McGregor outlines goals for infrastructure, economic development, more

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Representatives from the city of McGregor outlined goals in the areas of infrastructure, housing, economic development, culture and recreation, and services at a special meeting. One infrastructure priority includes restoring the historic brick street around Triangle Park. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

The McGregor Council gathered with new mayor Lyle Troester at a Sept. 5 special meeting to outline the city’s goals in the areas of infrastructure, housing, economic development, culture and recreation, and services.

“I’d like to talk about where we want to go, our priorities,” Troester said. “Let’s list some things we want to get on the radar to improve, fix or do away with.”

Infrastructure was one of the areas the group discussed most. Some goals city administrator Lynette Sander listed included storm sewer repairs and updates at the sewer plant.

“It hasn’t really had anything done for 20 years,” Troester noted of the sewer plant.

Councilwoman Rogeta Halvorson said the city should create a schedule for maintenance and repairs and determine estimated costs for those projects.

Work on the Sixth Street bridge, as well as Second and Spring streets and the lower end of Ash Street, was prioritized.

Troester said the city should also consider restoring the historic brick street around Triangle Park.

“It’s a landmark,” he noted, “but it’s getting beat up pretty bad. It’s going to take quite a bit to get it leveled up.”

The problem, he said, is that the street is heavily used. Semis and other large trucks continue to go over it, even though a posted weight limit prohibits them from doing so.

“How do you stop the trucks?” he asked.

In addition to better policing the area and writing tickets to truck drivers who violate the weight limit, Halvorson said business owners can also help. If they’re ordering products, they can warn delivery drivers not to use the street, she shared.

Sander said an old storm sewer runs underneath the street. If work is done on the street, that would likely have to be addressed too. 

Duane Boelman, McGregor’s deputy city clerk and economic development lead, was skeptical whether a large amount of historic preservation funding could be obtained for the project. If funds were available, he said the street would have to be re-done as it was originally constructed.

“The only way to repair it would be to completely take it out and put it back,” Troester stated.

Councilman Joe Muehlbauer said the city should at least look into the idea, since the street encompasses a small area.

“It’s a historical part of town,” he quipped. “It would be nice to get an estimate on what it would cost to fix it.” 

In the area of infrastructure, the council agreed additional parking, especially in the city’s downtown, is also needed. 

Councilwoman Janet Hallberg said people sometimes avoid the city lot at the riverfront, fearing they’ll get blocked by a train. Councilman Jason Echard said events can also limit the number of spaces.

“A lot of people park around Triangle Park,” he explained. “It’s hard if there’s something going on for even part of the day.”

When it came to housing goals, the group agreed the sale of lots in the Ohmer Ridge Subdivision should be a priority. Troester said he’d also like to see more second-level housing, along with some senior housing, in McGregor’s downtown.

“It would be nice to have housing in walking distance to the pharmacy, Kwik Star, the riverfront, the post office,” Troester said.

Boelman said creating and improving upper level housing above commercial buildings is a popular concept now. 

“There’s a lot of assistance for building owners if they choose to do it,” he remarked.

Boelman added that the Sullivan Opera House building, once it’s renovated, as well as the art center building, could provide opportunities in that area.

The opera house/old hardware store project is also a key part of the city’s economic development goals, Boelman said. The city is currently transferring the property over to developer Dominic Sparrgrove, who plans to have the building ready for operation in two years. The top floor will include apartments, while the bottom level will feature several retail spaces, some additional apartments and an expansion of the next-door McGregor Historical Museum.

A potential community center/library expansion was discussed, as well. Once the opera house project moves forward a bit more, Boelman and Sander said it would be good to hold a public meeting, gauging interest in the community center project and ideas for the space.

While a community center would be nice, councilman Charlie Carroll wondered if it would be fully utilized in McGregor.

“I wonder, with a town our size, how much benefit it would have,” he said, especially with an event center already at Backwoods.

Another economic development topic the council touched on was creation of a hotel at the former Holiday Shores property. Although potential plans for a hotel/condo combination have been developed by a consultant, no one has stepped forward yet to finance the project.

In the meantime, Troester said the vacant lot should at least be maintained by the current owners.

For culture and recreation, adding a splash pad at Turner Park was listed as a main goal.

“We want to start getting designs for people to vote on and go for some bigger grants,” said Hallberg, who’s also part of the Turner Park Committee. The plan is to have it constructed by 2020.

At some point, Sander said the city will have to consider how much of a financial commitment it will make toward the project.

Boelman said he’d like to see additional trail development in the community. A small stretch in the woods near Center Street is now complete, and he said there are several opportunities to branch out from there and connect to other parts of McGregor.

“There are a lot of options, and they’re fairly inexpensive,” Boelman noted. “The longer and better it gets, the more of an attraction it will be.”

The council said completion of the veterans memorial in Canon Park would also be a good project, with help from community groups or Eagle Scouts.

Some additional goals the group suggested at the meeting included tackling speeding concerns at the entrances to town and encouraging the clean-up of nuisance properties. 

Council members also stressed the need to improve collaboration with McGregor Municipal Utilities.

“It’s a shame when you can’t communicate and work for the good of the citizens,” Troester mentioned.

Sander said there was once discussion about sharing an employee, a move that would create cost savings and provide the community with increased service.

Both Muehlbauer and Hallberg said it would be helpful to bring water under the control of the city, which already deals with the sewer.

“I don’t want to open a can of worms in town,” Muehlbauer said, but he felt it was time the city met with the MMU board to see how they could work better together.

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