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City of Muscatine Communication Blog

Hello and welcome to our blog. As the Communication Manager for the City of Muscatine, Iowa, I know the importance of communicating with residents and providing them with an understanding of the different functions of the City, why these functions are important to our residents, and what the City is doing for the future of our community.

Many times the story of the various activities, accomplishments, and happenings within the City are not told and we want to make sure that the people behind these activities, accomplishments, and happenings are duly recognized. We also want to explain our vision of the future for the City of Muscatine, something that we take great pride in.

Please check back in periodically to see updates on what's going on here in Muscatine! Please feel free to leave comments on individual postings--the comments will not be displayed here, but they will be emailed to me so that I can collect your thoughts and make adjustments based on the feedback and suggestions. Moderated comments are an option as we progress. Thanks for reading and I hope you find this to be an effective tool!

Nov 25

Mississippi Driver Corridor design recognized with Urban Design Award

Posted on November 25, 2020 at 9:41 AM by Kevin Jenison

Reconnecting Muscatine has been and continues to be an ambitious project by the City of Muscatine to reimage and reconstruct vehicular and pedestrian pathways that enhance the connection between the downtown area and the Mississippi River.

The work of the City of Muscatine and the design team at Bolton & Menk, Inc., on this multi-phased project was recognized in October 2020 when the City of Muscatine and Bolton & Menk, Inc., were named the recipients of the Urban Design Award from the Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA).

The vision began with a thought to transform a riverfront filled with old buildings, grain bins, and a switchyard into a park that the citizens of Muscatine could be proud of and visitors would want to make a destination. Out of that came the realization of the need for a strong connection between the riverfront and Downtown Muscatine.

The vision expanded with the realization that the park would attract people to the area and that would ignite investment into the downtown district. But to get from the park to downtown, or from downtown to the park, people needed a safe connection … a safer, more pedestrian friendly Mississippi Drive.

The vision of a connected Riverside Park-Mississippi Drive-Downtown Muscatine was created in the 1980s and has been enhanced since then with public and private input along with public and private funding.  The development of Riverside Park with free parking (542 spaces), plenty of green space for people to enjoy, and other amenities was the initial project. For several reasons that free parking was not being utilized including people having to walk to the downtown area for work, shopping, or dining, and for the many safety concerns to pedestrians as they attempted to cross Mississippi Drive.

As part of a phased reconstruction strategy for Downtown Muscatine, the City reimagined 1.6 miles of Mississippi Drive, developed plans for 2.1 miles of Grandview Avenue, began the reconstruction of 2nd Street through the downtown district, and completed an impressive roundabout at the intersection of Mulberry Avenue and 2nd Street.

In their project summary, Bolton & Menk, Inc., noted that Muscatine has a rich cultural and ethnic diversity rooted in industrial beginnings that shaped the city’s growth along the Mississippi River. Front Street, which was renamed Mississippi Drive in the early 1970s, was once a bustling boat and rail yard turned truck route that divided downtown Muscatine from the riverfront.

The riverfront was transformed into a regional amenity as the city evolved offering recreational opportunities along with public open space. However, the riverfront suffered from increasing vehicular traffic and the lack of connectivity to downtown. Accessibility challenges, dangerous railroad crossings, and aging infrastructure historically plagued the 1.6 mile corridor.

The reconnecting of the downtown district to the riverfront revolved around several key principles including:

  • The need for the infrastructure to encourage private investment;
  • Solving fundamental planning, circulation, and public safety issues that have plagued the downtown and riverfront corridor for decades;
  • Redefining the public perception of how the Mississippi Drive and Grandview Avenue corridors should function while putting more emphasis on establishing multimodal corridors;
  • Using technically sound design and detailing practices that are mindful of flood potential and other adverse effects on the built environment;
  • Incorporating beautification and complete streets design principles with every project; and,
  •  Engaging the public often, educating them on the “big ideas”, and building consensus throughout the process.

Through a series of public meetings, the project team was able to gather public input and support for some monumental changes to Mississippi Drive.

By evaluating the corridor’s traffic needs, understanding the barriers facing pedestrians, and identifying the impacts from the adjacent railroad, a concept emerged that featured a 4-to-3 conversion of Mississippi Drive. Incorporated into the concept was Complete Streets principles that would improve safety and create a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere to reinvigorate Muscatine’s riverfront.

The innovations contained in this project included an agreement between the city and Canadian Pacific Railroad to implement a quiet zone through Downtown Muscatine, and creating safer vehicular and pedestrian rail crossings. Other significant changes in the corridor project included back-in angled parking, landscaped medians, and a roundabout at the gateway to downtown.

