouse Supervisor – works in the clubhouse pro shop assisting customers with tee times, equipment rental, and pro shop purchases.
  • Outside Services – responsible for collecting golf balls on the driving range, and assisting patrons with outside service needs.
  • Food and Beverage – provides customer service to patrons at the golf course concession area. Ability to provide excellent customer service, and accurately handle orders and cash is required.

Parks and Recreation Department opportunities

  • Soccer Complex On Site Supervisor – oversees user groups at the soccer complex, assists user groups with various needs, and ensures Soccer Complex rules are followed. Must be able to interact professionally and courteously with members of the public, and engage in some physical labor.
  • Seasonal Equipment Operator(s) & Seasonal Groundskeeper(s) – Opportunities at the Soccer Complex, Kent Stein Park, Greenwood Cemetery, and Park Maintenance,  Must be able to safely use equipment such as riding mowers, push mowers, string trimmers and other groundskeeping equipment. This position assists in mowing, groundskeeping, and preparing athletic fields for play. Must be at least 18. Some weekend hours may be required. 

For more information, visit the Career Center on the City of Muscatine website. The City of Muscatine is an equal employment affirmative action employer.

Ambulances For Ukraine – Two Muscatine units begin journey to serve citizens in war-torn Ukraine

Two surplus ambulances from the Muscatine Fire Department completed the first leg of their journey for service in Ukraine Thursday morning, arriving at the staging area in Chicago just afternoon. The ambulances were outfitted with stretchers and loaded with additional provisions and loaded onto the truck that transported them to an east coast city Thursday afternoon. Pictured are, left to right: Muscatine Firefighter John Peters, Muscatine Fire Chief Jerry Ewers, OSF HealthCare Vice President Government Relations Chris Manson, and Muscatine Fire Battalion Chief Gary Ronzheimer.

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Two Muscatine ambulances are on their way to serve in Ukraine, a nation that is losing an average of seven ambulances per day in their war with Russia.

“These two units were declared surplus after we took delivery of new units,” Gary Ronzheimer, Battalion Chief for the Muscatine Fire Department, said. “They may not have additional life in this country as ambulances but they still can serve to assist the sick and injured, and are badly needed in Ukraine.”

Ronzheimer had been looking for ways that the Muscatine Fire Department could help the citizens of Ukraine and ran across a story about OSF HealthCare, headquartered in Peoria, Ill., who was working to send medical supplies and ambulances to Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion.

“I discussed donating our two older ambulances to the effort once they were declared surplus with Chief (Jerry) Ewers and he agreed that this would be a great way for Muscatine to support Ukrainian Medical Services.”

While the paperwork was being completed to declare the two ambulances surplus, Ronzheimer contacted Chris Manson, Vice-President of Government Relations with OSF Healthcare System, to determine just how Muscatine could donate the ambulances.

Working with the Consulate General of Ukraine in Chicago and the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA), Manson has been able to ship five ambulances and medical supplies in three flights from Chicago since March 29.

Once the donation was approved by UMANA, the ambulances were scheduled to be shipped to Baltimore where they were to be loaded onto a ship in last half of June, taken across the Atlantic Ocean, and arrive in Ukraine in early July. The opportunity to speed up the delivery process presented itself earlier this week, with the contingency that the Muscatine ambulances needed to be in Chicago by noon on Thursday (June 9).

Manson informed Ewers and Ronzheimer that an aircraft large enough to handle both ambulances would be available on Monday out of an east coast city but the ambulances had to be at the airport by Sunday. If the ambulances make the plane, they will likely be in Ukraine by Wednesday and transporting injured, sick, and wounded by the end of next week.

“We were excited to learn of the opportunity to put the ambulances on a cargo plane and see them in service to the Ukrainian people sooner than transporting them by ship,” Ewers said. “Once we received word about the opportunity, we prepared the ambulances and made arrangements to take them to the staging area in Chicago.”

The two ambulances left Muscatine Thursday morning with Ronzheimer and Firefighter John Peters driving the two ambulances and Ewers following in his SUV to bring the pair back. They were greeted by Manson when they arrived at the Chicago warehouse staging area just after noon.

The Muscatine ambulances are the sixth and seventh to be sent to Ukraine as part of the OSF HealthCare project.

“This is an ongoing effort as, unfortunately, the need continues to grow,” Manson said in an OSF HealthCare press release. “Everyday ambulances are being destroyed in Ukraine. As soon as our ambulances arrive, they are immediately put to use across the country.”

WRRF has new tool to reduce nutrients, fight struvite formation in wastewater

MUSCATINE, Iowa – The Muscatine Water & Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) has a new tool to battle against struvite buildup … algae. The WRRF is taking part in a pilot study that uses growing algae as a way to reduce nutrients in wastewater.

