Engineering plans needed before Marquette Depot Museum expansion proceeds

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An update was provided on the Marquette Depot Museum and Information Center expansion project at the Feb. 13 Marquette Council meeting. (NIT file photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times 

The city of Marquette is now seeking professional engineering services for the Depot Museum and Information Center expansion project, after learning both the size of the addition and the Iowa Code require a set of engineering plans for the project to continue.

Mayor Steve Weipert said the city has already sought input from Martin Gardner Architecture, which developed the original conceptual drawings for the building, but the council felt it was important to obtain three to five more quotes.

Resident Mary Jo Pirc, who’s played a large role in developing and maintaining the museum, said the addition will be built on the end of the existing structure, where there’s now a graveled area. The addition will nearly double the present space, she added.

“It’s so full down there now. We’re going to have to hang things from the ceiling soon,” she said, speaking at the Feb. 13 council meeting. “Every storage space is full, so we need to make it large enough.”

Pirc said the committee that’s been meeting about the expansion doesn’t feel windows will be necessary for the addition.

“We don’t want to discolor anything,” she said. “Artifacts really fade a lot.”

A door will be needed on the end, though, she said.

Other updates will likely include a new furnace and air conditioning. Because of the size of the building and the number of people anticipated to visit, two restrooms—one for men and another for women—will also be needed.

Weipert said the city has budgeted $100,000 for the expansion project this year, with additional money set aside for next year’s budget. 

Pirc said the Marquette Action Club has raised $49,000 through its flea markets, all of which will go toward the project.

“It’s what the money’s being saved for,” she said. “That doesn’t leave much for other projects outside the depot.”

Once an engineering firm is selected, Weipert said he’d like to see the project turned over to the committee.

“It’s a city project, and everything should go through the city,” he said, “but you should sit down with the architect and let them know what you’d like.”

Pirc said others are also welcome to share their input on the project.

“Everyone’s happy the city is going to help and do this,” she stated. “We need all the input we can get from everyone in town. There are a lot of ideas out there, and we need to hear them.”

City seeks resolution to railroad issues

Weipert said he is working to set up a meeting with the railroad to discuss prolonged blockages at the crossings in town.

From Feb. 8-10 alone, the mayor said there were blockages of 40 to 60 minutes each day at the Casino Queen crossing, angering both motorists and the casino. 

If the trains can’t move more quickly, Weipert said there are several ideas he’d like to present that could aid drivers.

“If [the railroad] is going to sit there that long, I don’t see why they can’t dispatch someone to say ‘This is going to be 40 minutes long. You might want to go around,’” he shared.

He also suggested utilizing the DOT’s electronic sign near the casino. The railroad could communicate with the DOT, he explained, and have the sign notify drivers that there’s a train on the tracks and they may want to consider going around.

Weipert said the city already calls the railroad and sends emails when citizens and visitors voice complaints, but with little resolution.

“It’s a problem we are more than aware of,” he said. “Maybe the railroad won’t care. I don’t know. But we’re more than happy to hear suggestions. There should be some kind of solution to this that isn’t complicated.”

Update provided on marina

The council approved a waterfront use commercial licensing agreement with Robert and Deb Vavra for the Marquette marina pending approval by the Iowa DNR.

Last fall, the Vavras announced their plans to purchase the marina from the casino.

The city attorney has reviewed the document and will provide a lease termination agreement with the casino upon the property’s sale.

Weipert welcomed the Vavras to Marquette and noted that the city looks forward to working with them.

“We’re excited to have a home for the Maiden Voyage and to work with both towns and across the river,” Robert Vavra said.

In addition to operating his Maiden Voyage tour boat out of the marina, Vavra said he also has some plans to improve the space, including an updated walkway and signage.

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