Members of the Marshalltown City Council and city department heads met Monday to discuss plans for the city over the next four-to-five years.
Those in attendance highlighted several areas that need improvement as well as those of achievement. Then, the group discussed what the city should do about its problems and how to build on its strengths.
Randy Wetmore, city administrator, said one of the city's biggest strengths is its willingness to work with non-governmental agencies on projects. Volunteerism for many collaborative initiatives is also exceptionally high.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Bruce Bernard, the facilitator of the goal setting meeting, talks about the city’s ambitions of improving its shortcomings and bolstering its strengths Monday afternoon in the Marshalltown City Council Chambers. Bob Schubert, first-ward council member, looks on.
"They come from different places, and they are ready to step up," he said of the volunteers. "That makes a huge difference."
However, Bob Wenner, at-large council member, pointed out that the city also needs to be cautious not to get on the line for ancillary costs when working with such groups.
There was much talk about continuing to use technology such as the Marshalltown Police Department's recent addition of the emergency contact system Nixle and webinars, of which the city has been making extensive use.
Code enforcement and continuing to improve the aesthetic of Marshalltown by moving forward with the comprehensive plan and projects like the 13th Street beautification project was also a sticking point. Downtown revitalization typified by the likes of the Tallcorn Towers and Iowa Wholesale renovations are also key.
Others pointed to the Not In Our Town effort, the third-grade reading initiative, hosting of RAGBRAI, the All-America City award and the proposed Alliant plant as positive undercurrents in Marshalltown.
"A lot of communities could benefit from your example," said Bruce Bernard, the meeting's facilitator.
However, moving forward, the city also faces challenges.
Issues of ethnic integration regularly arise, many said. The city needs to look at how to encourage dialogue among different ethnicities and encourage young Latinos to become involved in leadership roles including local government.
The city will look to improve the services it provides by continually assessing which of them are most used and where interest in new services lies. Although much-used additions like the skate park and disc golf course are a boon to the city, officials need to remain pragmatic and accurately assess where to spend tax money, something Wetmore said can be kind of a juggling act.
"The public has a hard time balancing its expectations with what we have," Wetmore said.
Another problem that needs addressing is the ailing condition of the police and fire stations. The fire and police departments are in desperate need of new buildings, said Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper and Marshalltown Fire Chief Steve Edwards.
"We have people working on top of people," Tupper said of the police station. "It is not very efficient to work from."
It's a matter of privacy, safety and space, Tupper said, none of which the MPD has an abundance of in its current building.
Edwards echoed Tupper's sentiment, saying neither department is "asking for the Taj Mahal."
The Marshalltown Fire Station was built more than 60 years ago.
"They just quit running horses when our building was built," Edwards joked.
The city looked at both short-term goals - ones that could be put in place within a year or so - and long-term goals - those plans that will take longer than a year to affect change.
Picking off "low-hanging fruit," such as providing continuity of operations, was a priority. Cross training staff is something that wouldn't take much effort and time and would be helpful.
Many said increasing the amount of 28e agreements - public-private partnerships to provide mutually beneficial services - would benefit the city.
"I think we have done a good job today," said Mayor Thomas Thompson.