Vavra taking over Marquette marina

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Robert Vavra has agreed to purchase the Marquette marina from Casino Queen Marquette.

“We’re pretty excited,” remarked Vavra of himself and his wife, Deb, at Marquette’s Oct. 10 council meeting.

The move will give Vavra’s Maiden Voyage tour boat a new home, something he’s sought for the past few years.

Vavra said he plans to run the marina just as it’s been operating, but with a few improvements.

“I want to make it brand spanking new,” he shared. “I think I have some good ideas.”

In regard to that, Vavra said he hopes to be open more, expand what’s sold at the marina and possibly remodel the building that’s currently there.

Vavra will now work with the city to update and finalize a lease agreement.

Railroad quiet zone

The city is now looking into establishing a railroad quiet zone.

“As we all know, the trains have been making a lot of noise,” said mayor Larry Breuer, citing two pages of complaints from people in town.

Breuer said making Marquette a quiet zone would “be quite a project” and “not cheap,” but no projected costs were discussed.

Adrian Holmes, a representative of Bolton and Menk, attended the meeting, providing the council with an engineering proposal outlining the city’s options.

“It’s quite an undertaking. You have several crossings in town and several outside town,” said Holmes, noting that a quiet zone must be, at minimum, two miles long. “You have a couple skewed crossings, with multiple entrances, which adds to the complexity.”

“Many towns see it as worthwhile endeavor,” he added, “but it can be costly.”

Holmes said there are ways the city could limit costs, including closing some private crossings. Each closure could bring in $7,500 apiece from the railroad and DOT, he commented.

The city might also consider a trade with the railroad, if the railroad is interested in some property, Holmes added.

The DOT does not offer grants specifically for quiet zones, but he said the city could apply for a safety grant.

This summer, Marquette began looking into a provision in the state code that could give the city, if they create an ordinance, the power to require a railway company operating tracks on or across a city street to construct and maintain an overpass or underpass.

Marquette’s attorney, Dan Key, said that should still be pursued.

“I think it would be good to have in your arsenal to persuade the railroad in future situations,” he said. “I think a lot is going to come down to negotiation.”

Breuer said the city will continue to weigh its options and will consider funding for the project during the 2018/2019 budget discussions.

ATV/UTV use on city property

The council also discussed the use of ATVs and UTVs on city property. 

“The land where we’re planning the evacuation route has trails,” said Breuer. “People are using it [to ride] ATVs.”

He said the council needs to decide whether to bar riders from the route or set aside an area where those vehicles can be operated.

“This is part of the planning process that goes along with the evacuation route,” Breuer added.

Marquette’s code currently bars ATV usage on city-owned property without permission from the city, noted city clerk Bonnie Basemann.

Attorney Key said barring the use of ATVs protects the city.

“If you encourage ATV use and someone gets hurt, that could hurt you more than if you put up a sign prohibiting it and the police enforce it,” he explained. 

Public works director Jason Sullivan said the city put up signs prohibiting use a few years ago, but someone took them down.

“It will be difficult to enforce,” noted councilwoman Pam Brodie-Fitzgerald. “Some of that [area] is private property too.”

The council agreed to discuss the topic further at next month’s meeting.

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