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Mason City Council: Improvements set for Big Blue, nuisance abatements continue

Editor's noteThis story was updated on Friday, Sept. 24 to remove portions about a possible expansion. City notes on the matter were not correct.

During the Tuesday night Mason City Council meeting, Mason City Administrator Aaron Burnett took time out to expand on his monthly report and offer some trends headed in the right direction.

According to his report, average daily rates for hotels in the area are starting to tick back up, though occupancy rates across town are still lagging. He then went on to mention that the Mason City Police Department is putting in an "extra effort" to make new officer hires as expediently as possible as the agency has experienced what it considers to be staffing issues.

A new Big Blue

Before the year is up, Mason City residents can expect to see an overhauled dock at Lester Milligan Park's Big Blue

That's according to Mason City Operation and Maintenance Manager Bill Stangler who recommended that the council approve a $14,000 bid from Watters Construction of Mason City to replace the wood on the dock.

While discussing the item, Fourth Ward Council Member John Jaszewski asked Stangler what the time frame for the work would be.

"It will be done late fall," Stangler said. In his letter to Burnett, found in the meeting packet, Stangler wrote that funding is coming from capital improvements.

Big Blue dock - Mason City

Garret Willemsen, 11, of Rockford, spends some time "magnet fishing" near the dock at Big Blue on Tuesday afternoon. Willemsen explained a magnetic disk at the end of the line will pick up metal objects from the floor of the water. He said he hasn't found anything too cool yet, but he plans to keep looking.

Continuing with abatements

For about $3,750, the city will soon clear another nuisance property off its rolls with the purchase of a building at 1422 North Hampshire Place.

According to Director of Development Services Steven Van Steenhuyse, the property has been abandoned and dilapidated for more than a year and the current owner is unable to stabilize or rehab the home on their own. So the city is purchasing the property from the owner and then soliciting bids from local demolition contractors.

Per Van Steenhuyse, the city is now working with eight property owners to either rehabilitate their buildings or bring them up to code. 

Seeking an assessor

The four council members in attendance (Paul Adams and John Lee were absent) also gave the city the green light to make an appointment to the local examining board that is involved with the process of hiring a municipal assessor.

Mason City Mayor Bill Schickel said that the city's current assessor, Dana Shipley, is moving into the Cerro Gordo County Assessor role previously held by Katie Bennett, who submitted her resignation letter in May.

In considering the item to appoint Tammy Hertzel to the examining board, Jaszewski asked if the city had thought about consolidating the city and county positions, which is the case in much of the state, and what benefits could come from such a consolidation.

"If the city gets rid of the position, the city no longer has one third of the influence over the position," Burnett said while acknowledging that Mason City would see some slight savings by opting for a consolidation of the positions.

Financial report

"The City’s overall all-funds cash balance increased over the fiscal year by nearly $10 million," Mason City Finance Director Brent Hinson wrote in the council packet.

Other numbers in Hinson's financial report showed that the city's general fund is sitting at $7.27 million and its capital improvements are at $1.73 million.

No fund in the report had a negative year-end total, though funds for the Mason City Arena and parking did start in the red and didn't have final figures listed.

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

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In his life, longtime Mason City resident Hob Mason played with Count Basie, hung out with B.B. King and was a Bandfest grand marshal. He also cut a rarer-than-rare record that can now fetch at least $75. 

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