The many benefits of trees

In recognition of National Arbor Day (Friday, Apr. 28), Parks and Recreation Director Richard Klimes offered the following on the value of trees to the citizens of Muscatine.

Trees near Marina

The dictionary definition of a tree is very vague: “a woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground.”

However, trees are much more than that.

The definition provides a physical description but trees are more than just a pretty thing to look at throughout the seasons. Trees provide many benefits from climate control, to health benefits, to renewing the environment around them.

Trees help combat climate change. Not only do they produce oxygen to clean and renew our air, trees cycle out carbon dioxide caused by pollution. With air quality and climate control being a persistent public health issue, trees are needed to improve air quality. Trees can absorb many odors and pollutant gases as the leaves and bark trap these particulates and release healthy oxygen.

Trees provide a shaded halo around them. Conifers (evergreens) do this year round whereas deciduous trees (trees which shed their leaves) have a particular season they create shade. The canopy cover of a location can cool the ground temperature around it or cool pavement if it is a street tree. A large area of the ground shaded also becomes an area protected from harmful UV rays and reduces risks of cancer.

Shade can also have an effect on a Muscatine home’s energy output by cooling the house naturally in the summer allowing the air conditioning to run less and reducing energy use. They become a benefit in the winter by creating a wind block allowing the heating system to have a break as well. Harvested trees can be used as natural heat sources. This in turn reduces carbon dioxide emissions with less demand for energy from power plants.

Trees help with many water issues. They create shade for lawns which slows water evaporation allowing turf to utilize water longer with less stress. Trees are like a sponge during times of rain fall by absorbing many pollutants from storm water runoff before the pollutants can travel to drainage areas and eventually meet a larger body of water. By absorbing a quantity of water during rain falls, trees also help prevent erosion throughout the Muscatine community. The roots themselves become a soil stabilizer as well as a water absorbent.

Trees provide food and habit for wildlife as well as for humans. Many of the fruits we love are grown on trees and shipped to our local grocery stores. There are also trees which bear nuts as there fruit which provides a healthy snack. All of these fruits must be harvested, packaged, and shipped which creates jobs and a better economy.

Trees also help the Muscatine economy by providing jobs requiring maintenance. Trees require proper planting and designing to have a healthy start to life. They also need pruning and preventative maintenance to sustain that healthy life, especially in an urban setting. Eventually trees meet the end of their life cycle and will need to be removed and chipped up to become mulch. All of these processes require personal and provide job opportunities.

Trees provide a healthier mental state by improving our physical and mental wellbeing. Well populated tree areas have been shown to have less violence while hospitals have seen better healing and attitudes.

Yes trees do provide many aesthetic benefits as well. They provide Muscatine with a colorful border or a screen to block an unsightly view. They can make a concrete parking lot softer in texture and less harsh. They muffle sounds from our nearby streets. Trees, as well as landscaping in general, provides an environment which increases Muscatine’s property values.

Staff from the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Muscatine completed the treatment for the Emerald Ash Borer on all trees in Weed Park, Riverfront, Cemetery, City Hall and all outside parks last fall.  Seventy trees were treated and the treatment will last us for approximately three years. With the help of donations to the City, city staff has planted and transplanted 200 trees into Air Pots in our nursery.  Approximately 300 trees are currently being housed in the nursery at Park Maintenance and 25 in the nursery at the Muscatine Municipal Golf Course.  These trees will be planted throughout the parks system as they continue to grow and develop.

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Walkability over driveability

04-25-17 Green Space - Riverfront Park

Green spaces like this one at Riverfront Park allow individuals to enjoy social interaction and nature along the banks of the Mississippi River. The wide sidewalks, sitting areas, play areas, and landscaping add to the walkable nature of the park. These and similar concepts will be used as the City of Muscatine continues its efforts to transform the downtown business district and other areas of the community into more pedestrian friendly gathering places.

It should not be a surprise to anyone that the City of Muscatine has, as one of their goals, the development of placemaking projects that will maintain local amenities for residents while also attracting and retaining a quality workforce. The placemaking philosophy, an idea that changes the emphasis of urban design from automobile traffic to pedestrian traffic, guides the public and private sectors of Muscatine in the development of plans for the riverfront, the downtown area, and the community as a whole.