“Algae is a wonderful way to take nutrients out of water,” Jon Koch, WRRF director, said. “They do that naturally anyway, taking nitrogen and phosphorus from the water to grow more of themselves.”

Gross-Wen Technologies, based in Slater, Iowa, developed a sustainable water treatment solution that was algae based, and a pilot program was established in early April at the WRRF and is now operational.

The process was developed by a graduate student and professor at Iowa State University as a way to remove the nutrients from lagoons and similar places.

“I was at a conference in Ames a few years ago when they presented this process,” Koch said.

What started as a process for lagoons attracted the interest of wastewater people and how this process could be used at wastewater plants. The thought of using algae to treat wastewater was new to the group presenting the process at the conference, and it took a few years of development to bring the costs down to a more manageable level.

The company visited the WRRF in 2019 and proposed a pilot program for Muscatine.

“We kind of lost track of the company during the pandemic but when we got slammed so badly by struvite in 2021, I called them up and said we needed to revisit bringing a pilot program to Muscatine,” Koch said.

The original cost for the six-month project was $100,000, but after some refinements to the process the cost was whittled down to $30,000.

“That is a lot more manageable,” Koch said. “During the revisit I asked them if we could get a pilot program right away and they said they could. However, it still took several months before the mechanism was delivered and installed.”

Struvite is a phosphate mineral crystal that is composed of magnesium, ammonia, and phosphate (referred to as MAP by the wastewater industry for the nutrient composition of struvite). Struvite is a common problem in sewage and wastewater treatment because it forms a scale in pipelines, belts, centrifuges, pumps, clog system pipes, and anaerobic digester systems. Damage to equipment, pipes and piping can lead to biosolids treatment mechanical and process failures.

To reduce the problems caused by increased struvite levels in wastewater, a “Revolving Algal Biofilm System (RAMTM)” was developed for algae-based nutrient recovery from wastewater. The system also provides a cost-effective solution that can be used to comply with new, more stringent municipal and industrial wastewater discharge permits.

“This mechanism sits outside in a kind of greenhouse using the sun to keep the interior warm for good algae growth,” Koch said.

The system uses vertically oriented conveyor belts that grow algae on their surface. As the algae grows, it consumes nitrogen and phosphorus from the wastewater while it uses sunlight and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to rapidly grow algae biomass.

“The belt rotates through the effluent water and grabs nutrients from the wastewater,” Koch said. “Algae grows on the belt as it rotates up into the warm air. The algae picks up more nutrients as the belt continues to rotate back down, through the water, and back up.”

Algae is harvested by being scrapped off the belt, and can be used to make fertilizer, bioplastics, and biofuels, providing an additional revenue stream alongside an already more economical system.

“All that scraped off algae has the nutrients in it and the water that comes out has less nutrients than when it came in,” Koch said. “The mechanism also puts oxygen in the water using a six hp motor.”

Oxygen is needed by the bacteria to allow biodegradation to occur (breaking down the organic matter containing carbon to form carbon dioxide and water). At the present time, Koch is using three 150 hp and two 250 hp motors to add oxygen to the water.

“If I can use 6 hp to add oxygen instead of 800 hp I am saving a lot of electricity,” Koch said.

The system benefits the WRRF by reducing the amount of nutrients in the water thus reducing the amount of struvite formation while meeting the more stringent DNR permit requirements and saving the WRRF money.

“So, you are meeting your permit limits for the nutrients you are required to take out, you are saving electricity, you are reducing struvite formation, you are reducing the amount of solids because it will pull solids out as well, and you have a revenue source,” Koch said. “This system kind of hits on a lot of different goals that we have.

Koch noted that using an algae-based system to remove nutrients from the water would quickly pay for itself.

“The savings you would have on energy reduction, and on the amount of time, energy, and chemicals used to prevent struvite formation along with the additional revenue from algae generation make this technology affordable,” Koch said.

But it is not only in the benefits of nutrient reduction to prevent struvite formation and to meet DNR permit requirements that make the system practical.

“This will be a really good compliment to the watershed work,” Koch said. “What this system can do for us as far as struvite removal is key, but you don’t have to do the whole thing (nutrient removal) at the plant.”

Koch noted that it would take an acre or more of these systems put together to do all the nutrient reduction and the cost would be pretty high.

“But if you scale it just where you need it, just enough to affect your struvite reduction and everything else, then maybe you can get most of that reduction done at the plant,” Koch said.

And whatever you cannot get done at the plant, then you can go out to the watershed, put in prairie strips and things like that, and do other watershed work which is really inexpensive but beneficial to the entire watershed.

“Muscatine city, the watershed as a whole, and the entire city basin will benefit from what we are starting to do at the WRRF today,” Koch said.

