Main Street Pocket Park coming to Dysart

Council agrees to route billing through city, avoiding sales tax

A composite sketch of how Dysart’s Main Street Pocket Park structure would appear in the space between Eikamp Insurance (left) and the public library. IMAGE COURTESY OF VISION DYSART

A Vision Dysart downtown pocket park project in the works since April of 2021 overcame its seemingly final hurdle during last Wednesday’s city council meeting and is now slated to break ground in the spring.

Vision Dysart members including president Mary Behrens and secretary Janet Wilson provided a presentation on the Main Street Pocket Park project to members of the Dysart City Council during the regular December meeting held on Dec. 14 in City Hall.

After Wilson presented a platter of holiday cookies to Mayor Tim Glenn to share with council members, Behrens addressed the council, outlining project progress thus far.

According to Behrens, the pocket park is slated to be installed in the space between Norma Anders Public Library and Eikamp Insurance (314 Main Street) – a city owned space – using designs approved by the city’s engineer and the council in October of 2021.

The space will be “an oasis for weary shoppers, a dining and meeting area or a stage for performances,” per documents provided by the committee to the council Wednesday evening.

Vision Dysart secretary Janet Wilson (center) hands a container of holiday cookies to Mayor Tim Glenn, left, and council members Stacey Dabney and Derek Neegaard prior to her committee's presentation on the Main Street Pocket Park on Dec. 14. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

The covered space will feature seating, planters, a gallery on the north and south walls of early Dysart historical photos printed on aluminum panels, free WiFi, and ‘dusk to dawn’ solar-powered lighting.

Colorized photographs currently being considered for the gallery include an aerial image of historic downtown Dysart depicting both horses and early automobiles.

The project’s total budget is roughly $28,500 which includes $18,500 for the structure, $3,000 in concrete work, and $4,200 in tables and seating. Miller’s Construction based in Hazleton was selected in April 2022 to complete the majority of the project work.

As pointed out by Behrens during her presentation, no public funds – city, county, state, or federal – were dedicated to the project which meant Vision Dysart was ineligible for many grants that require a public match.

Funding for the project was eventually secured including a $7,500 Tama County Community Foundation grant, a $10,000 Black Hawk County Gaming Association grant, and a $1,300 Dysart Community Foundation grant. Several smaller donors and memorial funds also stepped up in support of the project, Behrens said, including Krafka Memorial Fund ($2,400), Dysart Women’s Fine Arts ($100), and Pat and Richard Arp ($100).

Vision Dysart president Mary Behrens reads prepared remarks during the Dysart City Council meeting on Dec. 14 held at City Hall. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Vision Dysart also contributed $4,500 toward the project, mostly raised by sewing aprons and market bags, and selling baked goods.

Part of Behrens’ presentation included asking the council to consider routing bills for the project through the city in order to save roughly $2,000 in sales tax – which will then be invested in the project – as neither Vision Dysart nor its overarching entity the Dysart Development Corporation is exempt from paying sales tax.

“It’s going to be quite a project,” Mayor Glenn said at the conclusion of Behrens’ presentation.

While discussing the possibility of routing project receipts through the city, city clerk Tabby Kaiser said a budget amendment would be required in order to do so.

Also in attendance at the meeting was Tama County Economic Development executive director Katherine Ollendieck who addressed the council in regard to Vision Dysart’s difficulty securing project funding.

“I’ve spent a lot of time at Vision [Dysart] meetings,” Ollendieck said, “without city skin in the game, you did tie their hands a little on [this project].”

Mayor Glenn responded that the city did have “skin in the game” by way of the land itself and the WiFi expenses which Ollendieck acknowledged.

“There are times when we are going to come and lean on you [for funding] and we’ll try to quantify it better in the future. … I want to make sure we keep talking that through in the future so that if there are some opportunities where it just takes a little from the city to get us over the top, we make sure we look for those golden opportunities,” Ollendieck further said.

Ollendieck indicated the pocket project had to be significantly scaled back due to a lack of proper funding.

The council agreed to amend the budget in order to route project billing through the city.

As soon as the weather warms in the spring, Behrens told the council contractors would begin work on the Main Street Pocket Park.

Other business

-The fiscal year 2022 audit of the City of Dysart was completed and summarized (by phone) by Rachelle K. Thompson, CPA of Hampton, Iowa. Thompson said during the last fiscal year, the city had a little more than $5 million in expenditures with disbursements up about 27% mostly due to capital projects including the sewer upgrade and Connell Street drainage work. “This year went smoothly like the past few years,” Thompson said, adding there were no issues with compliance.

-A request from Daniel Hartwig, senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, was approved by the council to designate two handicap parking spots on Clark Street near the church’s drive-up entrance.

-Norma Anders Public Library Director Janine Krug presented the library’s fiscal year 2024 budget request which included a request to increase the wages of support staff to a ‘living wage’ by bumping clerks up to $11 per hour. Krug used State Library of Iowa data to support the wage increase request. Council member Mary Wankowicz commended both Krug and library board members for the work they put into creating a budget and “tightening things down” as best they can.

-As part of his report, Mayor Glenn provided a brief update on the sale of the former Sunnycrest Nursing Center, 401 Crisman Street, which was closed this past summer as part of bankruptcy proceedings involving QHC Facilities. The mayor said there had been recent interest in the facility but he was unsure what the potential buyer had in mind for the property.

-A second pay application and change order resolution was adopted by the council for the 2022 Connell Street Drainage project. The change order ($3,600) was necessary due to an unexpectedly large amount of earthwork – 80 loads – that had to be hauled off by the contractor, Lodge Construction. Much of the dirt/clay went to Tama County’s X Avenue project currently underway.