(story by Dana Larsen)
It’s been a memorable summer for the City of Storm Lake.
The season was marked with new events such as Kids Fest in July, which attracted a crowd estimated at over 1,000. This month, a new soccer mini-pitch was completed in Chautauqua Park, giving young people a new place for healthy exercise. A new elaborate fishing/swimming dock was added at Awaysis Park, and new playground equipment installed at four of the city parks. New monthly events were added for the Sunrise Campground. A new Volunteer Recognition event was planned.
A comprehensive Downtown Master Plan was unveiled after several opportunities for public input. The plan is currently in the process of being refined into project priorities with the help of the City’s consulting engineers.
There’s much still to come. A grant is being sought for a Harmony Garden of outdoor musical instruments as part of a gathering place proposal for the Public Library/Witter Gallery grounds.
A site has just been obtained to construct a much needed new water tower, the largest by far in city history.
This has also been a time of record-setting housing development, with some 250 units in the works this year, some of them reaching occupancy this fall. The developments include everything from upscale condos to market rate apartments, a fully new neighborhood of 170 duplex homes to new single family constructions.
City-owned King’s Pointe Resort has had a banner summer as tourism returns full force – visitor numbers for May, June, July and August all increased over last year. The resort played a leading role in organizing Kids’ Fest, which is expected to become an annual event. Bicycle and watercraft rentals were added, operated by a convenient app.
Here’s a look at some of the City departments’ accomplishments this summer:
POLICE – The Storm Lake Police Department took part in many training and outreach programs over the season.
Four Pop-Up BBQ events were held by police – at the Hoop Dreams court, the middle school, Farmers Market and LSI Strengthening Families program. The YumVee made a number of patrols to hand out treats, and appeared at special events.
The department organized the first Back-to-School free haircuts project, and took part in school registration days. Officers were on hand to greet students at the first High Five Friday of the school year. They were also involved in the Taste of South Sudan, the Karen Wrist-Tying Ceremony, Kids’ Fest, Kiwanis Triathlon/Duathlon and National Night Out black parties.
Training efforts included hostage rescue, active shooter, mental health, female enforcers training, CPR/defibrillator/Narcan and stop bleeding instruction, implicit bias, patrol rifle instruction and basic firearms training, entry team tactics, de-escalation, interdiction, and Back the Blue legislation training.
The department is being honored with the 2022 Community Inclusion and Equity Award from the International City/County Managers Association, and also national honors for support of Guard-member employees.
New officer Darien Beauregard was sworn in by the mayor.
FIRE DEPARTMENT – The Storm Lake Fire Department began the season with a well-attended open house event with several educational displays and demonstrations.
Firefighters took part in a number of public events, grilling for a Great Lawn concert, joining in Kids’ Fest and Star Spangled Spectacular, providing fire protection for the 4th of July show. Most recently, they joined in the Heroes Parade for the Storm Lake schools.
With 104 calls from May through the summer, the SLFD responded to scenes with an average response time from dispatch of five minutes and 10 seconds. Four of those calls were structure fires, four others took place inside buildings, six were rubbish or grass fires, and other calls included hazardous materials, accidents, rescue, alarms and other services.
The department conducted 135 rental safety inspections and 13 public relations details during the season.
Four new firefighters joined the department from May through the summer.
TECHNOLOGY – The City made rapid progress with its fiber optics expansion project, which is expected to be complete in October, two months ahead of schedule. The project completes a loop of public buildings, achieved in cooperation with Buena Vista County and Storm Lake schools.
Several information technology improvements were completed. Security cameras were added in several high-use public areas.
The City is in the process of building an all-new website with interactive features.
Facebook following more than doubled as the City continues to seek avenues to connect with and inform the public With 3,500 followers, the page is achieving 200,000 views per month.
PARKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE – Summer is an intense time for the City Public Works department. New playground equipment was installed in four different parks. The Snack Shack was repaired and restored to allow for reopening at Awaysis Beach after being vacant for several years. Due to disease, nearly 200 ash trees were cut this season. Parks, beaches, campgrounds and ballfields are groomed constantly.
Early on, alleys were graded and street potholes filled, preparations made for beautification projects, the golf clubhouse deck was rebuilt, docks were installed and sewer extensions added in the campground. Cleaning of storm intakes and street sweeping took place. In May, cleaning of rain gardens and park mowing was added to the list, traffic signals were repaired, sidewalk fixed at Awaysis Park, storm sewers jetted, the campground prepped for opening, and many other projects. In June, weed spraying and mulching also began. Parks restrooms are checked/cleaned twice daily, shelters after each use. The golf course was aerated. Grass was restored where concrete work had taken place. A concrete pad was added at the campground for a new storage building. Golf course greens were hand-watered to control water use. Several brush cleanups took place following wind events. The tennis court was resurfaced in Chautauqua Park to make way for a new soccer pitch, and the basketball court painted and striped. Painting of parking stalls and other features downtown was done at record pace with good weather. The crews helped prepare parks for events like Star Spangled Spectacular and Kids Fest. Docks were repaired and stumps removed. The staff helped out Buena Vista University by cleaning overgrowth from University Cove.
