Monday, December 8, 2008

All Aboard!

This past weekend, the Iowa Northern Railway donated the Hawkeye Express train to make four trips between the City of Palo and the City of Vinton. The event was originated by a couple of residents in Palo and organized with the Benton County Disaster Recovery Coalition to raise money for flood victims in Palo and Benton County. Despite the cold temperatures, many people participated in the rides. This helps to add to the discussion about restarting passenger rail service in Iowa besides the Amtrak line that runs through the southern half of the state. I worked at the Vinton Lions trailer that was parked next to the Vinton Rail Depot--it was great to see the old, restored depot being heavily used again for its original purpose!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Flood Recovery Update

I realized recently that I have not posted to my blog for several months. Things have been a little crazy trying to catch up with FEMA items from the flood recovery and other regular things such as the beginning of the budget cycle. Th city has largely recovered from the flood. We have a sewer lift station to repair yet and several houses to demolish and send in for a possible FEMA buyout. The electric generation plant should be on-line by February. That's about it for the flood recovery update. May everyone have a great Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Increasing Financial Assistance

The President signed an executive order today increasing the federal share to 90 percent of costs for public assistance received on projects from the flood recovery. Normally, the federal share would be 75-percent, state share would be 10-percent and the local share would be 15-percent. What this means is that the state share will now be 10-percent and local share will be 0.

This is great news for the city, especially for our electric utility which was facing repairs into the millions to put our generation plant into business. Benton County also benefits when it goes to either repair or replace the county law enforcement center and jail. This would have been costly for the county--at least into the millions of dollars.

Flood recovery is a slow pace thing, but together our community is sticking with it!

You can read the announcement of the Presidential announcement by clicking here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Remembering Sacrifice

For the past four days, Vinton has hosted the traveling Vietnam Wall Memorial. This is a one-half replica of the Vietnam Memorial. There was an opening ceremony on Thursday and a closing ceremony today. The picture above shows the memorial and some of the attendees at the closing ceremony.

Having served in the military, I am familiar with serving our country and the sacrifice that comes with that service, sometimes the highest sacrifice. It is numbing to walk up to this memorial and look over the many names of those who made that sacrifice. I highly urge you to visit the Washington D.C. memorial. It is breathtaking as you look at the names and see reflections of the Capitol building, the Washington Monument and yourself in the black granite. It makes you proud of your country and the service of our men and women in the military.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

AmeriCorps Induction

This past Monday, the first group of AmeriCorps volunteers were inducted into the Corps. This means they passed the initial training and are heading out to do some great things in Iowa. They have helped Vinton out so much over the past month and a half, it is hard to comprehend it all. Team leaders helped to run the emergency shelter during the floods and other volunteers helped with cleaning up the river, repairing the railroad depot roof and clearing brush along the riverbank near the recreation area. I am heading over soon to the Braille School to talk with a coordinator about some other opportunities.

When they were inducted, the volunteers cited a pledge that read:

I will get things done for America to make our people safer, smarter and healthier.

I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.

Faced with apathy, I will take action.

Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.

Faced with adversity, I will persevere.

I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.

I am an AmeriCorps member and I WILL GET THINGS DONE!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cedar River Clean Up

I cannot believe it has been over a month since I posted my last entry. I do not know where July went. All I know is that it flew by. We have been extremely busy with flood recovery along with the normal things and projects that were in the works for this year.

One of those projects that was organized by the city's chamber of commerce, Vinton Unlimited (VU) was a Cedar River clean up. Those of you who are familiar with Vinton's location know that the city is located right next to the Cedar River. Many residents use the river for boating, fishing and other recreational activites.

VU organized a clean up effort to help get rid of a lot of the junk that has collected through senseless dumping and items that floated down the river from the recent floods. The group of volunteers worked through heat indexes reaching above 100 degrees to pull things out of the river basin like tires, barrels and even a kitchen sink. The picture above shows Vinton Mayor John Watson and a Vinton resident, John Moody rolling a barrel out of the river.