WRRF RAM System Pilot Program installed at Water Resource & Recovery Facility (Video)

Gross-Wen Technologies RAM System Overview (YouTube Video)

Gross-Wen Technologies RAB System (YouTube Video)

Saving Lives: The value of implementing fire safety measures in the home

MUSCATINE, Iowa – The value of fire safety is never more on display than after a young family escapes virtually unharmed from their smoke filled and burning home. That was the case last Friday (Oct. 29) when a woman, an infant, and a menagerie of pets escaped a smoke filled home on Sterneman Boulevard.

The woman and infant were asleep in the bedroom with the door closed when the sound of a smoke alarm just outside the bedroom woke the woman up. Upon opening the door the woman found a home filled with smoke. Without thinking twice, the woman grabbed the infant, put three dogs out onto the front porch, and then escaped the house as the first units arrived at the scene.

“The fact that there were smoke detectors throughout the home that were activated by the smoke and woke the family up more than likely saved their lives,” Assistant Chief Mike Hartman said. “But what else helped was the fact that the family closed the door to their bedroom which prevented the smoke from rolling in.”

Those two fire safety measures (smoke alarms and closing the door) are just two of the tips offered by the Muscatine Fire Department as residents prepare for winter.

Muscatine residents, like most families across the United States, will be turning back their clocks one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday (Nov. 7), and the Muscatine Fire Department urges homeowners to change the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors while they are changing the time on their clocks.


Smoke detectors are one of several lines of defense families can take to escape a fire in their home. Closing the door before doze, installing carbon monoxide detectors, and creating a home escape plan can also help prevent a tragedy.

“Smoke detectors should be installed inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home including the basement,” Battalion Chief Ted Hillard said.

On levels without bedrooms, smoke alarms should be installed in the living (den or family) room, at the bottom of stairs leading to the next level, or in both locations. The detectors are usually mounted on the ceiling or on a wall no more than 12 inches from the ceiling, and at least 10 feet from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking.

Hillard shared additional tips on smoke alarms.

  • Don’t install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
  • Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
  • Replace the battery at least once per year. If the alarm chirps warning that the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

“Newer smoke alarms have a 10-year non-replaceable battery,” Hillard said. “You need to write the date installed on the device because once they begin to chirp after 10 years they need to be thrown away and replaced.”

Having interconnected smoke alarms also increase safety, but it is important that all of the interconnected smoke alarms are from the same manufacturer. Interconnection can be accomplished by hard-wiring or wireless technology so when one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.

When testing fire alarms, pay attention to where your pets hide. This is most likely where they will go in the event of an emergency.

Residents can call the Muscatine Fire Department (563-263-9233) if they have questions concerning smoke detectors. The department will come out and inspect smoke detectors in a home. They also have a grant program that offers smoke detectors to homeowners.

NFPA – Installing and maintaining smoke alarms


Fire spreads faster than ever before due to the use of synthetic materials, furniture, and construction. Closing doors can help stop the spread of a fire and, in many cases, actually can help to extinguish a fire before it spreads. The family on Sterneman Boulevard found out just how beneficial it was to close the door before they went to sleep.

“Having the door closed kept the smoke from coming in and filling up the bedroom,” Hartman said.

Smoke rises to the ceiling and begins to roll throughout a home to areas of least resistance. Closing a door increases that resistance.

“We could see during our investigation that the door had been closed as smoke filled the rest of the house,” Hartman said. “There were not any smoke stains inside the bedroom and that is a good indication that the smoke was prevented from entering the room.”

Hartman also said that keeping doors closed could also help in preventing the spread of a fire.

“Fire needs oxygen to spread and a closed door can reduce the amount of fuel available to a fire,” Hartman said. “In some cases, a closed door can actually help to smother a fire before it becomes out of control.”

Based on findings from the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) ‘Close Your Door’ encourages those trapped in a room during a fire as well as those who can safely leave a home to close as many doors as possible.

A closed door can be an effective barrier against deadly levels of carbon monoxide, smoke and flames, and may give people more time to respond to the smoke alarm. In fact, according to the FSRI, there can be a 900-degree difference in room temperature between a room with an open door and one with a closed door, with the open-door room reaching temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

“Fire hasn’t changed in the past quarter century, but our home environments have, and because of this fire moves faster than ever before with home fire deaths rising even as home fires decline,” said Steve Kerber, vice president of research and director of FSRI. “Our annual fire safety survey shows that fire safety habits still aren’t where they need to be to prevent loss of life and property. Everyone can take three simple steps by having working smoke alarms, having an escape plan and closing their bedroom door at night.”

FSRI Close Before You Doze

See the dramatic difference a door can make (YouTube Video)


Another important fire safety action people should take to protect themselves and their loved ones in the event of a fire is having and practicing an escape plan that includes having two ways to get out of every room, and identifying a common meeting place outside of the home.

