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Forest City ready to move forward with permitting process for dam to rapids

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Forest City Council members Brad Buffington, Ron Holland, Dan Davis, Marcia Tweeten, and A.J. Welch at the July 18 meeting..jpg

From left, Forest City council members Brad Buffington, Ron Holland, Dan Davis, Marcia Tweeten, and A.J. Welch grieved the loss of Mayor Barney Ruiter at the July 18 meeting.

Forest City Parks Superintendent Todd Espeland provided city council members with an update on the city’s initially delayed dam to rapids project at their July 18 meeting.

The conceptual design included a boat launch and trailhead parking lot. The park board provided general permission to begin the Department of Natural Resources permitting process for the project with an estimated cost of $309,000.

Espeland said that two DNR employees met with City Administrator Daisy Huffman in early May, bringing conceptual designs and asking if the city is ready to pursue permitting for the project.

“The old visioning committee several years ago saw a trailhead parking lot and boat ramp south of J Street Bridge,” said Espeland, who recommended pursuing plans to move forward with permitting before addressing parking. He noted that a $75,000 matching grant was previously awarded, saying an additional $75,000 cost-sharing grant can be applied for going forward.

“Daisy got good news,” Espeland said. “A federal group is interested in protecting good mussels and getting rid of the bad mussels. Allowing permitting doesn’t mean we have to lock into the project.”

It is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with concerns about invasive mussels, which may have available funds for the project.

“We’d probably relocate some of the disc golf,” Espeland said. “It would be a smaller park lot than the original design, but still room for a parking lot later.”

The dam to rapids project is intended to provide conservation benefits and improve river recreation opportunities. Conversion of the existing low-head dam to a step-down small rock arch rapids will aid fish passage and navigation.

The council took no action on the discussion item.

In other business during an abbreviated meeting following the recent death of Mayor Barney Ruiter, City Attorney Steve Bakke cited appointment and an election as options for filling the mayoral seat.

Huffman said the county’s EMS advisory council has proposed a hybrid option where three EMS services, including Forest City, would maintain independence while the county would also hire paramedics countywide. There was consensus among council members that the city service should remain equal or better than it is currently under a hybrid option. So, the council members agreed to take no action on the matter at this time. Winnebago County is seeking to declare EMS an essential service, which could allow for a countywide tax of up to $0.75 per $1,000 valuation. It would require a 60 percent favorable vote of the public.

Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at rob.hillesland@globegazette.com.

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