CITY NOTES … Area infrastructure investment is a joint entity challenge

By James Erb, Charles City Mayor

We are about to enter into a “planning season” for public bodies. In addition to present goals/plans, here are the following which I am presently involved with:

• The Charles City Comprehensive Plan.

• The Floyd County (ADC) Strategic Plan.

• The Mason City-Clear Lake Highway 122 Corridor Plan.

To do this planning, the first question that needs to be asked is how much regional demand for infrastructure is there?

Here is a list of what is on the horizon that might require the dedication of community funds in the Charles City area:

• Wayfinding signage system — Charles City is not the easiest town in which to locate places. An expert consultant proposal is presently being drafted which will address this need.

• Local fiber initiative — A feasibility plan is being requested to assist in putting together a business plan (local fiber initiative) which will identify the amount of speed and capacity needed to help support a local fiber optic utility providing services to all our homes. It is further hoped that other regional communities will join us in at least parts of this critical effort.

• Charley Western Bridge replacemenet — The Charley Western Bridge partially collapsed several weeks ago. It is therefore closed with the likelihood being that the 100-year old bridge will have to be replaced. How great an expense will be required is presently under discussion. We are also looking into building a new city bridge there to open our Southside Cedar River watershed to regular traffic or at the very least emergency traffic.

Wastewater treatment plant/Cedar River watershed improvements – This project is presently being planned to comply with state and federal requirements (especially plant and nutrient reducing goals). We have also obtained several grants which will allow coordination with upstream portions of the Cedar River watershed. There are other portions of the watershed that affect Charles City which will require more work. In particular, this would involve the Washington School watershed to the northeast of Charles City and work in the southwest Industrial Park. 

• City Hall renovation — Extensive repair will be required for our building if it is going to remain sustainable. Enough investigation has been done to establish the need for major funding.

• Certified site — State economic development agencies have reached a consensus that a county and/or city will need to identify sites that allow us to remain competitive; the first being having ownership of the subject premises or having an option to purchase the property.

• North Grand property — This is the former middle school property that has the potential to provide housing and many other community needs. It thus has great potential, but also carries with it great expense. Our entire community will have to be involved if we are going to be successful in repurposing this building.

• Renovation projects — The county is proceeding with the next phase of a law enforcement center facility project. This may include a new jail. The Charles City YMCA and the Charles City Community High School are also considering a rebuilding of their facilities. In addition to potential time conflicts, the school, the city and the county are each considering the need for bonding elections to finance the many projects listed in these city notes. The potential for confusion and backlash are obvious.

• North End/Main Street modification — Work needs to be done around the former White Farm site and the Simply Essentials site. This would include some reorientation of North Main Street in order to make the sites more accessible and safer.

• Swimming pools situation — We started out with three pools last year. We are now down to two with no indication that the YMCA and the Park and Recreation have any intention of committing to an overall coordinated solution any time soon.

The above listing presents several problems:

• There are a number of responsible community parties, all of which have independent decision making boards, councils, etc.

• Some of the solutions might be better addressed with regional sharing and partnership solutions, but experience shows that obtaining such successful results is not easy.

Given the limited amount of available public/non-profit resources, it will be hard to satisfy all the needs in a timely fashion.

There is a need for coordinated fundraising whenever possible. The Floyd County Community Foundation or other similar organizations should be utilized whenever possible. The Transfer of Wealth Committee would be one possible vehicle to coordinate fundraising and endowment efforts.

The cost of raising money for investment/infrastructure at low interest rates has never been lower. We have already missed the absolute best time for making such public investments while the boat is still in the harbor and not out to sea.

Things will only get worse with further delays. The needs are not going to go away.

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