“This is one of the key messages in our educational program,” Hartman said. “Knowing what to do when a smoke alarm sounds, where to exit a room or the home, and knowing where to meet outside is crucial to increasing your chances of surviving a home fire.”

Fires spread quickly. Many times there is as little as one or two minutes to escape once the smoke alarm sounds, so pulling together members of the household to make a plan, practice the plan, and inspect all possible exits and escape routes is important.

NFPA Home Fire Escape Planning Tips

Every Second Counts (YouTube Video)

Muscatine firefighters pause to remember

Six members of the 11-person shift that arrived to battle a late night house fire on a cool September night remain on active duty with the Muscatine Fire Department. Four have retired or moved on. One remains the only Muscatine firefighter to die in the line of duty.

A year and three days after 343 firefighters perished in a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Muscatine lost one of its own while battling a house fire. Firefighter Michael Kruse was 53-years-old and a 27-year veteran of the Muscatine Fire Department when he lost his life on the night of September 14, 2002.

Kruse was remembered during a special service Tuesday (Sept. 14) with the laying of a wreath and a moment of silence at the Firefighters Memorial commemorating the 19th anniversary of his death.

Kruse remains the only Muscatine firefighter to die in the line of duty, the only Iowa firefighter to lose their life while on duty in 2002 and the 131st in the state of Iowa since record keeping began in 1890.

Jerry Ewers, now the Muscatine Fie Chief, fondly remembers meeting Kruse for the first time as part of his team at Station 2, and sadly remembers the night Kruse lost his life.

“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 the firefighters of today and those of the future.

“Sometime tomorrow I ask that you take a moment and reflect on something that you can do to make your role as an emergency responder just a little bit more safe,” Mike Hartman, Assistant Fire Chief, said to fire department staff on Monday. “Those who knew Mike would agree that he believed in safety, and he would appreciate you finding a less risky way of doing what you have to do to protect the public.”

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 verbally or in the silent thoughts of those attending 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.”

Hartman also knew Kruse and carried his picture with him when he completed the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Stair Climb. The significance that two tragedies come so close together for Muscatine Firefighters is not lost on Hartman.

“It is sad but also offers you an opportunity to reflect on the job, and the sacrifices they made,” Hartman said. “I look at it as a chance to kind of rededicate yourself. Mike passed in 2002 and we don’t have a lot of people on staff who remember him.”

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.”

One thing about Hartman’s relationship with Kruse is that Hartman knows that Kruse would expect him to maintain his training and safety, two things that were very important to Kruse.

“That’s one of things I reflect on at this time of year,” Hartman said. “What can I do to train a little bit more, to be a little bit safer, or to help our staff train harder and be safer.”

Hartman said you can either focus on the negatives at this time of year or you can look for ways to become better.

“Everybody is going to be sad at the loss of life,” Hartman said. “You can be sad and focus on the negative part. Or you can be sad and ask what would Mike want. Those of us, especially those who worked with Mike, would ask that question.”

Everybody dealt with Kruse’s death in a different way. Many on staff just did not talk about the event or what Kruse meant to the department. A gap started to develop as staff left or retired and were replaced his young new hires. Hartman noted that after a while, one of the newer firefighters asked what you can tell me about the event and about Mike. Hartman and others realized that they had not done a good job of that, and sat down to put together a presentation to give to each shift. The two-hour presentation on the event, what went wrong, what could be done better, and what Mike was all about is now given at each new hire academy.

“You cannot undo what happened but you can use what happened and get as much positive out of it as you can,” Hartman said. “I think sharing this information with the department and the new hires helps to not only keep Mike’s memory alive but it is the right thing to do and brings them in to culture.”

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.

NATIONAL FALLEN FIREFIGHTERS MEMORIAL – 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.’”


National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Muscatine Community Heart & Soul launches website to help start conversations on improving Muscatine

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Conversations on making Muscatine a better place to live, work, or operate a business begin with community leaders reaching out to community members to learn about what opportunities residents see for solutions and improvements to the quality of life in Muscatine.

Those conversations are at the core of the Muscatine Community Heart & Soul initiative. The Muscatine program will involve all residents in conversations to improve the community in ways residents want to see through building on the valued strengths.

“We are eager to hear from our community members concerning the various projects the City is working on as well as to gather information that will help guide our next Comprehensive Plan Revision,” Jodi Royal-Goodwin, Director of Community Development, said. “Asking what residents like about Muscatine and what they want to see more of is a crucial part of working to improving Muscatine together.”

The City of Muscatine was awarded a $10,000 seed grant from the national Community Heart & Soul organization to support of the Muscatine Community Heart & Soul program. The program seeks to gather resident feedback that will help drive positive change in our community by determining what matters most to residents. The feedback will be used to identify the action steps that will be integrated into the upcoming revision of the City Comprehensive Plan.

