Surveying Iowa: Making a City Beautiful

Jim Holz, AICP | with 0 Comments


Surveying Iowa: Making a City Beautiful

Cities across Iowa face challenges common to communities large and small across the country – meeting the needs of current residents and preparing for the future.  As budgets continue to shrink, communities explore more creative options to accomplish their improvement goals.  With infrastructure projects aplenty, how are Iowa public officials able to make cities beautiful?  The City of Elgin is one example of a community that has conquered that challenge.

Planning is a critical first step for any municipality to take in order to achieve their goals.  A plan not only provides a pathway to the future, but it is also a very important step in securing funding for improvement projects.  Additionally, having an up-to-date comprehensive plan, strategic plan or capital improvement plan will help prioritize investments and pave the pathway to funding sources. 

Congruent initiatives – the City of Elgin’s need for an infrastructure evaluation and the Elgin Community Betterment Committee’s development of the visionary Elgin 2023 prompted the City to create a comprehensive plan.  With population hovering around 700 residents, funding new projects in the plan was going to take time and creativity.

Taking advantage of grants and low-interest loans that can be bundled gives you the opportunity to get going on projects, while minimizing the impact to utility rates and taxes.

Bundling funding opportunities is exactly what Elgin did to turn their project ideas into reality.  By being proactive and having a plan in place, they were able to take advantage of one-time grant opportunities, such as the IJOB Program.

  • The City secured financing for its wastewater project, including $464,397 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Stimulus Grant funds, $700,000 in State Revolving Loan funds, and $300,000 in State Revolving Forgivable Loan funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  • Community Devel­opment Block Grant funds were secured through the Iowa Economic De­velopment Authority for an Owner-Occupied Housing Rehabilitation Program. The awarded funds provided five-year forgivable loans to seven low-to-moderate income homeowners to help them rehabilitate their existing homes.
  • Center Street, the heart of the community’s business district, was restored with new concrete pavement, permeable paver parking lanes, new sidewalk, established bike trail and LED decorative lighting.   The projects were paid for in part by bundling programs through CDBG Disaster Relief Funds (stormwater), Iowa Great Places Funds and IJOB Funds (water improvements).
  • CDBG Disaster Relief Funds were also used to reduce flooding in the northwest portion of the community by creating a constructed wetland and redirecting stormwater to the wetland on a site previously used as an agricultural property.  The project restored approximately 3.7 acres of historic wetland to the Turkey River corridor.   
In the end, the City secured $2,106,841 for a number of required infrastructure projects that ranged from wastewater and water system improvements to reconstruction of Center Street and a wetland.  The comprehensive plan gave the City of Elgin a strategy to bundle funding opportunities – making their city one of many beautiful cities across Iowa.

For more information on funding opportunities and comprehensive planning, contact Jim Holz.


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