A look at year one Comprehensive plan goals accomplished in 2014

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City crew workers Dan Pierce, on ladder, and Danny Walke replace signage within city limits, just one of many goals set forth by the comprehensive plan developed and approved in 2013. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

In December of 2013, after a year of collecting input from the community and extensive research about Guttenberg, the city council approved a new comprehensive plan, the first since 1970. One year later, The Press checks in with Mayor Russ Loven and City Manager Mary Willett about the first twelve months of progress on the plan.

“Overall, this is a 20-30 year plan,” said the mayor. Comprehensive plan completion was listed as one of the top accomplishments of 2013 during a strategic planning session city officials attended early in 2014. Many of the goals set for 2014 were aligned with the comprehensive plan, and many were indeed accomplished throughout the year.

The comprehensive plan is broken into nine chapters. Following is a list of the addressed chapter’s goals and corresponding 2014 undertakings. 

Community Culture: Goals for enriching Guttenberg’s community culture included the preservation and enhancement of the history and architecture of Guttenberg, drawing tourists to support the local economy by making the city a destination, providing ample opportunities for residents to participate in the arts, and offering year-round recreational activities for residents and visitors. 

The formation of Umbrella Arts, led by Juanita Loven, facilitated many discussions on strategies to meet community culture goals, including documenting the stories of Guttenberg residents and designing a historic home tour. The group successfully organized a concert series, River of Music, featuring local musicians that provided entertainment on Friday nights last summer. Umbrella Arts is also planning a new event, Celebrate the River, to represent Guttenberg’s culture and creativity in August of 2015.

“This group felt that the addition of an auditorium or community center would be very beneficial,” said Mayor Loven. Readers will recall that school officials making new facility plans are discussing the inclusion of an auditorium. 

The mayor has been attending regional trail committee meetings to develope a trail connecting Guttenberg along a trail from Fayette County through Clayton and down to the Cassville Ferry landing, which would take trail users across the river. Darwin Duwe and Vet’s fields have been updated, and portable lavatory was placed at the tennis courts. A fish cleaning station was provided by a grant from the DNR. Plans are also underway to revamp the community swimming pool.

Housing: The steering committee prioritized keeping existing housing well maintained and attractive, providing adequate space and infrastructure for residential development, and ensuring affordable housing is available for all. 

A developer has been working on a housing project for the land south of the municipal building. The development would provide three floors of housing open to people of any age and income level, underground parking, and commercial space on the ground floor. The new construction will use environmentally friendly materials. “This project will open up housing in other areas of the city,” notes the city manager. 

One strategy listed in the plan was to maintain a list of available rental properties and information on community websites. GD&T now lists members who own rental properties with their contact information on its website, and a new site at iowahousingsearch.org offers free listings of available rental housing. Guttenberg landlords are encouraged to take advantage of both opportunities.

In 2014, housing rehabilitation grants from Upper Explorerland were awarded to six local homeowners for maintenance and upgrades.

Economic Development: Goals for the economic development of Guttenberg included supporting a sufficient workforce by maintaining a high quality of life, facilitating thriving service and manufacturing industries as well as commercial areas downtown and along Highway 52 that provide for residents’ needs, welcoming and cultivating entrepreneurs, and promoting tourism as a main economic driver. 

This year, Kann Manufacturing announced intent to expand into the industrial park with a new aluminum product line, creating more jobs and filling a previously vacant building.

A survey has been conducted with several local employers to develop a community skills profile, determining what skills are needed in local employees and addressing those with training programs like Quickbooks, social networking, and financial courses. One strategy suggested in the comprehensive plan is to work with the school district and NICC to develop vocational programming addressing skill gaps in the community, and the school board has been discussing such programming with the college.

During the next year, Darla Kelchen with the Clayton County Foundation for the Future will be spearheading an assessment of first impressions in communities throughout the county. “When you have people coming in on Great River Road, what’s the first thing they see?” Kelchen asked. “We’ll be driving fresh, open eyes through the county and prioritizing what needs to be addressed first, then working with funders like Brownfields to tackle the issues.”

Transportation: The city addressed the comprehensive plan’s transportation goals this year by adding three one-hour parking spots across from the school and advocating for a parking ramp in new school facility plans. The Acre Street project nears completion, and several railroad crossings were improved. 

Public Infrastructure and Utilities: Numerous infrastructure and utilities projects were undertaken or completed during the year, including the resurfacing of the Garber Bridge (which will need to be replaced within the next three years), the purchase of a new fire truck and new ambulance. The replacement of the waterline on North River Park Drive is almost completed, and remaining four-inch watermains have been replaced to support hydrant use. Upgrades have also been completed to the 1950s sewer infrastructure, and new signage for Guttenberg city limits has been purchased. 

Natural and Agricultural Resources: The goal for this chapter was to keep Guttenberg’s natural resources an integral part of the community’s quality of life. A tree management plan has been developed between the park board and the Iowa DNR for determining the location, type, and blend of trees in the park to preserve sidewalks and keep existing trees healthy. Eagle Scout Matthew Klaes is leading a wetland mitigation project on Miner’s Creek, which will eventually make an educational area, according to the city manager. 

Hazards: While the flood wall remains the city’s protector from its largest threat, Mayor Loven says that thanks to the construction on Acre Street, “We are much more cognizant of what a catastrophe on top of a bluff can do to the ground below.” Handling runoff waters, drainage, and soil or rock displacement after a hard rain is a concern the city has prioritized by regulating development on the bluff. 

Disaster plans to address train derailment are also underway, and conversations with Canadian Pacific Railroad regarding crossing closures are ongoing. The crossing at Dekalb Street, the southernmost crossing in town, is on the schedule to be rehabilitated in 2015, as is the crossing at Schiller Street. “The railroad would like us to close more crossings, but the accident in May really caused us to rethink that,” said Willett. As trains get longer, faster, and heavier, she is aware of increasing impact on houses near the tracks and would prefer to see trains slow down as they pass through town. 

“It is important to understand that the city administration cannot complete the goals of the comprehensive plan alone,” said the city manager. “Community groups, grants, and motivated individuals must work together to make our vision for Guttenberg a reality.”

 

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