Posted on April 23, 2018 at 3:10 PM by Kevin Jenison
MUSCATINE, Iowa – Muscatine is a great place to live and nothing demonstrates that fact more than how residents come together to serve. Whether that service comes on the committee, project, or organizational level, or in just helping out a neighbor, Muscatine residents are working together to make a great community even better.
The City of Muscatine is very thankful and grateful for the many residents who have volunteered their time and service to be a member on one of the many boards and commissions that assist in developing and monitoring City programs, policies and services.
“These individuals who volunteer to serve on one of our boards or commissions, those who attend the many public meetings to add their input to the discussions, and those who volunteer throughout the community are extremely important in our efforts to make Muscatine an even better place to live, work, raise a family, or retire,” Gregg Mandsager, City of Muscatine Administrator, said. “We greatly appreciate their efforts and their feedback.”
Several of the boards and commissions authorized by the Muscatine City Council will be seeking new members this year. Terms expire on June 30 and the City of Muscatine is currently taking applications to replace those members whose term of service expires or those members who are retiring from their service on a board or commission.
The following boards or commissions have vacancies that need to be filled through reappointment or new appointments. Those interested in becoming a member of a board or commission can complete the application and either email the form to the administrative secretary or mail the form to Boards & Commissions, c/o Administrative Secretary, Muscatine City Hall, 215 Sycamore, Muscatine, IA 52761.
All applications are reviewed by the Nominating Committee to ensure applicants meet the qualifications to serve on a specific board or commission, to ensure there is no potential conflicts of interests, and to ensure that each board or commission has a gender balance as prescribed by Iowa Code. Those that meet the requirements are submitted to the full Council for approval. The nominating committee includes the Mayor, two Council representatives, and the City Administrator or a representative from city staff.
The City of Muscatine welcomes all residents to submit their names and resumes for a specific board or commission or a general submission for any board or commission. Most boards or commissions require some knowledge of the subject matter and the responsibilities for the specific board of commission.
Current openings include individuals whose terms are up for renewal and terms that are expiring on the various boards or commissions. These openings include:
Airport Advisory Commission
The Airport Advisory Commission meets at 5 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month in the Airport Terminal Building. The responsibilities of the commission include assisting in the preparation of the airport budget, recommending procedures and policies in connection with the administration of the airport, investigating means by which the airport can be improved, and making recommendations for the long-term needs of the airport. Members of the Airport Commission serve a five-year term with a maximum of two full terms. Currently one position needs to be filled.
Art Center Board of Trustees
The Art Center Board of Trustees meets at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the Muscatine Art Center. The Board of Trustees exercises change, control, and supervision over the museum and the art center. Members are appointed to three-year terms with a maximum of two full terms. Currently three positions need to be filled.
Civil Service Commission
The Civil Service Commission meets at 4 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month in the City Council Chambers at Muscatine City Hall. The commission selects testing procedures for the personnel system, hears appeals on employee discipline cases, and administers the civil service system. Members are appointed to four-year terms, must be eligible electors, and must not hold or be a candidate for any public office. Currently one position needs to be filled.
Convention and Visitors Board
The Convention and Visitors Board meets at 12 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The board provides oversight for the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), adopts rules and procedures for the CVB, and oversees the development of visitor and tourism information, and approves programs for visitors to the City of Muscatine and Muscatine County. Members are appointed to a three-year term with a maximum of two consecutive full terms. Currently one positions needs to be filled.
Historic Preservation Commission
The Historic Preservation Commission meets at 5:15 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The commission safeguards the city’s historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage by preserving sites and districts of history and cultural significance. Members serve five-year terms with a maximum of two full terms. Currently one position needs to be filled.
Planning & Zoning Commission
The Planning & Zoning Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. Responsibilities include reviewing proposed subdivisions, rezoning requests, and sales of public property, making recommendations concerning growth management of the city, and formulating a five-year capital improvement plan for the city. Members are appointed to five-year terms with a maximum of two consecutive full terms, must be citizens of Muscatine, qualified in knowledge or experience to advise City Council in matters pertaining to the development of the city, and must not be elected officers of city government. Currently two positions need to be filled.
Recreation Advisory Commission
The Recreation Advisory Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month in the lower level conference room at City Hall. The commission is responsible for conferring with an assisting the City Administrator in the preparation of the Parks and Recreation budget, recommending procedures and policies in connection with the administrator of city parks, the cemetery, golf course, and harbor operations, investigating means by which parks and recreation can be improved, and making recommendations for the long-range needs of the recreation programs for the city. Members serve three-year terms with a maximum of two full terms. Currently two positions need to be filled.
Transportation Advisory Commission
The Transportation Advisory Commission meets at 4 p.m. on the second Tuesday of March, June, September, and December. The commission is responsible for recommending administrative policies and operation procedures, investigating methods for improving the transit system, making recommendations for the development of long-range plans of the transit system, and assisting the City Administrator in the preparation of the transit budget. Members serve two-year terms with a maximum of two full terms. Currently three positions need to be filled.
