The LeClaire City Council fast-tracked its approval for engineering and design consultant services to create a Marina District master plan and advance phase II of its downtown streetscaping in hopes of landing potentially millions of federal dollars to help fund the projects.
At its meeting Monday night, the council informally agreed in a straw poll to spend $69,200 to hire the Rock Island engineering firm Veenstra & Kimm, or V&K, and the landscape architect division of The Smith Group, based in Madison, Wisconsin. The Smith Group will be a subconsultant to V&K on the master plan and the downtown Cody Road Phase II project. Council members Amy Blair and Barry Long were absent.
V&K acts as the city engineering firm for the LeClaire.
Council member Dennis Gerard recommended moving the expenditure into the current fiscal year to put the city in a better position for the grant application and to meet the July 15 deadline. The cost of that study, he said, is included in the consultants' contract.
City Engineer Leo Foley, a V&K employee, said the city could apply for as much as $15 million through a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grant. The infrastructure grant replaced the previous TIGER grant, he said.
He said the BUILD grant, in its second year, is through the federal Department of Transportation and typically awards three or four Iowa projects a year with grants ranging between $5 million and $20 million. He said Burlington and Maquoketa received $16 million and $8 million grants, respectively, last year.
"President Trump made it more rural friendly," Foley said, adding "LeClaire is a rural city. You have a high chance of getting it."
If the city is not awarded the grant, Foley said they would improve the application and apply again.
In an interview before the meeting, City Administrator Ed Choate said the Cody Road Phase II project would be an extension to the north of the existing downtown streetscaping — completed in 2006 and 2007.
The idea for a Marina District master plan, he said, comes "from a long range strategic economic development plan and zoning efforts we've done here over the last year."
The consultants would assist city leaders in defining what a marina district is and its boundaries, which could encompass the riverfront and perhaps the downtown commercial area.
"It's a lot of brainstorming, a lot of free-for-all input, and from that we'll put all that together to determine 'Here's a marina district and this is what we want LeClaire to look like in the next 20 or 30 years,'" Choate said.
He stressed the Marina District does not necessarily mean a new boat marina, but it could include plans for hotels, commercial businesses, restaurants or a riverwalk along the waterfront. "We'll get input from all the stakeholders and eventually we'll be able to say 'Here's LeClaire's plan for developing the riverfront.'"
Foley suggested that city's grant application could include the streetscaping, the Marina District master plan as well as some other road projects including Territorial Road.
In other business, the council:
- Agreed to a 50-cent per month rate increase for the city's solid waste customers, which would go into effect in the July 2019 billing. The council also discussed the need to increase it by $1 a month to help the garbage fund's negative balance. The council also asked Choate to determine the cost savings the city could realize if it reduced its specialty services, such as the number of bulk pick-ups or its large item drop-off days.
Council member Jason Wentland questioned the administrative costs of the program. He suggested the city increase its marketing of its new e-billing in order to get more residents using it.