One of the ways that the forces behind the local initiative will use to collect feedback from residents is a survey that is available online. The short survey is also being distributed at community events so more residents can be involved.

The project’s leadership team is comprised of community members and is being directed through the City of Muscatine Department of Community Development. To be successful, however, the project needs YOUR voice. Residents can share their thoughts and feelings about Muscatine by completing the Heart & Soul survey at Heart & Soul Survey. Separate surveys are available for adults and youth, and are available in English and Spanish.

Your feedback today can spark change for the future of our community.

Meghan Custis was an intern with the Department of Community Development this past summer and specialized in piloting the Heart & Soul program.

“Heart & Soul offers true promise for our community and, I believe, will help connect residents across the board,” Custis said. “I’ve spent a lot of time getting advice from other communities that have completed the Heart & Soul process, and it gives me such hope for Muscatine. Great things are already happening in our community, this is an opportunity for residents to speak up and tell the City what should come next.”

Community Heart & Soul is a national model designed for small communities to uncover what residents collectively value and identify action steps based on core values. It has been field-tested in 90 communities across the country and shows proven results.

The Muscatine Heart & Soul project will be completed in three phases with the first phase concentrating in the South End area (Hershey Avenue south to the City limits), phase two the middle section of Muscatine (Hershey Avenue north to Mulberry Avenue), and phase three the east section of Muscatine (Mulberry Avenue north to University Avenue).

In each phase, the Heart & Soul team will dedicate efforts to gathering resident stories and experience through events, community forums, engagement at community gatherings, and survey distribution. This strategy will allow all residents to share their thoughts and perspectives on their neighborhoods as well as the overall community.

The project is estimated to take between 18 and 24 months.

“I grew up in the South End, and I know how the community looks at that part of town,” Kindra Petersen, a member of the Heart & Soul Leadership Team said.  “The South End has so much to offer the community: bike paths, a skate park, easy access to the riverfront, Deep Lakes Park, a mini-soccer area, the soccer complex, Kent Stein, a beautiful dog park, and more.”

 Petersen pointed out that there is more to the South End than just the amenities available.

“There are also tons of local businesses in the South End that are often overlooked because the big factories tend to overshadow the location,” Petersen said. “I’m hoping we can bring to light the vast opportunities South End has to offer our community.”

The newly launched Muscatine Community Heart & Soul website houses additional information, updates about the initiative, how to become a part of the team, and links to the surveys. Visit the website to see our progress and stay up to date on our efforts! As a resident-driven process, the involvement of community members to steward the Heart & Soul efforts is essential to this project.

Community Heart & Soul is a tested community-development model that has been used in over 90 small cities and towns across America. It focuses on three key principles including involving everyone and focusing on what matters. The third principle is playing the long game to uncover areas of improvement while building lasting relationships across the various communities, organizations, and neighborhoods. Heart & Soul uses an inclusive, affirming approach to strengthening communities. The focus is on building upon what is working and valued in the community while ensuring all voices are incorporated into solutions.

The local Heart & Soul project was announced in February and begins in the South End, an area that Royal-Goodwin noted has suffered from a lack of significant investment.

“The Grandview Avenue area is a neighborhood made up of residents and businesses on the southern end of Muscatine,” Royal-Goodwin said. “We have already received feedback from residents in this area and we are hoping for more. We are looking to work with residents and businesses to reinvigorate and revitalize this important area of Muscatine.”

The main focus of Heart & Soul will be improving the quality of life and economic development of Muscatine and beginning in the South End. That focus has been broken down into five pillars including street revitalization, economic development, recreation, business support, and residential support.

The City of Muscatine’s Grandview Avenue Reconstruction Project fits into the street revitalization pillar and will improve the drivability of the corridor with new pavement, improve the walkability of the corridor with new sidewalks, and improve the aesthetics of the corridor with landscaping.

Information on Muscatine Community Heart & Soul can be found at, or on the City of Muscatine web site at Heart & Soul.

Son of Muscatine police officer attends FBI Youth Leadership Program

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Developing leadership skills for use now and in the future is the goal of the FBI Youth Leadership Program (YLP) that was attended by 59 students from around the United States including the son of a current member of the Muscatine Police Department.

Abram Jirak, the son of Jeff and Alissa Jirak, was one of the 59 students selected to participate in the program that is designed to benefit young people and future leaders. It was his father, a Muscatine police officer, who planted the seed that led to Abrams participation in the program.

“When I was 14 my dad said ‘Hey, there is this cool leadership academy from the FBI, are you interested?’,” Abram said. “I said that it actually sounded pretty cool.”

His father is a 2007 graduate of the FBI National Academy, a professional development course for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders, and that is where he first learned of the Youth Leadership Program.

“I thought it might be of interest to him but the final decision was his,” Jeff Jirak said.