Water, Electric, and Communications Trustees
The board of Water, Electric, and Communications Trustees meets at 7 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month at Muscatine Power & Water (MPW). The purpose of the board is to control and supervise the operations of the municipal electric and water utility, and present to Council a detailed annual report with a complete financial statement. Members are appointed to six-year terms, and cannot be public officers or salaried employees of the city. Currently one position needs to be filled.
Other board and commissions of the City of Muscatine include:
Administrative Review Panel
The Administrative Review Panel meets as needed. The purpose of the panel is to adjudicate appeals made by motor vehicle operators and to hear appeals by vehicle owners prior to impoundment for unpaid parking fines.
Library Board of Trustees
The Library Board of Trustees meets at 4:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month in the Musser Public Library conference room pending move to the Musser Public Library & HNI Community Center. The Board is responsible for overseeing management of the library by the Library Director, employing and removing the Library Director as necessary, approving the expenditure of money allocated by the City Council to the library, and approving the library budget for submission to the Council. Members serve six-year terms with a maximum of two full terms with one member a resident of Muscatine County appointed from a list of names submitted by the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors. Currently no openings are listed.
Zoning Board of Adjustment
The Zoning Board of Adjustment meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The board hears and decides on appeals involving an alleged error in any order, requirement, decision or determination made by an administrative official in the enforcement and interpretation of the zoning ordinance, and to hear and decide special exceptions to the zoning ordinance. Members serve a 5-year term with a maximum of 2 consecutive full terms.
Details on the Nominating Committee is available by clicking HERE.
Posted on April 11, 2018 at 4:43 PM by Kevin Jenison
The official ribbon cutting may be weeks away but I took advantage of an unusually perfect spring day and ventured out to the area off of Houser Street where the Muscatine Pollinator Park and the Muscatine Dog Park will be located.
April has not been the best for outdoor activities as yet but with plenty of sunshine and temperatures close to 60 degrees, the inspiration to venture out to the area and see the progress was too much to resist.
I have to admit the inspiration came in part from Muscatine Street Maintenance Supervisor Randy Howell who told me during a meeting earlier in the week that city crews had been out clearing brush away from the old railroad bridge on the abandoned Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad Corporation tracks west of Houser Street. That bridge is part of the Pollinator Park Trail, a one-mile segment that circumnavigates the park and travels around the Muscatine Transfer & Recycling Center from the Kent Stein Park trailhead back to the Houser Street-Musser Street intersection where it reconnects with the Kent Stein-Deep Lakes Park Trail.
Most of the trail has a rock base which is easy to traverse while walking but does make riding the trail a bit more of a challenge. Paving of the trail is anticipated later on if a grant can be secured to pay for the paving. Meanwhile, the trail can be walked but just be warned that there is still some work to be done at the bridge before it will be available for pedestrian traffic.
While out taking pictures of the bridge I did decide to walk the trail … after all it is just a mile in length and it was a pretty pleasant day. While the grasses, flowers, and trees that will beautify the Pollinator Park are still in their winter slumber or awaiting more appropriate weather to be planted, the walk did give me a sense of what visitors can expect in the months and years ahead.
Once over the bridge, the trail turns and runs alongside the area where the Muscatine Dog Park will be located. The grass is still pretty brown but the area is staked out and you just can imagine the three fenced in areas that are planned, the trees that will be planted, and almost hear the playful barking of the many canines and their owners who will be able to take advantage of Muscatine’s first dog park.
The trail continues on into Pollinator Park itself. Even the noise from the passing vehicles on the 61 bypass cannot drown out the songs sung by the many birds that inhabit the area or dampen the tranquility of this walk through nature. Imagine, if you will, the park as it matures and becomes a haven and a home for all the pollinators that are so important to our lives. (You can Google Muscatine Pollinator Project for more information).
Every step of the trail will take the pedestrian or bicyclist past something worthy to see or to experience. Even walking around the Recycling Center & Transfer Station has its rewards in the nature that abounds along that stretch of the Muscatine Slough.
This is another great addition to the trail system and the park system that the City of Muscatine and Muscatine County enjoys. This is a testament to the visionaries who have worked and are working hard to provide safe, accessible places to walk or ride a bike. These individuals are not resting on their laurels either as they continue to discuss and seek out ways to enhance the current trails or find funding to create new trails or extend others.
Among those are a short section that would connect the Muscatine High School trailhead on Cedar Street with the Houser Street trailhead located near Karen Drive, the currently in development West Side Trail that would connect the Kent Stein trailhead with Discovery Park, and the Mad Creek Trail which may become part of the Riverfront improvement project and complete a recreational trail that would extend from the Mississippi River to the Park Avenue West trailhead on the north side of the bypass.
What Muscatine has is a concerted effort from both the public and private sectors to create recreational opportunities that will keep residents and visitors coming back and enjoying the simplistic, safe, and accessible parks and trail systems that Muscatine offers. It is a vision that extends beyond the riverfront, beyond the downtown area, and even beyond the borders of the city.