Much of the work to organize the event was done by VU executive director, Tami Stark.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Revealing History

I thought the picture that is included with this post was interesting. The Mossman Law Firm has decided to undergo a large remodeling of their facade. It will be all brick with a clock tower on the corner. First, they have to remove all the old brick. Under the old brick was the sign for the old Cromer Distributing Co. store. As I understand, this was a department store in downtown Vinton.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Vinton Flood

Its been awhile since my last blog post. The city of Vinton, Iowa was flooded this past week. Despite heroic efforts by city crews, Iowa National Guard soldiers, and hundreds of volunteers, we lost our fire station, electric generation and distribution buildings, the old main sewer lift station, the Benton County Sheriff and Jail building and several homes. Despite all this, we feel fortunate as other cities, such as Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are experiencing much worst. We had electric back on in a couple of days with the help of some generator trucks and never lost our water supply. For pictures of the flooding, please visit the City's website,

Monday, June 2, 2008

Minor Flooding

This past Thursday and Friday, we received 2-3 inches of rain in a short amount of time. This caused Henkle and Mud Creeks, both of which flow into the Cedar River to overflow their banks and cause some flooding. Henkle Creek flows almost through the center of the city and caused some damage to a few houses and some businesses. There wasn't more damaged caused than this, other than water in basements from seepage through the ground, because the city has done a pretty good job of keeping buildings from being built in the floodplain. The creeks subsided about as fast as they came up, so by evening most things were back to normal.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Storms Ravage NE Iowa

The picture with this blog is from the KCRG-TV website showing a very small portion of the damage that took place in Parkersburg this past weekend from an extremely large tornado. My sister taught at the high school that received very extensive damage from the storm.

While I reflect on everything that has happened there, two thoughts come to mind. First, this is the very reason that we are building the storm shelter on the west side of town. If Vinton gets hit like Parkersburg, the shelter will be there to help protect lives. Looking at the photos, it is amazing the damage that a tornado can do. There was a storm cell that was bearing down on Vinton Sunday evening, but fortunately, it did not start any tornadoes.

The second thought is that we will be very fortunate to have AmeriCorps here in about a month. The AmeriCorps volunteers are trained for exactly these types of situations. There may be some that come from other parts of the country right now, but it will be nice to have them nearby to respond more quickly.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Maple Lane Storm Shelter Progress

After raining nearly two inches Tuesday night, the skies have cleared and the sun is shining. Despite delays from two weeks of rainy Thursdays and Fridays, work is progressing on the Maple Lane Storm Shelter. This building will serve as a shelter for nearby residents in case of a tornado or windstorm, and also as an enclosed picnic shelter for residents to rent from the city for picnics and other gatherings.

The picture above shows the crew from Prairie Construction tying rebar and forming the walls for the shelter. The concrete for the walls will be pured in about a week. The picture also shows the clear sky we enjoyed today!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vinton Spared Major Flood

The flood that was predicted for Vinton, thankfully, never came. The National Weather Service had predicted a record level of over 20 feet, but the river crested on Sunday at 17.3 feet. Even now the river has receded to around 14 feet.

We had several people come out to fill and place sandbags. We went through 260 tons of sand and about 10,000 sandbags. We also had many people and businesses comtribute food and drink for the volunteers.

To see a KCRG-TV newstory on preparing for the possible flood, copy and paste this link into your borwser:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Flood Warnings

Friday morning, we were alerted that the Cedar River could reach record flood levels. This put our flood reaction plan into action. We started hauling sand from a nearby quarry, obtained a couple of mechanical stitchers from nearbv seed companies and put the call out for volunteers. We spent about 5-6 hours on Friday and 7 hours on Saturday filling and placing sandbags around the fire station, riverfront homes and a sewer lift station.

The National Weather Service has lowered the crest level to below 19 feet. This is good news since they did have the crest over 20 feet. That would have been a record and nobody knew for certain what would happen then. Now it is to a level just lower than where the crest was during the floods of 1993.

We had many residents come out to fill sandbags. Not the least of all were 50 high school kids on Friday. The picture above is of some of the volunteers working yesterday. It is great to know that we live in a city where these volunteers who came to help despite the fact that the water wasn't going to affect them.

House Fire, Heroic Actions

I should have posted this blog earlier than now, but this past week has been extremely busy. Still its no excuse considering the heoric actions taken by one of our police officers early this past Monday morning. Officer Roger Roseberry was responding to a fire about 4:30 AM. A resident was trapped on the second floor of the house. After a couple attempts at coaxing the man to jump to safety, Officer Roseberry found a ladder to help the man down. Officer Roseberry also assisted two other residents in fleeing from the first floor.

