Manager's Musings Online

Thoughts from the City Manager on Various City Issues.

Mar 12

Budget Column - 2013

Posted on March 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM by Byron Smith

We have completed another budget with the City of Fort Madison.  That is a sign of the seasons changing for those of us at City Hall.  We hope that this translates into the snow melting and staying away until another winter. 

The budget is again balanced and the City Council held the City tax rate to essentially the same rate – 14.88.  This year the Council has also held the water and sewer departments to no rate increases.  Overall the budget is in good shape.  One slight increase in the police department budget is the addition of a School Resource Officer.  This position is in partnership with the Fort Madison Community School District and they are going to contribute one-half of the cost for this position.

The coming budget year should see many projects moving forward.  We have waited a long time to see the Avenue D bridge project move forward.  This project is paid for with 80% grant money.  We received the bids and should see construction move forward this spring and summer.

Another segment of Avenue E will be replaced this budget year.  This segment is between 15th Street and 18th Street.  We have received grant money that covers 80% of the cost of this project as well.

The project to extend a sewer line out to the Siemens area is moving forward in this budget year.  We are very hopeful that this will improve our ability to attract other industry to this area.  We will then have both water and sewer in the area.

The Amtrak depot relocation project has slowed to a standstill and we are waiting on Amtrak to give us the specifications we need to build the platform.  They are having internal discussions as well as discussions with the Federal Railroad Administration.  Mayor Randolph and I plan to meet with their senior people in April on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C.  To remember how far we have come, you can now see the exciting video of the raising of the depot on the City website.

Oct 02

Fall 2012

Posted on October 2, 2012 at 2:18 PM by Byron Smith

As I go about my everyday life in Fort Madison, I have the opportunity to talk to a number of different people.  Those people tend to have questions for me when they learn what I do for a living.  Many of those questions have to do with various projects that the city is involved in.  I wanted to try and answer a few of those questions here in this column by giving an update on a few city projects.

  • Ave D Bridge – As many of you know the bridge over French Creek on Avenue D between 16th and 17th Streets had some significant deterioration.  About two years ago, the City closed the bridge to all pedestrian and vehicular traffic in order to keep people safe.  We applied for and received a grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation to replace the bridge.  We have hired engineers to design the new bridge and prepare plans and put it out to bid.  We are planning to see this project under construction early next year.  We want to thank the neighbors for their patience on this project.  We know it is an inconvenience.  Sometimes these kinds of projects take an extra-long time to complete because of the state or federal money that we use to fund the project.
  • Denmark Hill Landslide – In the spring of 2010, we received a lot of rain and during those rains, we had a tremendous landslide in the Old Denmark Road area.  This slide began to damage the road in the area.  Because of a subsequent disaster declaration for our area, the City became eligible for FEMA funding to help fix this problem.  We had quite a process getting all of the ducks in a row but this project is currently under construction.  Work is being done to repair the slide area and then the road.
  • Depot Restoration – This project has been at least five years in coming and we will have to wait a little bit longer to get it done.  We are now about ¾ of the way done with the complete project of opening the depot building to Amtrak travelers.  We have completed the first three phases (raising the buildings-1st; site improvements-2nd; interior renovations-3rd).  It was exciting to see the building lifted up and then have the site raised to meet it.  It looks now like it has always been at the present elevation.  We are running into challenges with some newly adopted Federal Railroad Administration regulations so we can finalize the plans and begin construction on Phase 4-passenger platform construction.  We are very excited to see this project at its current place.
  • Downtown Renovations – The façade renovation grant through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is moving along.  Contracts have been awarded and we are moving forward with the renovation of the outsides of 13 buildings in downtown Fort Madison.  Downtown will look very different when this project is completed.
  • Water Treatment Plant – We are nearing completion of this very large and very important project.  With all that has been done, we have solidified the future water supply of Fort Madison for many decades to come.  The last piece of this project is the demolition of the old water treatment plant.  That is underway and we hope to complete this during our current fiscal year.

This is just a brief update on a few projects, but if you have further questions or suggestions for future columns, please contact me at 319-372-7700x203 or click here Byron Smith.

Jun 06

2012 Goal Setting

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 10:58 AM by Sarah Clendineng

Three years ago, the City Council got together for a goal setting session and came to consensus on a number of goals for the city staff to work on over the next few years. Here we are three years later and we went through a similar process. In January and February 2012, City Staff, the Mayor and City Council met and discussed accomplishments and goals for the future. Following is a summarized list of the many things that have been accomplished over the past few years:

  • Financial commitment to Main Street for the next 3 years
  • Maintained balanced budget while lowering city property tax levy every year since 2009
  • Improved City General Fund reserves balance
  • Reorganization and remodeling of City Hall
  • Opening of new water treatment plant
  • Approving $500,000 for RecPlex project
  • Committed 3 years of funding for Main Street group
  • Completed Phase I of Emergency Training Facility
  • Completed and adopted Annexation study
After a discussion of all accomplishments, the group looked to the future for further goals. It was a good opportunity for the Mayor, City Council, and City Staff to also think about the issues and opportunities that they each saw in the future for the City of Fort Madison. After all of that discussion, the following four items came to the top of the priorities for the future:
  • Use grants (if possible) or other financial incentives (3-year URTEDs) to entice construction of new homes on “newly” empty lots
  • Merge departments/department heads
  • Reorganize city government to make the mayor a voting member of the city council
  • City control of ground around the by-pass interchanges via annexation or extraterritorial zoning or both
These priorities will now be worked on by city staff and implemented along with a series of organizational objectives and ongoing goals. Watch over the next few months as the City takes steps to accomplish the goals and priorities of the Mayor and City Council. The Council will be reviewing these on a quarterly basis to monitor progress.