In August, a storm event on the 3rd required considerable cleanup. Public Works continued installing playground equipment and picnic table pads. A new debris blower was installed on a truck, and two dump trucks placed in service for future snow removal. The workers cleaned a ton of dead fish from the lakefront. A driveway was added between the police and fire stations, and lighting/camera installed at the Hoop Dreams basketball court. Dock vandalism repairs were made, painting continued, and barricades were set out to allow for National Night Out. Shower repairs were made at King’s Pointe, and preparations made for the new soccer mini-pitch. Limestone rock was laid down at the campground, broken flagstone was replaced with new paving at the Chautauqua shelter. Sprinkler problems were repaired at the golf course. Logs were placed for Wood, Wine & Blues and preparations made for the citywide cleanup in October.
New hole markers are now being installed at Sunrise Pointe Golf Course, thanks to generous donations from community businesses.
For the season, Public Works logged over 1,100 hours on trees and 540 removing stumps, over 930 on concrete work, 266 on docks, 501 on intake maintenance, 436 on playground equipment, 96 on potholes, 221 on street sweeping, 291 on street line painting, 535 on airport and right of way mowing.
LIBRARY – The big news of the year has been a massive grant to fund replacement of the library’s heating, cooling and air moving systems. At the same time, a new telecommunication room will be added that will provide for private telehealth visits and virtual education opportunities. Preparations for the projects have been taking place, with construction to take place later in winter.
Summer library attendance for visits and programs rebounded from the COVID era, easily topping last year’s totals. New furnishings provided by the Friends of the Library proved popular. In-person visits with zookeepers and animals were restored.
Twenty-nine young readers complete the summer “Bingo Blackout” challenge by reading consistently through summer. The first youth technology program since 2019 was offered – “Robot Fridays.” The library also offered a booth at Kids’ Fest. Nearly 200 incoming 5th graders were signed up for student library accounts.
There was plenty of programming for adults too, with new Club Textiles classes in crochet and embroidery. Library and Community Book Club won copies of “Butterfly Effect” by Rachel McKinney from the State Library. The Summer Film Series of adventure movies produced three prize-winners.
A wall in the Children’s Room was restored. A defibrillator was provided through a community grant.
The most-requested book of the summer? “Where the Crawdads Sing” be Delia Owens, no doubt assisted by the movie of the same name.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – Over 60 business visits have been conducted this year to date. In-person visits on the Downtown Master Plan allow the City to learn directly from a business owner what their vision is for the area. In confidential interviews with businesses track trends such as workforce and supply chain issues, expansion or succession plans, and growth opportunities.
The City continues to develop a solid partnership with Storm Lake United, the Iowa Lakes Corridor, Iowa’s Small Business Development Center, BVU’s The Foundry and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The collaboration provides a wide range of knowledge, programs, tools, and experience to assist anyone from an unestablished entrepreneur with an idea to a seasoned business owner with a desire to keep innovating. New and existing businesses take the stage for the Corridor Connects program at The Foundry as businesspeople share what they do and the challenges they’re facing and overcoming in growing their business.
The City is working with the SBDC’s Minority Business Development Counselor to host Charla Con Emprendedores (“Talk with Entrepreneurs”.) This program has identified and assisted several people looking to start-up new businesses in Storm Lake and is currently helping two entrepreneurs qualify for the IEDA’s Targeted Small Business Loan.
Tyson Foods through a partnership with The Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation has announced two grants totaling $150,000 for affordable housing projects in Storm Lake. The Sunrise Pointe Phase II project by Kading Properties and the West Winds Townhomes by Brash LLC will each receive grant funding toward their projects.
In other development news Tyson Foods Inc. has completed construction of their $50 million feed mill to supplement its turkey operations in Storm Lake. The new facility adds 69 acres to the company’s existing turkey complex, which includes grow-out facilities, a research firm, and a processing plant.
CODE ENFORCEMENT – The three-person code office also logged a busy summer, with 191 inspections conducted on 130 properties, and more yet to do prior to the end of the year.
The City has 766 rental units in 541 properties, with 263 different landlords to work with. All but 35 had registered and paid their fees on time.
From May-August, 146 permits were issued, 83 code violation cases handled, 98 sidewalks inspected and marked for needed repairs. Two minor subdivisions were approved. Two illicit discharge cases were pursued. Many additional situations were handled – such as violation of the City’s watering regulations under drought conditions, improper placement of garage sales and safety conditions. There were 20 Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan inspections and 30 Best Practices Management post-construction inspections.
The City also continued to work on ongoing efforts including an updated Comprehensive Plan, Public Art strategy, future potential for converting a former spoil site into a public recreation space, and more.