Abram first applied for the program through the Iowa Chapter of the FBI National Academy Associates when he was 14-years-old, completing an essay and going through an interview process.

“I actually tied for first that year but the other person was older (16) so the chapter decided that the older person, based on seniority, would get a chance to go before the other people,” Abram said. “But my name was still in the ring. I applied at 15 but COVID hit so they cancelled the program, and I applied this year and got it.”

The FBI National Academy Associates and its 48 Chapters in cooperation with the FBI National Academy, Society of Former Special Agents, and FBI-LEEDA, hosted the 22nd Youth Leadership Program in June at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA.

“It was awesome,” Abram said. “It was a once in a lifetime event that I would do a 100 times over again. You get out there and meet people from around the country. Normally they would allow international people but this year they did not because of the restrictions on international travel. There were still 60 people from everywhere and I made friends with people from Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Maine.”

“The whole point of the academy is to provide special skills in leadership to the leaders of the next generation,” Abram said. “This is a prestigious academy built all around leadership and expanding that knowledge to the youth.”

Over the course of the week, participants focused on core subject matter which included Leadership, Ethics, Values and Choices, Juvenile Crime, Character Matters, Goal Setting, Bullying, Ethical Decision Making, Accountability, Social Media, and Financial Responsibility. These students also traveled to Washington, DC, to visit several museums and memorials, including Arlington National Ceremony.

The eight-day program culminated with graduation ceremonies.

“Where the FBI National Academy Program is the crown jewel of the FBI, the Youth Leadership Program is the crown jewel of the FBI National Academy Associates,” said FBINAA Executive Director Howard M. Cook. “We look forward to seeing where the journey of these impressive young leaders takes them in the future.”

Abram said that he just cannot say enough good things about the program.

“The training and classes were just amazing,” Abrams said. “I learned quite a lot about leadership, and about social skills and interactions with other people.”

Abram is not sure where his future lies but knows that the leadership tools he learned YLP will be a part of future.

“I get asked about my future a lot because I went to an FBI academy,” Abram said. “The program is based more on leadership than work in law enforcement. That is something you can take with you no matter what career you choose and just be a leader in that career and be a leader in your community.”

Abram is not necessarily looking at law enforcement as a future career but if he did it would probably be in federal service (FBI or DEA). He is keeping his options open, however, and is also looking at a trade school or the potential of military service where he could earn something like a trade certificate.

“Then coming back and maybe starting my own company or joining a company while using my leadership skills in that position,” Abram said.

“We are blessed and extremely pleased with what Abram has accomplished with grades, National Honor Society, and U.S. Community Service for silver cord hours, and definitely looking forward to his senior year to see what he can do,” Jeff said.



Art Center receives grant to restore Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden at Muscatine Art Center circa 1933

MUSCATINE, Iowa – The Muscatine Art Center, a department of the City of Muscatine, has received a $122,402 grant to restore the historic 1929 Japanese Garden installed by Laura Musser McColm. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced the funding award as one of five historic preservation projects receiving a combined total of $600,000 in grant awards. The other funded projects will take place in or near Creston, Decorah, Elkader, and Keokuk.

The grants are funded by the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service and administered by the State Historic Preservation Office, which is part of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Japanese Garden project at the Muscatine Art Center developed from a Historic Landscape Preservation Plan prepared by Iowa State University Associate Professor, Heidi Hohmann, and Graduate Assistant, Asif Khan. Hohmann made her initial visit to the site in 2019, and fieldwork took place in June of 2020.

“There are few existing Japanese-style gardens in the Midwest that date to this time period,” Melanie Alexander, Director of the Muscatine Art Center, said. “Japanese-style gardens were popular in the United States in the late 1890s through the early 1940s, but most were removed or neglected during World War II. We are currently working with a consultant, Beth Cody, author of Iowa Gardens of the Past, to research the garden and place it in its historical context.”

Muscatine Art Center Japanese Garden May 26, 2021

Cody’s research is funded by a grant from Humanities Iowa and is intended to aid in creating public programs, a booklet about the garden, and other interpretive materials.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs created the grant program last fall, after Iowa became one of just eight states to receive funding through the National Park Service’s Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants program. The federal program was named in honor of an influential preservationist in Vermont and designed to support states, tribes, local governments and nonprofit organizations that own properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This was a great opportunity to collaborate with our federal partner, the National Park Service, to support historic preservation projects, boost economic opportunities and promote a sense of local pride in communities across the state,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “Revitalizing these historic icons will better showcase the authentic character of rural Iowa and will benefit generations to come.”