 

Walkability is not a new concept, just one that ran up against the rise of the automobile in the 20th century. Urban development patterns also changed more affordable cards made driveability more important than walkability. Driveability also had a hand in families moving out of the older, more established, and walkable cities and into suburbs that featured stretches of single family homes surrounded by green space where the family could live while driving to work, to school, to shop, or do just about any errand they might have on their to-do list.

 

That trend began to change as we moved into the 21st century. The City of Muscatine and other visionaries saw this change develop and created long-range goals that would return the concept of placemaking and walkability to the forefront of discussions for all future infrastructure and other city projects. The creation of Riverfront Park was one of the first steps to creating these people friendly venues along with the development of walkable trails, the Complete Street policy, and the revitalization efforts for the downtown business district.

 

One of the great assets of Muscatine is Riverfront Park with its green space, public areas that invite social interaction, and the walking and bike trails that can take you to Weed Park in one direction and will eventually lead to Deep Lakes Park in the other direction. The reconstruction of Cedar, Colorado, Mulberry, and now Mississippi Drive are all part the efforts by the City to make Muscatine safer and more user-friendly for walkers, joggers, bicycle enthusiasts, and citizens of all ages.

 

In the future the concepts of placemaking and walkability will be extended into the downtown area as the sidewalks and landscape along 2nd Street are reshaped to create a more pedestrian friendly environment. The effort to revitalize the downtown business district is based on several studies which suggest that neighborhoods that mix small shops and restaurants with residential availability are prone to economic growth. That means the spirit of entrepreneurship that is well established in Muscatine can continue to grow and prosper as more money is spent locally and more jobs are created. It also helps the environment.

 

Between the continued development of Riverfront Park and the 2nd Street project in the next year or two, is the Mississippi Drive Reconstruction Project which officially begins on Monday, May 8. If you have not yet had an opportunity to view the plans for the redesigned automobile traffic pattern along the riverfront you owe it to yourself to do so at your earliest convenience . That opportunity just happens to be Tuesday, May 2, at the Riverview Center from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

 

The use of landscaping and modern traffic design to create a balance between the necessities of automotive traffic and pedestrian traffic will be a huge benefit to the entire community. The design elements being implemented on Mississippi Drive will be used in other projects slated to begin in the next several years. And the use of Mississippi Drive as a connection between the river front and the downtown business district will yield plenty of economic benefits as well.

 

We will continue to look at the placemaking ideas and the use of walkable neighborhoods in future blog posts.

Placemaking in the city

Mississippi DriveAnyone who travels across the Norbert F. Beckey Bridge that carries traffic over the Mississippi River from Illinois Highway 92 to Iowa Highway 92 is treated to a spectacular view of the Muscatine riverfront just downstream from the bridge. There are few river towns that can claim to have such a wondrous entrance to their city yet Muscatine knows the best is yet to come.

Over 20 years ago you would not have had the same reaction to seeing the Muscatine riverfront from that bridge as you do today. An aging industrial center with a railroad switching yard and a declining downtown did little to inspire visitors to stop and stay for a while. That has changed through the efforts of the City of Muscatine along with many individuals and organizations who donated time, ideas, and in some cases money, to the vision of transformation.

The vision of transforming what was once a decaying industrial area into a welcoming public space began with the achievement of the city’s initial riverfront redevelopment goals that included moving the switch yard, cleaning up decades of waste accumulation, and the initial design and development of what was to become Riverfront Park. The park continues to be developed as a welcoming green, public space where the young and old can enjoy outdoor activities and the majesty of the Mississippi River.

The development of the park is just one milestone that has created a welcoming atmosphere for visitors to and residents of the City of Muscatine. Creative minds have come together over the past several years to revitalize the downtown area, primarily along 2nd Street where store fronts that were nearly 50 percent vacant a few years ago now have thriving businesses in them with just a few openings left. In between is the Mississippi Drive project that is expected to begin in May.

Why is there this focus on the downtown area? What is the connection between these areas that will add value to the residents of Muscatine?

The guiding force behind the development of these areas is placemaking, an idea that is not really new but one that has gained increasing value in recent years. The Project for Public Spaces defines placemaking as “a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared values.”  We think of it as creating areas when pedestrian traffic is more important than vehicle traffic and areas where people can gather to socialize in a relaxing atmosphere is more important than traffic flow.

