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City of Muscatine Communication Blog

Hello and welcome to our blog. As the Communication Manager for the City of Muscatine, Iowa, I know the importance of communicating with residents and providing them with an understanding of the different functions of the City, why these functions are important to our residents, and what the City is doing for the future of our community.

Many times the story of the various activities, accomplishments, and happenings within the City are not told and we want to make sure that the people behind these activities, accomplishments, and happenings are duly recognized. We also want to explain our vision of the future for the City of Muscatine, something that we take great pride in.

Please check back in periodically to see updates on what's going on here in Muscatine! Please feel free to leave comments on individual postings--the comments will not be displayed here, but they will be emailed to me so that I can collect your thoughts and make adjustments based on the feedback and suggestions. Moderated comments are an option as we progress. Thanks for reading and I hope you find this to be an effective tool!

May 03

Where does the ATE fine money go?

Posted on May 3, 2018 at 4:12 PM by Kevin Jenison

MUSCATINE, Iowa – The recent Iowa Supreme Court decision this past week stating that the Iowa Department of Transportation did not have authority over the use of Automatic Traffic Enforcement (ATE) systems renewed discussion on the amount of money received by Muscatine from the fines, what that money is used for, and how much of the total fine does not stay in Muscatine.

The ATE system in Muscatine consists of permanent fixtures at five intersections along with a mobile unit. The five intersections in Muscatine that have had the ATE system operating since April 2011 include Washington Street at Park Avenue (north and south approaches), Cleveland Street at Park Avenue (north and south approaches), Cedar Street at Houser Street (east and west approaches), University Drive at U.S. Highway 61 (westbound approach), and Mulberry Avenue at U.S. Highway 61 (westbound approach). There is also a mobile unit that has been in operation for the past several years and is parked at different locations throughout the city.

The University Drive camera was taken off-line in April 2017 after the Iowa Department of Transportation ordered the camera removed. That DOT order began the litigation that led to the Supreme Court ruling last week. No determination has been made as yet as to when that camera system will be placed on-line. The system at that intersection would have to be cleaned, calibrated, and inspected before being put back into service.

ATEs actually act as a force multiplier by improving public safety while allowing officers to respond to important calls within the community. The videos from these cameras have also been used to help criminal investigations as well as crash investigations that occur in or near the approaches. There have been at least two occasions where the ATE footage has been credited with helping to resolve local shootings.

The ATE system marked its seventh anniversary of its deployment in March 2018.

History of the ATE in Muscatine

The City of Muscatine began collecting accident data and conducting speed and red light violation surveys in 2009. Eight approaches at five intersections were determined to meet the criteria necessary for the deployment of ATE with the City of Muscatine awarding the contract for the ATE initiative to Gatso USA in 2010.

The ATE system is authorized by Title 7 (Vehicles and Traffic), Chapter 5 (Automated Traffic Enforcement) of the City Code of Muscatine. The ordinance was approved by the Muscatine City Council in September 2010.

Prior to the implementation of the ATE equipment, public hearings and meetings were held during City Council meetings for at least a year, posters were displayed at various locations across the city, informational pamphlets were distributed to the public, and information was disseminated by email and posted on the internet.

The ATE equipment was built and installed by Gatso USA at NO COST to the City of Muscatine.

The City and Gatso USA submitted plans for the ATE systems at the five intersections to the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and work closely with the DOT during the entire construction process to ensure the systems and sign placement met all DOT specifications at the time. The City went a further step and added “traffic laws photo enforced” signs on every corporate limit sign posts on roadways entering Muscatine.

According to the contract, GATSO USA receives $27 of every PAID fine to offset capital costs as well as their operating costs to review and forward the possible violations to the Police Department, sending first and second notices, collecting fines, and the maintenance of that equipment. (The amount is 36 percent of the amount of fines collected).