With Monday’s announcement, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs expands its support for historic preservation, community development and creative placemaking efforts alongside other programs such as Iowa Great Places, Iowa Cultural & Entertainment Districts, Certified Local Governments, Local History Network and Cultural Leadership Partners. All of these programs help communities leverage local history, art and culture to promote tourism and economic growth.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Press Release


The Muscatine Art Center is located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue in Muscatine, Iowa. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. Donations are appreciated. Visit or call 563-263-8282 for more information about programs and events.

Blocked railroad crossings frustrating but part of life across the United States

Information on what to report and who to call to report long lasting blockages

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Blocked railroad crossings can be a nightmare for drivers especially if they are in a hurry and the blockage lasts for more than 10 minutes. Most cars and personal trucks have the ability to turn around and seek another “open” crossing but larger semi-trucks, like those hauling grain, are not able to turn around and must wait, rather impatiently, for the train to clear the crossing.

Complaints concerning blocked crossings in Muscatine have been centered along the Grandview Avenue corridor and extending south past Dick Drake Way. Blocked crossings, however, is not a problem limited to Muscatine … it is a problem across the United States.

Canadian Pacific Rail Road (CPRR) has installed information signs at each crossing that provides the crossing location number and the telephone number to call (1-800-716-9312) to report extended blockages.

This is the number that individuals should call first to file a complaint of a blocked crossing.

“You will need to know the crossing number, the engine number if you can see it, and the length of time the crossing has been blocked when you call the 800 number,” Kevin Jenison, Communications Manager for the City of Muscatine, said.

All information goes directly to the CPRR safety office who is able to communicate directly with the train crew to determine why the train is stopped, how long it has been stopped, and inquire if assistance is needed.

Individuals can also call the Muscatine Police Department (MPD) at 563-263-9922 to report a blocked crossing (do not call 911 to report a blocked crossing). MPD will relay the information to CPRR through the 800 number.

 “We have developed a good working relationship with CPRR and they work hard at resolving these issues,” Jenison said.

Iowa Code prohibits the blocking of a crossing for more than 10 minutes with four exceptions: (1) when necessary to comply with signals affecting the safety of the movement of the train; (2) when necessary to avoid striking an object or person on the track; (3) when the train is disabled: and, (4) when necessary to comply with governmental safety regulations including, but not limited to, speed ordinances and speed regulations. These four exceptions cover most of the extended crossing blockages.

Railroads are moving to longer trains in order to reduce costs and that is one of the reasons for the increase in the number and duration of blocked crossings. Sometimes trains have to sit due to safety protocols while at other times a part of the train will block a crossing due to switching operations.

Enforcement options are limited, however. Iowa Code does allow a local jurisdiction to issue a citation to the train, however, that power has been limited or removed by many courts in the last several years. These courts cite the fact that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 gave the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over the speed and movement of trains. The Act abolished the Interstate Commerce Commission and replaced it with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) within the Department of Transportation.

The Act effectively makes Iowa Code unenforceable as well as a municipality’s ability to cite a train for blocking a crossing.

Neither the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) nor the STB have written any code or rules restricting the duration or timing of trains blocking a crossing.

“While there are limited options to reduce the timing of these blockages, we have found that keeping the lines of communication open and working with CPRR has been the best solution,” Jenison said.

The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) echoed that sentiment noting that by reaching out to the railroads directly with specific complaints can help mitigate a particular issue.

Public inquires can be directed to Canadian Pacific Rail Road’s Community Connect service at 1-800-766-7912 or emailing CPRR at  This information, along with answers to some common questions about rail operations is also available through the CPRR website at

The Federal Railroad Administration has a dedicated webpage for the public and law enforcement to report blocked highway-rail grade crossings. (

Additional resources can be found at the Federal Railroad Administration ( or the Surface Transportation Board (

Indian trail stone marker becomes part of riverfront memorial in Riverside Park

(Article provided by Rick Bierman)

MUSCATINE, Iowa – A stone Indian trail marker is, once again, on display at Muscatine’s Riverside Park. The memorial was placed during the summer of 2020 thanks to the efforts of the Muscatine Parks and Recreation Department.

In May of 1936 the trail marker was put on display at Riverside Park to honor E.L. Koehler and his efforts to beautify the park. The memorial was removed during landscape redesign and trail construction along the Mississippi riverfront.

The Indian trail marker and two similar markers were placed along an Indian trail that travelled from the Mississippi River to Rocky Ford on the Cedar River. One marker was placed close to the Mississippi River bank and was used as fill during levee construction prior to 1936. A second marker was placed at a point to the northwest of town and probably somewhere close to where the 61 Bypass and Mulberry Street intersect. This marker disappeared many years before 1936. The marker now on display at Riverside Park was removed from a spot close to Saulsbury Road and not far from the Cedar River.

Although no trace of the trail remains, research has revealed a likely path through the county. The map above, courtesy of Virginia Cooper, shows the town of Muscatine and the path of an Indian trail that passed through the area well before Muscatine was settled.