The historic nature of downtown Muscatine and the mystique of the Mississippi River lends itself to the creation of these public spaces, areas where people can walk safely, gather together, share memories, and enjoy the comradery that Iowans are famous for.

The development of Riverfront Park and the economic upswing of the 2nd Street area are two important parts of the placemaking process. So is the reconstruction of Mississippi Drive which, when complete, will create a better and safer connection between the river and downtown businesses.

We will discuss placemaking in future blog posts and define the collective vision that drives this effort not only for the downtown area but other areas in Muscatine. The concept will rekindle and revitalize the energy surrounding Muscatine and, hopefully, draw more and more people to visit and to stay.

A couple of reminders … a public meeting on the upcoming Mississippi Drive Corridor Reconstruction Project is tentatively scheduled for May 2 (time and place to be announced) and a public meeting on the latest Riverfront Master Plan is scheduled for May 10 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Riverview Center, 110 Harbor Drive, Muscatine, Iowa.

Muscatine Fire Department Training Burn Scheduled For Saturday

MUSCATINE, Iowa – The Muscatine Fire Department will be conducting a training burn on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at the former Beach Lumber Company on Hershey Avenue. The training session will close that portion of Hershey Avenue from Ash to Green Streets for most of the day.

“This is an opportunity to facilitate interagency cooperation and conduct hands-on training in a more controlled environment that we would have at an actual fire,” Muscatine Fire Department Captain Gary Ronzheimer said.

Ronzheimer is coordinating the training session that will involve between 70-80 firefighters from throughout the area. The main building closest to the street and a garage on the property will be used in the training session but several other outbuildings will not be used.

“Safety is our primary concern, for the firefighters, for the equipment, and for the public,” Ronzheimer said. “Hershey Avenue will be blocked off starting at 7 a.m. and the training fire will begin at approximately 1 p.m.”

Local residents and local businesses will have access to their homes and businesses until the time of the fire. The area will be cleared and a space for residents to view the training fire will be established at the intersection of Green Street and Hershey Avenue.

The fire department distributed door knockers this week to alert residents in the surrounding neighborhood of the upcoming training exercise.

“Weather conditions will play a large part in how the smoke moves up and out from the fire,” Ronzheimer said. “Anyone that lives in the area and could be affected by the smoke should find somewhere else to be until the burn is completed.”

Muscatine Fire Department will also have units standing by in case embers from the fire would spread and cause unintended fires.

“We are ready for any contingency,” Ronzheimer said. “The weather should prevent the spread of the embers but you have to be ready for any possibility.”

Detour for the training exercise will be the same as the flood detour with signage posted around the affected area to direct motorists. Traffic will be diverted to Main Street, to West Eighth Street, and to Iowa Avenue.

“Safety is the main reason for the street closure,” Ronzheimer said. “We want to make sure of the safety for our firefighters, for our equipment, and for the public.”

The hydrants that will be used in the training burn are located on the opposite side of Hershey Avenue which means the fire departments big five-inch lines will be running across the roadway.

“We do not need to have those lines damages or cause what is called a water hammer,” Ronzheimer said. “That is when the line, which has water moving at a high rate of speed, is closed off and forcing the water pressure back toward the hydrant and water lines where a lot of damage can occur.”

The Fire Department conducts training almost every day but a training burn does not occur that often.

“We do a lot of training in other areas such as HAZMAT but it is at least a couple of years or more between training burns like the exercise we have this weekend,” Ronzheimer said. “This is great experience for our younger firefighters and volunteers to gain the experience they will need in the event of an actual fire.”

Instructors for the training exercise come from the Blue Grass, Durant, Muscatine, and West Liberty Fire Departments among others.

Beach Lumber Company consists of eight buildings and sits on 3.5 acres of land near the Mississippi River. The property was owned by Carver Riverfront Real Estate, Inc., prior to being donated to the City of Muscatine by the Carver family. The location is adjacent to the site of a former Carver Pump factory. That area was acquired and cleared by the City of Muscatine in 1999.

 

Muscatine receives 23rd consecutive CAFR award

 

The Certificate for Excellence in Financial Reporting has been awarded to the City of Muscatine for the 23rd consecutive year by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). The award recognizes the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) prepared for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, by the City of Muscatine Finance Department.