Tickets are reviewed and approved by a Muscatine Police Officer who signs off on the citation letter before the citation is issued. In Muscatine, a ticket is not issued unless the driver is going 11 mph over the stated speed limit. Tickets are issued for drivers going six mph or over in school zones and construction zones. Each citation has the appeals process listed on the form but that process must be started within 30 days after the citation is issued.

Where does the money from the fines go?

The fines are collected by Gatso USA and transferred to the City of Muscatine. Gatso USA bills the City of Muscatine monthly ($27 for each PAID citation) which are among the bills for approval presented to the City Council at each regular meeting. For Fiscal Year 2016-2017, the last full year of data, the city received $723,454.00 from Gatso USA in fines collected while another $214,303.26 was received from the cities collection agency.

Of the total revenue received, $285.741 was paid to Gatso USA over the course of the fiscal year while $652,016.26 was placed in the Police Department General Fund or 69.5 percent of the total revenue from the fines. That percentage was 68.1 percent for 2015-2016, 71.2 percent for 2014-2015, 67.3 percent for 2013-2014, 67.2 percent of 2012-2013, and 67.3 percent for 2011-2012.

In other words, nearly $7 of every $10 received stays in Muscatine and is used by the Muscatine Police Department or by other departments, as needed, for public safety.

So what’s the future of the ATE system?

The Iowa legislature has two pieces of legislation being debated that could affect the future of ATE’s in Iowa. The House bill would permit ATE cameras under certain conditions and provide regulations for the use of these ATE systems. The regulations closely follow what the City of Muscatine has had in place since 2011. The Senate bill would eliminate the use of ATE cameras as a means to catch those breaking the law.

The Supreme Court ruling does allow, at least until the state legislature decides on a course of action, the City of Muscatine to bring the camera at University Drive and U.S. Highway 61 back online after a year’s absence. City officials are assessing their options and determining a timeline for returning that camera to full operation but it will be at least two months before the camera would be used to issue citations for red light running and/or speeding.

By that time the city will probably know which way, if any, the state legislature will go.

What would the loss of the fine revenue mean for Muscatine?

The Muscatine Police Department budget is funded, in part, by the fines received from the ATE system. These funds enabled Muscatine to retain one Street Crimes unit (SCU) officer and one School Resource Officer (SRO) when grant funding for those positions ended. ATE funds were also used to add four firefighter positions since the 2012-2013 fiscal year. One fire engine and one ambulance were also acquired without having to incur additional debt.

The loss of the ATE revenue in conjunction with the possible loss of “backfill” revenue from the State of Iowa (which is also being discussed this session) will have serious effects not only in public safety but across all City of Muscatine departments.

It is still too early to answer the “what if” questions.

What is known is that local jurisdiction of ATE cameras has been upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court.

And, as City Administrator Gregg Mandsager has stated in discussions with local citizens and state representatives concerning ATEs … if you don’t want to pay the fine, don’t break the law.

Police ATE Ticket Collection Summary

Constitutionality of ATE Cameras



Apr 23

Here is how you can help shape the future of Muscatine

Posted on April 23, 2018 at 3:10 PM by Kevin Jenison

MUSCATINE, Iowa Muscatine is a great place to live and nothing demonstrates that fact more than how residents come together to serve. Whether that service comes on the committee, project, or organizational level, or in just helping out a neighbor, Muscatine residents are working together to make a great community even better.

 

The City of Muscatine is very thankful and grateful for the many residents who have volunteered their time and service to be a member on one of the many boards and commissions that assist in developing and monitoring City programs, policies and services.

 

“These individuals who volunteer to serve on one of our boards or commissions, those who attend the many public meetings to add their input to the discussions, and those who volunteer throughout the community are extremely important in our efforts to make Muscatine an even better place to live, work, raise a family, or retire,” Gregg Mandsager, City of Muscatine Administrator, said. “We greatly appreciate their efforts and their feedback.”

 

Several of the boards and commissions authorized by the Muscatine City Council will be seeking new members this year. Terms expire on June 30 and the City of Muscatine is currently taking applications to replace those members whose term of service expires or those members who are retiring from their service on a board or commission.

