Mayor Lowrance reflects on 2016

Credits success to teamwork, local talent

CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC Pictured is a preliminary concept rendering provided by Prochaska Associates of Omaha, Neb. for a new local joint fire/police facility to be built in the 900 block of South Second St., commonly referred to as the “Old EconoFoods” site. Construction is estimated to start in approximately eight months.

This is the first in a series of two articles about city-wide progress in 2016. The second installment will appear Monday.

From passage of the joint fire/police facility bond referendum to the hiring of a new city administrator to a housing boon, Mayor Jim Lowrance had a lot to talk about as 2016 draws nigh.

Now close to finishing the third year of a four-year term, Lowrance thanked taxpayers, the city council and staff.

He attributed progress to successful private-pubic partnerships, and in some cases, exemplary work of several individuals.

Passage of fire/police facility bond referendum

The passage in August of a not-to-exceed $17.5 million dollar referendum was easily Lowrance’s top pick.

Nearly 15 months after a disappointing defeat for a new police-only facility, community forces rebounded and Marshalltown police and fire forces will move into a new joint-use facility in approximately two years.

In a special election, Marshalltown voters approved the measure by a 1,058-vote margin, 2,273 to 1,215.

Specifically, the city needed the 60 percent minimally to borrow a not to exceed $17.5 million to buy the “Old Econo Foods” property in the 900 block of South Second Street from the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, purchase adjoining acreage from the Knights of Columbus, build the facility, and make necessary street adjustments.

“Taxpayers who voted yes, committee chairman Paul Peglow and the volunteer Citizens Advisory Committee deserve the credit,” Lowrance said.

“The  committee of 15 met regularly over an 11-month period,” he said. “All of their meetings were open to the public … they thoroughly evaluated 19 other sites before making a final decision.”

Kinser selected as new city administrator

The hiring of Jessica Kinser, previously Clinton’s City Administrator, was number two.

After an extensive search, she was appointed city administrator by a 6-1 vote at the Sept. 27 city council meeting.

Kinser succeeds former city administrator Randy Wetmore, who resigned in mid-July to take a similar position in Statesboro, Ga.

“I would say it is rare for us to have so many agree on something like this (Kinser’s selection),” said second ward councilor Joel Greer. “That is why we wanted to speed up the (hiring) process. I expect good things from this person (Kinser).”

Lowrance said the council sought an individual not only with the proper academic credentials, but one who was strong in finance, economic development, and could work effectively with department heads.

Lowrance also said the city wanted an administrator who volunteered throughout the community.

At-large councilor Leon Lamer said he was pleased Kinser’s hiring was done completely by city staff and the council in a timely manner, sparing taxpayers the expense of hiring a consultant.

Kinser’s first day in her new role was Nov. 14.

She has since been busy visiting city departments and becoming acquainted with city employees and Marshalltown residents, said Lowrance.

Housing opportunities

Coming in number three on Lowrance’s list were significant efforts to make more housing available at all income levels.

One of the newest efforts implemented to address housing deficiencies has been the city’s “Dangerous & Dilapidated” program.

Earlier this year, the city demolished five residential properties considered “dangerous and dilapidated”

Now, the city, Marshall Economic Development Impact Committee, under the leadership of Tom Deimerly, and others are hope housing developers will be interested in purchasing the lots from owners to build single-family or apartment units.

City officials have been busy adding more properties to its “D&D” program.

Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Spohnheimer said five to seven properties have been tentatively selected for round two. Spohnheimer and team will finalize the list once asbestos re-mediation procedures are implemented.

Lowrance also cited another housing project — the work underway at the Kibbey Building in the 100 block on Main Street. When complete, four apartments will be on the second story, with street level devoted to retail space.

Barb Hagstrand of Marshalltown is co-owner and co-developer.

“Once complete, the Kibbey Building will compliment other significant projects east of Center Street such as Tallcorn Towers Apartments and the new apartments in the former Iowa Wholesale Building.”

Regarding new construction, the mayor said he is looking forward to “The Willows” $12-million dollar, 58-unit complex at 2315 Campbell Dr.

Planned are 40 assisted living units are included, with 18-memory care.

“Our project will generate at least 22 full-time-equivalent jobs, others will be part time,” said developer Ben Daniels of Fairfield. “We expect our payroll will include more than 30 employees with a payroll of more than $1.2 million.” The Daniels’ have an extensive track record of building and managing similar units statewide. Construction will begin in 2017, said Deimerly.

One of the area’s newest new construction projects is Eagle View, a 52-unit townhouse development on a 11.3-acre site at 233rd Street and Eagle Ridge Drive.

Red Earth Real Estate, a subsidiary of Meskwaki, Inc., began work on the project in mid-March, after the company closed on the purchase of property adjacent to the Wandering Creek Golf Course.

It is building a 52-unit luxury townhouse development.

The two-bedroom single-story town-homes have main level finish of over 1,650 square feet and includes a two-car garage. The homes will be priced from the low $200,000’s, and each unit includes a 192 square-foot covered deck according to the firm.

“The impetus was to have a local presence and to show capabilities for future contracting opportunities,” said CEO Mark Hubble. “A housing survey commissioned by MEDIC showed a dramatic need for housing in order to attract some young professionals, who are living in Ames and other communities,” Hubble said.

The study revealed other significant problems, said Deimerly.

“Lease vacancy rates were less than 2 percent, when healthy markets are 7 to 9 percent,” he said. “Additionally, 22 percent of the community’s workforce was living out of town. Some were residing in Ames, Ankeny and the Des Moines area, commuting more than 45 miles one way. Finally, because of housing deficiencies, local business and industry were struggling to recruit candidates. The study showed we had gaps in low income, moderate income, high income, lease and for sale,” he said. “And so, as we work on projects, we are trying to take a comprehensive view … to be addressing the full spectrum … not just one area.”