Each of the Muscatine riverfront projects is unique but still work together to establish a cohesive look and feel while strengthening the community’s connection to the river. The roundabout created a vibrant entryway and solved key circulation issues. The Mississippi Drive corridor calmed traffic and re-established the riverfront connection. The Grandview Avenue corridor project will solve much needed infrastructure and access management problems that have stalled business development. The 2nd Street Project will inspire the creation of an even more vibrant retail, commercial, and housing market.

Each of these projects bring a creativeness to overcome specific challenges, and all in a combined effort for the betterment of the community.

The Mississippi Drive project has become a showcase corridor for the city and for the region. The re-imagined corridor will continue to have a positive influence on the economic vitality of Muscatine’s downtown area while influencing the expectation for future public improvements.

The Mulberry Roundabout project has proven that semi-trucks and other vehicles can safely navigate a roundabout and speed up the transition from one direction to another. The 2nd Street Project will improve the walkability of the six-block downtown area and create areas where people can congregate while shopping the unique stores and restaurants when it is complete in 2021. The Grandview Avenue Project that will use the principles of the Mississippi Drive Corridor Project will create a friendlier atmosphere for business growth while also creating an area that is more conducive to pedestrians and pedestrian safety.

The project team did not come to the final design for these projects entirely on their own. The City of Muscatine and Bolton & Menk, Inc., hosted numerous meetings with local businesses, freight truck drivers, public safety officials, and other key stakeholders including various members of the general public to gain a better understanding of the community needs and how the proposed changes would affect businesses, residents, and visitors. These meetings assured that specific needs were addressed during design and implementation while minimizing the disruption caused by the construction.

This engagement process helped community members gain a better understanding of the project’s technical aspects. Based on the technical analysis and public input the project was “right sized” for existing and future vehicular traffic while emphasizing safety and connectivity for pedestrians.

The design developed a distinct corridor identity that could be replicated in future phases of community redevelopment and reconnected the riverfront to downtown.

In addition to the infrastructure improvements that earned the City and Bolton & Menk, Inc., the award, another phase in gaining momentum that will not only further enhance the connection between the downtown and the riverfront, but also future enhance the connection between the riverfront and the rest of the community.

Segments of the Riverfront Park Master Plan are in the early stages of development. While it is still too early for details of these efforts to be released, it is an exciting time and something to look forward to by Muscatine residents and visitors.

The Mississippi Drive Corridor Reconstruction Project began in May 2017 and wrapped up in November 2018. The roundabout was a separate project and was constructed January thru July of 2020. The Mississippi Drive Corridor Reconstruction Project is the biggest public works project undertaken over a two-year period in the city’s history, reconstructing 1.6 miles of U.S. 61-Business with a 4-to-3 conversion of the traffic lanes, improved street lighting, landscaping, gateway features, pedestrian crossings and sidewalk improvements, new traffic signals and geometric improvements, storm drainage improvements, and roadway embankment work to improve flood protection.

Modernizing U.S. 61-Business through the reconfiguration and reconstruction of the sub-standard, deteriorated roadway, and enhancing the aesthetics throughout the corridor that are consistent with Muscatine’s riverfront improvements was one of the objectives of the MDCRP.

The proposal also sought to meet the objectives of Muscatine’s complete street policy by improving both Muscatine’s quality of life and image by providing a safe and attractive environment for street users of all ages and abilities such as motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, mass transit, children, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, freight carriers, emergency responders and adjacent land users.


Sep 14

09-14-20 Muscatine Firefighters, public pause to remember

Posted on September 14, 2020 at 4:24 PM by Kevin Jenison

091420 Kruse Memorial 001 (JPG)
MUSCATINE, Iowa – 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 I 2002 2002. Firefighter Michael Kruse was remembered with the laying of a wreath at the Firefighters Memorial Monday (Sept. 14) during a special service commemorating the 18th anniversary of his death.

Fire Captain June Anne Gaeta placed the wreath in honor of Kruse in front of the Memorial during the brief service at 7 a.m. Monday. Gaeta and Kruse were part of the team at Station 2 in the 1990s that was led by newly appointed fire Lieutenant Jerry Ewers.

Fire Chaplain Dave McIntosh, pastor of the Hillcrest Baptist Church, provided the prayer and benediction for the service.

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

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. His sacrifice and loss of life while on active duty, the emotional toll it took on his family, co-workers, and Muscatine residents, and the hope that Muscatine will never experience a tragedy such as this ever again are all part of the message presented during each memorial service.

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

Assistant Fire Chief Mike Hartman also knew Kruse and carried a picture of Kruse 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.’”

IOWA FIRE FIGHTER LINE OF DUTY MEMORIAL

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation


Jul 23

Transit ambulance joins Muscatine Fire Department fleet

Posted on July 23, 2020 at 3:46 PM by Kevin Jenison

(See Original Post at https://muscatineiowa.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/transport-ambulance-is-added-to-muscatine-fire-department-fleet/)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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