 

The following boards or commissions have vacancies that need to be filled through reappointment or new appointments. Those interested in becoming a member of a board or commission can complete the application and either email the form to the administrative secretary or mail the form to Boards & Commissions, c/o Administrative Secretary, Muscatine City Hall, 215 Sycamore, Muscatine, IA 52761.

 

All applications are reviewed by the Nominating Committee to ensure applicants meet the qualifications to serve on a specific board or commission, to ensure there is no potential conflicts of interests, and to ensure that each board or commission has a gender balance as prescribed by Iowa Code. Those that meet the requirements are submitted to the full Council for approval. The nominating committee includes the Mayor, two Council representatives, and the City Administrator or a representative from city staff.

 

The City of Muscatine welcomes all residents to submit their names and resumes for a specific board or commission or a general submission for any board or commission. Most boards or commissions require some knowledge of the subject matter and the responsibilities for the specific board of commission.

 

Current openings include individuals whose terms are up for renewal and terms that are expiring on the various boards or commissions. These openings include:

 

Airport Advisory Commission

 

The Airport Advisory Commission meets at 5 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month in the Airport Terminal Building. The responsibilities of the commission include assisting in the preparation of the airport budget, recommending procedures and policies in connection with the administration of the airport, investigating means by which the airport can be improved, and making recommendations for the long-term needs of the airport. Members of the Airport Commission serve a five-year term with a maximum of two full terms. Currently one position needs to be filled.

 

Art Center Board of Trustees

 

The Art Center Board of Trustees meets at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the Muscatine Art Center. The Board of Trustees exercises change, control, and supervision over the museum and the art center. Members are appointed to three-year terms with a maximum of two full terms. Currently three positions need to be filled.

 

Civil Service Commission

 

The Civil Service Commission meets at 4 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month in the City Council Chambers at Muscatine City Hall. The commission selects testing procedures for the personnel system, hears appeals on employee discipline cases, and administers the civil service system. Members are appointed to four-year terms, must be eligible electors, and must not hold or be a candidate for any public office. Currently one position needs to be filled.

 

Convention and Visitors Board

 

The Convention and Visitors Board meets at 12 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The board provides oversight for the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), adopts rules and procedures for the CVB, and oversees the development of visitor and tourism information, and approves programs for visitors to the City of Muscatine and Muscatine County. Members are appointed to a three-year term with a maximum of two consecutive full terms. Currently one positions needs to be filled.

 

Historic Preservation Commission

 

The Historic Preservation Commission meets at 5:15 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The commission safeguards the city’s historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage by preserving sites and districts of history and cultural significance. Members serve five-year terms with a maximum of two full terms. Currently one position needs to be filled.

 

Planning & Zoning Commission

 

The Planning & Zoning Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. Responsibilities include reviewing proposed subdivisions, rezoning requests, and sales of public property, making recommendations concerning growth management of the city, and formulating a five-year capital improvement plan for the city. Members are appointed to five-year terms with a maximum of two consecutive full terms, must be citizens of Muscatine, qualified in knowledge or experience to advise City Council in matters pertaining to the development of the city, and must not be elected officers of city government. Currently two positions need to be filled.

 

Recreation Advisory Commission

 

The Recreation Advisory Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month in the lower level conference room at City Hall. The commission is responsible for conferring with an assisting the City Administrator in the preparation of the Parks and Recreation budget, recommending procedures and policies in connection with the administrator of city parks, the cemetery, golf course, and harbor operations, investigating means by which parks and recreation can be improved, and making recommendations for the long-range needs of the recreation programs for the city. Members serve three-year terms with a maximum of two full terms. Currently two positions need to be filled.

 

Transportation Advisory Commission

 

The Transportation Advisory Commission meets at 4 p.m. on the second Tuesday of March, June, September, and December. The commission is responsible for recommending administrative policies and operation procedures, investigating methods for improving the transit system, making recommendations for the development of long-range plans of the transit system, and assisting the City Administrator in the preparation of the transit budget. Members serve two-year terms with a maximum of two full terms. Currently three positions need to be filled.