A dramatic video of what the fire looked liked from the police car video can be seeing by visiting: Vinton Headlines.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Trails Committee Update

Last evening, members of the Vinton Trails Committee met with representatives of two engineering firms to discuss the development of an overall master trails plan for the city. The master plan is necessary to apply for various grants to fund the construction of the trails.

This is an exciting step because the development of the trails system in the city is something that has been in the works for the past two years. Also, cities are looking to add more amenities such as trails, to attract more residents and promote a healthy lifestyle. We also expect that the AmeriCorps students will want to use the trails since they will not have their own vehicles to drive around the city.

If you want to have some input on the development of the trails system in the city, let us know. We want to develop a system that is truly accepted by the residents and will be used a lot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Second Avenue Repairs

The streets of Vinton have been hard hit by winter storms. The street department is out working hard to repair them. One of the hardest hit was the city's main brick street which is 2nd Avenue. A section of 2nd Avenue was renovated last year. That section between 7th and 9th Street is doing well.

On the other hand, the block between 9th and 10th Streets have seen areas where the brick sections have heaved up and down. The heaving is caused by something known as a frost boil. I am no expert, but our street superintendent explains that it is where water from frost collects and does not drain properly. Because there is a pocket of water in a location, the street gives way at that spot.

This morning the street sweeper sunk a section about a foot down. The street department is currently removing bricks, they will then place some rock back down and replace the bricks on the street. Until this is done, 2nd Avenue between 9th and 10th Street will be closed indefinately.

For more information, please call Vinton City Hall at 472-4707.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Digital TV Transition

Tonight, we had a meeting at city hall to present information on the digital TV transition that will take place on February 18, 2009. If you receive TV through cable or satellite, you do not have to do anything. However, if you receive TV through an antenna and you bought your TV before July 2007, chances are that you will need a digital converter box. More information can be obtained by going to or calling 1-888-dtv2009. You can apply to get up to two $40 discount certificates to purchase the converter boxes.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Winter Is Almost Gone!

According to 7-day forecasts on the TV news, we should be getting temperatures in the low-40s next week with lows in high-20s. We have to endure a couple of days of cold weather and then hopefully things will start turning around. I realized last week how tired I was of seeing white everywhere. I never thought I would get tired of seeing so much of a certain color! I don't know how our street department keeps hanging in there with this mess. Each time a piece of equipment goes down or breaks the street department is able to get it back together and keep right at pushing and removing the snow.

Last Friday, the steering mechanism went out on one of the dump trucks and the bearings went out on the snowblower. We thought we would be stuck with the snow windrows downtown, but the street, water and water pollution control departments worked together to bring a smaller snowblower from the wastewater plant to clear 1st Avenue and 4th Street so that the downtown shopperscould enjoy their time downtown on Saturday instead of having to navigate around the long rows of snow. This city is really fortunate to have such great resourceful employees working for it!

P.S. The pictures above are of the snowblower taken apart to fix the bearings. You can see the damage the blower has taken over the years--most of it has been this year alone!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Please Comment!

The other day I mentioned to someone that no one was commenting on my blog posts. I am not sure if the information is relevant for the people who visit the site, or that anything I have written is really that interesting. The person asked if people who visited the blog knew there was a way to comment. I looked at the site and realized that the only way to know is that there is a link at the bottom of the posting that registers how many comments have been submitted. If you click on that link, you can submit a comment. Please feel free to comment on this blog by clicking on the link. Make sure the comments are germane and not offensive. Thanks.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Early Planning

This past week I attended our Lions Club meeting and sat across from the person from the Iowa Braille School who is liaison with the AmeriCorps program. He quickly rattled over a list of items that will need to be completed before July when the contingent of volunteers arrive at the school. It seems like a daunting list of tasks that need to be completed, but he is very optimistic about completing everything. For our part, the city has almost continuously been digging out of the snow. I have included with this post a picture of the snow that the street department has been taking out of the downtown area and piling at the old brush dump. While we hope that spring comes soon, we hope the snow doesn't all melt at once. It that happens we can expect the Cedar River to rise and present some flooding problems. Fortunately, we have several sandbags on hand, a nearby quarry to get sand, and some available labor to fill the bags. With any luck, it will not come to this, but we need to be prepared!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sheltering From The Storm