“We are very proud of the hard work and dedication by the members of our financial department,” Gregg Mandsager, City Administrator, said. “It is impressive that we have had 23 straight years of receiving this award and it is a tribute to the past and present staff members.”

The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.

“This award recognizes our endeavors to ensure the report meets and exceeds all required regulations,” Nancy Lueck, City of Muscatine finance director, said. “We are honored that our work to write a complete and understandable financial report of the City of Muscatine is recognized once again.”

Lueck has been with the finance department since 1977 and has served as its director since 2005.

Muscatine was one of 22 municipalities in Iowa to receive the award along with seven counties and 13 school districts.

The City of Muscatine was earlier awarded the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the 32nd consecutive year. In order to receive this award, a governmental unit must publish a budget document that meets program criteria as a policy document, as an operations guide, as a financial plan and as a communications device.

The CAFR was judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR.

The GFOA is a nonprofit professional organization serving approximately 17,500 government finance professionals with offices in Chicago, IL, and Washington, D.C.

The GFOA established the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program (CAFR Program) in 1945 to encourage and assist state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal.  The goal of the program is not to assess the financial health of participating governments, but rather to ensure that users of their financial statements have the information they need to do so themselves.

Reports submitted to the CAFR program are reviewed by selected members of the GFOA professional staff and the GFOA Special Review Committee (SRC), which comprises individuals with expertise in public sector financial reporting and includes financial statement preparers, independent auditors, academics, and other finance professionals.

 

 

Update on the City’s Award-winning Budget

more-about-the-budget-1

Last week’s post about the upcoming budget sessions describes the process that the City Council and staff undergo to create a budget to meet the needs of our community. This undertaking is no small feat!

Finance Director Nancy Lueck has been with the Finance Department since 1977 and has served as the Director since fall of 2005. Nancy and her team have efficient procedures for handling the budget each year.

Not only does Iowa Code require cities of our size to complete an annual audit, but the City of Muscatine also submits the budget to be reviewed by The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) each year.

The City of Muscatine has been awarded a GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for 32 consecutive years. In order to receive this award, a governmental unit must publish a budget document that meets program criteria as a policy document, as an operations guide, as a financial plan and as a communications device.

For the 25th consecutive year, the City has also received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from GFOA for its comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.

If you’d like to learn more about the budget process, consider attending some of the upcoming budget sessions!

Mississippi Drive Public Hearing Set For Feb. 2

Mississippi Drive

Last Thursday, Jan. 19, there was a great turnout at the Public Meeting for the Mississippi Drive Corridor Project! Thank you to all who attended. At the meeting, City Council, citizens, and staff came together for an informal presentation and a chance to view the latest design plans.

If you would like to see design plans, but were not able to make it to the meeting, you may still view the latest map of design plans! It is on display at Public Works, 1459 Washington Street.

Next Thursday, Feb. 2, there will be a Public Hearing on Mississippi Drive at the City Council Meeting at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers. 

More information about the project and design concepts from the previous public engagement meetings can be found on the project website.

The construction for the Mississippi Drive Corridor Project is set to begin later this spring.

Governor Branstad to Attend Chinese New Year Concert in Muscatine!

save-the-date

Special guests Governor Terry Branstad and his wife Chris will attend the Chinese New Year Concert in Muscatine on Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. The concert will be held at Calvary Church, 501 W. Bypass 61 and will feature the Shaanxi Province Song and Dance Theater National Orchestra. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

The concert will serve as a Chinese New Year celebration for the community as well as a time to recognize Governor Branstad for his commitment to the relationship between the State of Iowa and China before his pending appointment as U.S. Ambassador to China.

In 1983 Branstad was in his first term as governor when he signed the first sister state relationship agreement between the State of Iowa and Hebei Province. Following the sister state agreement, a small delegation from Hebei visited Iowa in 1985 to learn about modern agricultural techniques.

One of the members of the delegation was a young agricultural official named Xi Jinping.

At the time, Xi and the delegation were welcomed into the governor’s office where Branstad built relationships with the guests.

