Fiber optics, rural energy pilot program discussed at Lansing City Council meeting

by Julie Berg-Raymond

At its regular meeting Monday, July 18, the Lansing City Council discussed an upcoming grant opportunity for a fiber optic build-out in the city. Rachelle Howe, executive director of Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC), will speak to the council at its next regular meeting Monday, August 1, along with Brenda Hackman and Hollee McCormick, representatives from Allamakee Clayton Electric Cooperative, about the grant opportunity.

“Fiber to small communities unleashes a host of great advantages,” Howe said in an email after the meeting. “The economic benefits of fiber for business sustainability and growth will entice residents to relocate to our region and will be beneficial for years to come.”

The council approved signing a letter of intent/support for a Rural Energy Pilot Program (REPP) launched by the USDA. The purpose of the REPP is to provide financial assistance for rural communities to further develop renewable energy while reducing the percentage of household income spent on energy.

A document provided by Jim Martin-Schramm, a member of the board of the Winneshiek Energy District (WED) who will serve as lead writer for the grant application, offered the following information: “Your organization does not have to make any kind of financial commitment to support this project. Your organization will, however, be eligible to apply for funding if the grant is approved. The Winneshiek Energy District is our Lead Applicant because it has over a decade of experience managing large federal and state grants and it has the in-house expertise to provide the requisite energy planning and technical assistance services. It is also providing the 20 percent matching funds requirement via a cash commitment and lines of credit.”

The owner of the property at 440 Main Street has been ordered to clean up the porch and yard at that location. The order allows the City to abate the nuisance at the owner’s expense. At its next regular meeting August 1, the council will determine who will be hired to clean up the property.

The council discussed preserving a section of the Black Hawk bridge and will continue the discussion at its next meeting. Councilmen Mike Manning and Steve Murray are exploring the idea of saving the west portal and some other parts of the bridge to construct an observation deck on a privately-owned piece of riverbank property at the end of Main Street.

“I think this would be a great opportunity for the City to preserve this iconic Black Hawk bridge and it would be great for our citizens and tourists to the area,” Councilman Murray said in an email after the meeting. “If the City is interested in this project, the Iowa DOT would accommodate this in their bid for the demolition of the bridge after the new bridge is constructed. They would pay for what it would cost to put the portal and other pieces aside and then the City would be responsible for moving and constructing the observation deck, which also would include the purchasing of the lot. I am looking into what grants may be available to assist with a project such as this.”

During the Citizen Concerns portion of the meeting, Francis Garrett told the council he is interested in taking the bridge apart and storing it; Councilman Murray advised him that, in his opinion, it would be a million-dollar project and he’s running out of time for this to happen.

A liquid chlorine line in the pumphouse was fixed with new tubing and fittings June 2. Due to very high humidity in the vault at Mt. Ida, a small condenser pump was installed June 22 to help the dehumidifier work more efficiently. The vacuum pump for the disinfection tank at the wastewater treatment plant quit working June 10. It was determined that after eight years, the sealed lube inside had leaked, and the pump locked up. A new one was ordered and installed upon arrival. The check valves at North Front lift station were cleaned out June 14. This needed to be done because of longer run times of the pumps.

With help from the Street Department, grease from the ball diamond lift station was cleaned out June 15. June 30, the inverted siphon line and the city hall line were jetted out.

Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker told the Council he was updating the Alert Iowa system so that if a disaster or emergency arose about which city leaders needed to be contacted, he could use the system to do so. Snitker also reported that the review and update of the County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan - approved in 2018 - was underway (this is a requirement every five years). “I dropped off a sheet of the potential projects Lansing was looking at in the plan and also some ideas of other potential projects to look at as we prepare to do this process,” he said in an email after the meeting. “In a future meeting we will build new potential projects for the City that would cover up to about the next seven to 10 years.”

In other business, the council approved the following: a liquor license for Lansing RAGBRAI; up to $1,780 towards installation of diamond transition plates for marina docks; and up to $250 towards the proper installment of the Native American interpretive kiosk on Front Street by the park, to be paid out of the City’s tourism budget. The next regular meeting of the Lansing City Council will be Monday, August 1 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.