Grant opportunities discussed at Monona meeting

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Grant opportunities for community projects were a prominent topic of discussion at the Monona Council’s regular meeting Oct. 3.

One opportunity was shared by resident Jim Langhus, who was seeking the council’s permission to submit a Trees Forever pollinator habitat conservation grant application for the Monona Butterfly Garden and Trail.

“There’s a section of the [trail] loop near the pool where we can put in a prairie,” Langhus explained. “It would be a short grass prairie with a lot of prairie plants and flowers that pollinators can come to.”

It’s a requirement of the grant, he said, to have flowers blooming as early as June.

Providing additional habitat for pollinators like bees and butterflies is the number-one reason for wanting to create the prairie, Langhus said.

“Bees and other pollinators are having problems because they don’t have food,” he shared. “This will help enhance the number of pollinators that use the area.”

It would be especially helpful for migrating monarch butterflies, he added.

Langhus estimated the project would cost around $2,000, including some excavation and other work done at the site. If the grant is successful, Trees Forever could reimburse 50 percent—up to $1,000—for the creation of the prairie.

The council unanimously approved of submitting the grant. Langhus said he should know if the application was successful by the start of November.

The other grant discussion centered around whether the city would again like to submit a Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant in 2017. REAP is a state of Iowa program administered through the DNR. Monona has submitted one the last three years, seeking funds for city park improvements, but has yet to be successful. 

This year, the plans, which had originally focused on building new restrooms and some other aesthetic improvements, grew to include creation of a trail head at the park. The idea played off the city’s participation in the Community Visioning program, which includes ideas for trail expansion around Monona.

Although pleased with the grant written in 2016, city administrator Dan Canton questioned if the city should do something different. The city has several options, he said. One would be not to apply again. The city could also bring in someone to help write the grant or switch the focus of the grant to connecting Gateway Park to the butterfly garden and trail.

Langhus, who has helped with several successful REAP grants for the butterfly garden, noted the group who awards the grant isn’t big on infrastructure, like the bathrooms.

“The trail connection from the city park was kind of a stretch,” he admitted. “A trail to the butterfly garden from Gateway would be better.”

The council agreed to have Canton contact Lora Friest, the executive director of Northeast Iowa RC&D, to look at the options and make some suggestions on what the city should do before proceeding further.

Brownfields program

For several months, the council has considered taking part in the Iowa DNR’s brownfields program in order to repurpose the old Interstate Power Co. lot, which the city now owns. 

Before moving forward and gaining more information, Canton said the city needs to determine a future use for the site if the building is torn down. 

If they choose to take part in the program, the council agreed the site would be a good location for a new police station, as it would provide a lot more space than the current set-up, which is part of the city hall/community center building.

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