Xi’s 1985 trip to Muscatine and the State of Iowa was the beginning of a friendship between Muscatine and China.  No one would have imagined that the young agricultural official they hosted in 1985 would go on to become the President of China.

When President Xi refers to those he connected with during his 1985 stay in the state, he calls them his “old friends.”

Sarah Lande of Muscatine is among one of the “old friends” who hosted the delegation in 1985.

Lande said the Chinese New Year Concert will be a time to celebrate Chinese culture in Muscatine and also wish the governor well before he undergoes the appointment process.

“Our relationship with China has truly come full circle!” Lande said. “When Governor Branstad first signed the sister state agreement with Hebei, the goal was to build friendships. Now he’s the nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to China.”

Muscatine’s sister city of Zhengding County, China is where President Xi Jinping held his first governmental position. Today, Muscatine has a thriving sister city relationship as a result of Governor Branstad’s work in establishing the sister state relationship and the hospitality shown by volunteers in Muscatine in 1985.

“It warms our hearts to celebrate this occasion as it gives us hope for the future of U.S. and China relations,” Lande said.

The concert is being sponsored by the Bank of China, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, China Arts and Entertainment Group, China Window Group, and the Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee.

All are invited to attend this night of celebration in Muscatine!

Budget Season for Fiscal Year 2017-2018

budget-time

It’s that time of year again! It’s budget season for the City of Muscatine.

The City of Muscatine must adopt an annual budget by March 15 of each year. The process began back in November, when departments received budget materials and instructions on the process. Now that each department’s budget proposals have been compiled, it is time for the City Council to hear the presentations before making their decisions on how to most effectively spend revenues.

Creating a budget for a full service city that meets our community’s needs but is responsible at the same time is no small feat. There are issues and challenges that come along with the budget process.

We want to make sure you have all of the information available to participate and stay engaged in the process. There are numerous opportunities to attend presentations before the Public Hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, March 2, but will be officially set by City Council after department/agency presentations are made. The Public Hearing is your opportunity as a citizen to comment and share your opinion.

Take a look at the Budget Schedule and see if you would like to attend some of the presentations.

The City of Muscatine values constructive input and appreciates hearing your ideas. You can comment here on our blog, visit our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages, or email us to stay connected.

Thank you for reading and we hope you stay engaged in the budget process!

Muscatine Fire Department’s Roy Patterson Will Soon Be Deployed with the Air Force Reserve

roy-patterson

Muscatine Fire Department is saying “see you later” to Firefighter Roy Patterson as Patterson will soon be serving his first deployment with the Air Force Reserve.

Patterson was been in the Air Force Reserve for five years and joined Muscatine Fire Department three years ago.

Serving in the military is something he wanted to do since childhood.

“My grandpa was in the Army and he was one of my heroes growing up,” Patterson said. “He did two tours in Korea and two tours in Vietnam.”

Patterson said that although he considered going into the Army right out of high school, after discussing it with his dad, he opted to do something different. However, serving in the military remained on his mind.

This deployment will be to SE Asia, where he will serve for approximately six months. His role in the Air Force is fire protection. Patterson’s unit has the primary focus of crash rescue fire fighting, but will also cover all of the structural fire fighting for the bases.

Patterson said that leaving his family will be the hardest part about deployment. Patterson and his wife Brennan have three boys – James, 8, Marshall, 6, and Colt, 2.

“Back when I used to dream about it and idolize my grandpa, I didn’t have a family of course, so it seemed a lot cooler back then,” Patterson said. “Now, I’m still looking forward to it. Really, my only drawback is leaving my family.”

While he has to leave his family during deployment, Patterson knows that he has his Muscatine Fire Department family watching over his wife and kids while he is gone.

“Being part of Muscatine Fire Department is like being part of a big family,” he said.

Firefighter Patterson shared that being a member of the Muscatine Fire Department helped prepare him for deployment by keeping him fresh on his skills.

He said that he is looking for this opportunity to serve.

Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Michael Hartman explained that Patterson’s role in the Air Force Reserve has been beneficial for the department and the City. Patterson came into the department with significant training and knowledge of operations. He actually wrote Muscatine Fire Department’s procedures for responding to airplane accidents and plane crash rescue.

“Roy has been a big asset for us,” Hartman said. “We are going to miss him, but we understand his obligations and that those obligations also pay back to the community and department.”