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Mason City Council approves plans for trail, water and South End upgrades, new traffic lanes

4th and Eisenhower

A turn-lane installation project has been proposed for the intersection of South Eisenhower Avenue and Fourth Street Southwest in Mason City.

Photographer Lisa Grouette flashes back to childhood adventures on Zerbel's Trail.

Tuesday night was a busy one for the Mason City Council. At their first meeting of the month, the six councilmembers weighed in on 30 agenda items totaling 600-plus pages in their council packet and amounting to millions of dollars. 

One of the biggest items they unanimously approved dealt with the issuance of up to $8,185,000 in "taxable general obligation urban renewal bonds" meant to address the River City Renaissance project and $3,950,000 in "general obligation bonds" for capital improvements such as building improvements and vehicle purchases. 

Zerble's Bridge

Looking north across Zerble's Bridge over Calmus Creek in Mason City.

Trail upgrades?

Not every item was quite as commanding of the budget, however.

At the top of the meeting, the councilmembers gave unanimous approval to make improvements near Zerble's Bridge on the Zerble Trail running up to Lime Creek Nature Center. Per the council packet, the North Iowa Human Powered Trails organization is looking to further develop the trail system which requires input from the city. Since the work is being done by volunteers, there isn't a probable cost listed in the available council information. Steve Bailey, who spoke for the group at the meeting, said that they've raised about $55,000 through grants and donations.

For several years now, a recreational goal of the city has been to complete the High Line Trail, which would run along parts of the former Minneapolis and St. Louis rail lines and would connect the south side of Mason City to the Lime Creek Nature Center.

Winnebago River work

Another long-running goal of city officials has been dam mitigation work along the stretch of the Winnebago River that runs through Mason City. Tuesday night, the council voted 6-0 to approve the contract and bond for the "Winnebago River Low Head Dam Mitigation-Winnebago Dam No. 1."

The winning bid came from Beemer Companies out of Fairmont, Minnesota, for $854,724, which is budgeted and covered in the city's capital improvements plan. With the bond and contract approved, Beemer is able to begin construction work. Earlier this year, officials had to alter dam mitigation plans in East Park following the discovery of mussel beds that featured several state-threatened species and a state-endangered species. 

Water distribution

In other water realms, the council signed off on a professional services agreement with Stanley Consultants to develop a "Water Distribution System Master Plan."

What that means, according to the packet, is that Stanley will provide a "comprehensive analysis and evaluation" of Mason City's water distribution system as industrial growth continues across town. The analysis could pay special to attention to the the industrializing southwest area. Stanley's lump sum is listed at $75,000 and is covered by water revenues. Per the city, its findings will be included in the "Master Plan Report" that will be used when considering future capital improvements.

South End happenings

Elsewhere in the southern part of town, one of only two South End restaurants is getting an upgrade in part because of a city program.

The councilmembers all voted to approve a forgivable "Corridor Revitalization Loan" to Dana Despenas, of Homer’s Sports Bar, to rehabilitate the business at 1911 S. Federal Ave. to the tune of $30,000. In a memo to City Administrator Aaron Burnett, Director of Development Services Steven Van Steenhuyse wrote that the plans are to use the loan money to replace defective siding, build a steel privacy fence, repave the parking lot with asphalt and add a new messaging sign.

Within eyesight of Homer's is the "Engine House 2" fire building which is an 80-plus-year-old Public Works Administration project that had its roof overhauled through a city project. At the same time, city officials have been pushing to get that added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Mason City South End- Engine 2 fire station

The red brick "Engine 2" fire station on Mason City's South End is an 80-year-old Public Works Administration project that needs a new roof because it has been breached over the past several years and continues to leak.

Tuesday night, the council gave the go-ahead to include nominating "Engine House 2" for the National Register as a part of a special project in a city contract with the State Historical Society of Iowa. If approved, a listing on the National Register would allow for the city to apply for future grants to do preservation and restoration work.

Engine House 2 - exterior

Mason City's Engine House 2 on South Federal Avenue is being nominated for the National Register as a historic building.

"It needs to be repointed. There’s some brick that needs to be replaced. Once we get it nominated, we can go back for grant funds to do a rehabilitation plan for it," Planning and Zoning Manager Tricia Sandahl said about the engine house during the meeting.

A whole new lane

Before the end of the year, folks driving along South Eisenhower Avenue might see a new turn lane in town.

The council greenlit plans to set a public hearing date for the project that's expected to cost about $66,466 and will involved constructing a "granular shoulder" and adjusting utility fixtures in the area.

Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.


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