It may be a little early to be thinking of tornadoes, but if anything has taught me lately it's that tornadoes can strike at anytime of the year. A couple of years ago, tornadoes occurred in November in central Iowa and just last month in Arkansas and Tennessee where my sisters and parents live.
The city's former city coordinator, Don Martin, started planning for a community center and storm shelter in the city's Maple Lane subdivision. The structure would be used by those living on Q Avenue (Maple Lane subdivision), residents of the new Windsor Manor assisted living center, a 12-unit senior apartment complex and a 40-unit mobile home park. All of these homes are built on slabs or lack sufficient protection in case of a tornado or windstorm.
The city applied for and received a $189,000 grant from FEMA towards the cost of the storm shelter portion. I think this is only fitting since Don worked for FEMA prior to coming to Vinton.
Last night, the city council approved the bid for the storm shelter and we expect construction to start in March or April. We hope the community center will be used more than the storm shelter, but it will be there if it is needed!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I remember the day I first stepped into Vinton, Iowa. It was Friday, May 5, 2006. I had been selected to interview for the position of city coordinator. I decided to stop by on that day so the current city coordinator, Don Martin could give me a quick intro tour of the city. Don was retiring due to health concerns. He dropped everything he was doing at the time, hopped into his truck with me and showed me around town. The passion and emotion he felt for the city where he worked for the past 16 years really came through to me. After I was hired, Don and his wife Donna opened their home to me and offered a place to stay until my family and I found a house.

Don passed away this morning. Although I did not know him as long as everyone else here, I will really miss him. There is a strong bond that develops between members of a similar profession, and I know it existed between Don and me. He managed this city very well and helped bring about many of the improvements that exist here today. I will always be grateful for what he did for me and this city.

Friday, January 25, 2008

AmeriCorps Is Coming! AmeriCorps is Coming!

What do you do if one of the largest state institutions in your community faces a shut-down by the state? Well, if you are a group of dedicated community-minded individuals, you look for a way to keep it opened.

This is what happened when the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School was facing a shutdown by the state. A group of individuals successfully recruited the National Civilian Community Corps program of AmeriCorps to use the Braille School as one of two Midwest training sites. We are expecting an influx of 160 volunteers, aged 18-24, and a staff of 12 to arrive by July 1, 2008.

This is great for the Braille School which has a rich history including famous students such as Mary Ingalls, sister of author Laura Ingalls Wilder; and for the City of Vinton. These young people will give the local economy a good boost as they actively live and participate in our community.

Monday, January 14, 2008

State Legislative Session Starts

Today, the State of Iowa General Assembly begins to meet for their 2009 legislative session. We are hoping the legislature takes a good look at street funding this year. Last year, they received a report that indicated the state would have a shortfall of $29 billion in street construction over the next twenty years. While putting aside the gas tax, which hasn't been raised since 1989, the legislature is looking at other sources for revenue.

This is important for Vinton since prices for personnel and fuel (the city spent $6000 on fuel last month for snow removal) keep increasing, while the city's revenue from the state for streets only increases at about $1000-$2000 each year. This is another reason why the Council decided to look at possible revenue from the Local Option Sales Tax for street improvements, should the referendum pass on Janaury 29.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Budget Time

It is currently that time of the year when cities, including Vinton, put together their budget for the next fiscal year which runs from July1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. We do not have too many capital project planned right now. The only thing we are looking at is the Maple Lane Storm Shelter which will be financed through a FEMA grant and funds set aside from TIF projects.

We are also waiting for the results of our Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) referendum on January 29. The LOST allows a local jurisdiction to add one cent to taxable sales and that money is returned to the city or county for use in the local jurisdiction.

The city hopes to put half of the money received, about $250,000 toward street improvements. We have no other way to receive money for these improvements other than borrowing money which will increase the tax levy for debt service. There are several streets that need to be repaired, so the city will probably need to get the funding either by borrowing or through the LOST. Since another 25 percent of the LOST revenue goes toward property tax relief, the city plans to lower the tax levy by one dollar per $1000.

We'll see how things go and budget accordingly!