MUSCATINE — Although projections indicate the Mississippi River will hit major flood stage in Muscatine early next week at slightly over 20 feet, public works director Brian Stineman told the city council during a two-hour in-depth meeting Thursday the city should withstand the high water with few significant problems.
“That’s major flood stage, but it’s not too much of a flood fight for us,” Stineman said in response to council member Santos Saucedo’s request for an update.
Stineman said when the river hits 18 feet either on Friday or Saturday, parking on the riverfront parking lot will be closed. As of early Friday afternoon, waters did not impede people using the parking lot. Then as the river continues to climb, the barricades will be moved farther back until by Monday the entrances will likely be closed.
“Our hope is the National Weather Service lowers its prediction slightly,” Stineman continued, explaining water does not impact the low intersection of Mississippi Drive and Walnut Street until the river hits 20 feet.
“If (the prediction) drops a little bit, we won’t have to deal with any road closings,” he said.
Stineman also told the council that when the water gets to about 19.5 feet, the city will need to close the flood gates at HNI at Mulberry.
“If we can squeak by and (the flooding) is lower a little bit, we won’t have to do those protective efforts, which would be great for us because we’ve been very, very busy,” he said.
Council member Phil Fitzgerald then asked Stineman to explain what the city provides to local residents for flood protection.
“We don’t go on private property and fight floods,” Stineman replied, adding the city does offer sandbags to residents, who must do the filling themselves.
Although Stineman said it appears the city would dodge any significant flood impacts this time around, he warned there would likely be more flooding later in the year.
More flooding expected
“We are going to have multiple floods this year,” he said, with the possibility that as the snow cover up north melts, the river level could hit 24 or 25 feet later this spring.
“(That is) pretty serious,” Stineman said, adding he would continue to provide weekly updates to city administrator Gregg Mandsager, which could then be passed on to council members.
In other action, the council approved contracts with three city employee bargaining units. The contracts covering the Blue/White Collar Bargaining Unit and the Police Bargaining Unit were for five years from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2024, while a one-year contract beginning July 1, 2019 was approved with the Muscatine Association of Firefighters Local 608.
The council also held a public hearing to receive comments on acquiring or condemning a building and property at 515 E. 2nd St. There were no comments and the council later approved a resolution to acquire or condemn the property, which is owned by Gregory A. Johnson.
According to the resolution, the city plans to use the property for street improvements included in the Mississippi Corridor Project.
The council also:
• Discussed the removal of parking from one side of West Acre Drive and Smalley Street. Stineman assured residents who said they were concerned over the idea that his staff would review their comments before developing any final proposal.
• Received a presentation from city planner Andrew Fangman on proposed revisions to the city’s non-conforming use code; and one on the Building Permit Process from several community development staffers.
Community Development Director Jodi Royal-Goodwin also updated the council on the city staff’s plans to recombine the housing department and the community development department.
City officials said the two departments were under one administrator until about 15 years ago, when they were split into separate departments because of staff skills, retirements and other reasons. Royal-Goodwin, who previously was the housing administrator, assured the council she had handled larger staffs in the past and felt the current staff had the necessary skills and abilities to assure a successful integration.
Mandsager agreed and pointed out the recombination would be more efficient, accomplished without any net staff increase and still save the city around $130,000 over the next two years.
He said the savings would come from the elimination of one department head position and other personnel savings.