The trail starts at the Mississippi River where there must have been a ford across the river from the Illinois side. 

The trail continues across town to what is now Cedar Street and by Jefferson School. You will notice in the center of the map above that the trail crosses Mad Creek at the spot where the 9th Street Bridge was built.

This crossing is mentioned by one of our earliest settlers, Err Thornton.

During the spring of 1834, Thornton was looking for land to settle when he came to the trading house at the future site of Muscatine. He left the trading house with the intention of travelling east along the Mississippi River. He walked from the trading house to Mad Creek and then up to the Indian trail crossing. Because of high water, he was unable to cross the creek so he took the trail heading west and found himself lost and at a point a few miles northwest of the trading house. One of the three stone trail markers was placed close to the Mississippi River and probably marked the direction to go to find this main trail. 

The map above shows the northwest section of the trail where it moves along Papoose Creek and toward the junction of what is now the 61 Bypass and Mulberry Street. If you look at the center of the map, you will see a 7 with the words bent tree and a small stick drawing showing a vertical line with two 90 degree angles in it. The Indians had a way to manipulate the growth of a tree so that it formed two 90 degree angles. They used these trees to mark trails, campsites and other important features.

This tree looks like it might have been by Papoose Creek and close to the intersection of Cedar Street and Logan Street.

In a Muscatine Journal article of May 30, 1936, the Indian trail is described as starting at the Mississippi riverfront and extending to the Cedar River and then in the direction of Iowa City.

This 1845 map shows a road going from Bloomington (Muscatine) to a town named Lucas on the Cedar River and then on to West Liberty and Iowa City. Many of the early roads followed Indian trails because the Indians went from one place to the next following the most convenient route.

Lucas occupied the site of the abandoned village of the Indian leader Poweshiek. Poweshiek’s village was on the west bank of the Cedar River and by a natural rock bottom ford across the river. This river crossing was about a quarter mile upstream of the old Saulsbury Bridge.

Here is an excerpt from the accounts of another early visitor to Muscatine County during 1835, James Mackintosh.

“He stopped that night near the Iowa River, and spent some time the next morning in Black Hawk’s village, where Wapello now is.  He visited the old Chief’s tent; the Indians were out on a hunt.  He crossed the Iowa River at some risk – stopped that night at Thornton, but found no food for man or beast, and left at day-break next morning for the trading house, now Muscatine.  

“Some miles below, a family were encamped, and they having plenty of corn, the traveler’s horse was fed, and the saddle-bags filled in case of need.  The family were faring sumptuously on honey, from a bee tree they had cut.  An invitation was given, and gladly accepted.  That was an interesting group, sitting around the stump of that tree, with chips for plates, and nothing but honey for breakfast.  

“The next station was the trading house, and our traveler, who intended reaching Pine Creek that night, unfortunately took the wrong trail, and found himself on Cedar River, near Poweshiek village.  The weather turned suddenly cold, and being wet, having waded a creek full of floating ice, the only hope left was to get to the village.  But that proved impossible.  The river was open, and being unacquainted with the ford, to attempt it would have been madness, and to go back was equally difficult, as the creek was to cross, the bottom wide, and the trail two feet deep in water.  

“There was no alternative but to camp, without fire or food.  Matches were not common in those days – the fire-works had been lost, and the grass too wet to strike fire with the pistol.  He made a bed of leaves and grass, wound himself in his blanket, and lay down at the foot of a stump, to which he tied his horse, who fared the best, as his supper was in the saddle bags.  That was a night to “try men’s souls” – the howling of the storm, and the still louder howling of the wolves, made the night terrific.  Sleep was out of the question.

“It froze hard enough by morning to cross the creek, or the river.  He arrived at the trading house by noon, nothing the worse of his cold lodging, with a good appetite for dinner, having eaten nothing but the honey for three days and two nights.  Resting there that night, he proceeded next day to Pine Creek, where the accommodation was good for that period, and the next day he arrived at Frank’s claim, below Rockingham, which he purchased.”

Mackintosh’s account shows the existence of a trail from the trading house by the Mississippi River, moving to the northwest and ending at the Cedar River across from Poweshiek’s village. He also mentions a ford across the Cedar River and a creek that was probably Chicken Creek. 

We know that one of the three stone trail markers was at the bank of the Mississippi River, but where were the other two placed? Thanks to the research of Anne Wieskamp Collier, we know that the stone marker, now on display at the riverfront, was taken from the farm of T.M. Barnes, just this side of the Cedar River and by Saulsbury Road. The third marker, that sat northwest of town, might have been placed at the junction of two Indian trails, the trail going to the Cedar River and another trail that connected the Indian camps on the Iowa River by Wapello and the camps on the Mississippi River by Davenport. 

Thanks again to Muscatine Parks and Recreation for displaying this historic artifact.