Pollinator Park will become a valuable gem among nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts as it matures in the years to come. It will be an educational experience for school children and adults alike. It will be a recreational experience for those who just want to commune with Mother Nature (as long as she cooperates with warm temperatures and at least partly sunny skies).
These little loops off the main trail are a welcomed change to the hiker or bicycle rider. And this is just the first of the “mini-trails” that the City of Muscatine and trail enthusiasts are looking at. There will be more to come on this little off-shoots of the main lines in the future.
Until then, I look forward to another hike along the Pollinator Park Trail later this year and capturing the maturing landscape and the pollinators who will also be paying a visit on their travels.
-Kevin Jenison, Communications Manager
Posted on March 22, 2018 at 1:10 PM by Kevin Jenison
I recently ran across the accompanying picture posted by Project for Public Spaces on Twitter and I could not help but think just how valid the point is and just how much it resonates with the reconstruction of the Mississippi Drive corridor.
“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.” – Fred Kent.
Kent is one of the founders of Project for Public Spaces and one of the leading authorities on revitalizing city spaces. His PPS biography also notes that he is one of the foremost thinkers in livability, smart growth, and the future of the city.
And the future of Muscatine is what the Mississippi Drive Corridor Revitalization Project is all about.
When U.S. 61 was the main thoroughfare through Muscatine it was designed and built for cars and traffic. It was a roadway for traffic to move from one side of Muscatine to the other as quickly and efficiently as possible without any consideration of the places and destinations in between the entry and exit points of Muscatine.
Although traffic was cut in half by the opening of the U.S. 61 by-pass in 1985, the newly designated Business 61 continued on as a thoroughfare for moving from one end of Muscatine to the other with only the brief hesitations for traffic lights. The Grandview Avenue and Mississippi Drive corridors began to suffer under the cars and traffic philosophy as businesses closed or moved to more desirable locations as traffic kept passing them by, and residents sought more desirable locations to live.
Mississippi Drive began to crumble under the weight of persistent Mississippi River flooding and a decaying substructure that made even the simplest of repairs proved to be cost prohibitive. Plenty of evidence was gathered that confirmed that the roadway needed to be completely renovated even with the reduced amount of traffic, and that merged with an idea and a vision that had sprung up from the renovations being undertaken at Riverside Park.
Riverside Park has gone through two renovations (plans for a third are now on the drawing board) as the riverfront was transformed from a railroad switch yard and a declining business district to the envy of most river towns up and down the Mississippi River. This park is becoming the place that people want to visit when they come to Muscatine and what better way to promote this Gateway to Muscatine than to connect it to the Downtown Business District utilizing a revitalized Mississippi Drive.
Placemaking is the concept of planning cities with people and places in mind instead of cars and traffic. It is not a new concept but it is one that has been gaining steam especially with movement towards the promotion of healthier lifestyles and the development of communities and neighborhoods that are walkable. Placemaking also promotes the idea that public spaces are the heart of a community.
Riverside Park is a destination that gives Muscatine both an identity and an image from which new investment, new businesses, and new residents are attracted to come, shop, stay, and live. Riverside Park is not the only destination in Muscatine but it is one of the most prominent. The investment into the park deserves an investment into the connections to that park such as an updated Mississippi Drive and the revitalization of the downtown business district.
The revitalization of the downtown area is already underway with new businesses opening, buildings being renovated, and apartments are remodeled and rented or leased to those who seek the urban lifestyle with a small town feel.
When Muscatine successfully negotiated the transfer of jurisdiction of Mississippi Drive (the old Business 61) in 2015 the opportunity presented itself to design a corridor that would blend well with and provide a solid connection between the riverfront and the downtown area.
Urban writer and activist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) said that cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.
The City of Muscatine, along with the engineers from the design team, understood that message and launched the largest public outreach campaign ever attempted by the municipality. Through numerous public meetings and informational sessions with the City Council, a plan came into focus that highlighted the natural beauty of the park with landscaped medians and highlighted the convenience of the shops, restaurants, and an urban living lifestyle of the downtown with sidewalks and crosswalks that enhanced the safety of pedestrians.
The Mississippi Drive Corridor Project thus became more than just another city project, it became a project of the citizens of Muscatine. The plan was developed through the vast amount of input from citizens and businesses with an eye on the required elements from the federal government (which is funding the project).
That vision is now becoming a reality with the portion from Iowa Avenue to Broadway completed except for a few finishing touches that were left to complete when winter shut down the project.
What Muscatine will have when the project is completed later this year is a corridor that features a downtown area that is accessible and well connected to the green space of Riverside Park, a corridor that projects the positive image of a Muscatine full of promise for a better future, a corridor that attracts people to stop, shop, eat, and participate in the various activities, and a corridor that helps create a social environment that people want to come back to time and time again.
The Mississippi Drive Corridor Reconstruction Project is much more than just replacing a worn out four-lane highway, it is about creating and promoting Muscatine as a GREAT PLACE. It is about replacing the final images of an industrial riverfront with the image of a community rekindling the vital social interactions of people and places that have gone missing in recent years. It is about replacing the focus on cars and traffic with a focus on the people and places that make a community great.