 

Water, Electric, and Communications Trustees

 

The board of Water, Electric, and Communications Trustees meets at 7 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month at Muscatine Power & Water (MPW). The purpose of the board is to control and supervise the operations of the municipal electric and water utility, and present to Council a detailed annual report with a complete financial statement. Members are appointed to six-year terms, and cannot be public officers or salaried employees of the city. Currently one position needs to be filled.

 

Other board and commissions of the City of Muscatine include:

 

Administrative Review Panel

 

The Administrative Review Panel meets as needed. The purpose of the panel is to adjudicate appeals made by motor vehicle operators and to hear appeals by vehicle owners prior to impoundment for unpaid parking fines.

 

Library Board of Trustees

 

The Library Board of Trustees meets at 4:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month in the Musser Public Library conference room pending move to the Musser Public Library & HNI Community Center. The Board is responsible for overseeing management of the library by the Library Director, employing and removing the Library Director as necessary, approving the expenditure of money allocated by the City Council to the library, and approving the library budget for submission to the Council. Members serve six-year terms with a maximum of two full terms with one member a resident of Muscatine County appointed from a list of names submitted by the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors. Currently no openings are listed.

 

Zoning Board of Adjustment

 

The Zoning Board of Adjustment meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The board hears and decides on appeals involving an alleged error in any order, requirement, decision or determination made by an administrative official in the enforcement and interpretation of the zoning ordinance, and to hear and decide special exceptions to the zoning ordinance. Members serve a 5-year term with a maximum of 2 consecutive full terms.


Details on the Nominating Committee is available by clicking HERE.


Details on the various Boards, Commissions, and Committees of the City of Muscatine is available by clicking 

Apr 11

Pollinator Park Trail will be an experience worth the wait

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 4:43 PM by Kevin Jenison


The official ribbon cutting may be weeks away but I took advantage of an unusually perfect spring day and ventured out to the area off of Houser Street where the Muscatine Pollinator Park and the Muscatine Dog Park will be located.

 

April has not been the best for outdoor activities as yet but with plenty of sunshine and temperatures close to 60 degrees, the inspiration to venture out to the area and see the progress was too much to resist.

 

041118 pollinator park trail 02I have to admit the inspiration came in part from Muscatine Street Maintenance Supervisor Randy Howell who told me during a meeting earlier in the week that city crews had been out clearing brush away from the old railroad bridge on the abandoned Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad Corporation tracks west of Houser Street. That bridge is part of the Pollinator Park Trail, a one-mile segment that circumnavigates the park and travels around the Muscatine Transfer & Recycling Center from the Kent Stein Park trailhead back to the Houser Street-Musser Street intersection where it reconnects with the Kent Stein-Deep Lakes Park Trail.

 

Most of the trail has a rock base which is easy to traverse while walking but does make riding the trail a bit more of a challenge. Paving of the trail is anticipated later on if a grant can be secured to pay for the paving. Meanwhile, the trail can be walked but just be warned that there is still some work to be done at the bridge before it will be available for pedestrian traffic.

 

While out taking pictures of the bridge I did decide to walk the trail … after all it is just a mile in length and it was a pretty pleasant day. While the grasses, flowers, and trees that will beautify the Pollinator Park are still in their winter slumber or awaiting more appropriate weather to be planted, the walk did give me a sense of what visitors can expect in the months and years ahead.

 

Once over the bridge, the trail turns and runs alongside the area where the Muscatine Dog Park will be located. The grass is still pretty brown but the area is staked out and you just can imagine the three fenced in areas that are planned, the trees that will be planted, and almost hear the playful barking of the many canines and their owners who will be able to take advantage of Muscatine’s first dog park.

 

041118 pollinator park trail 05The trail continues on into Pollinator Park itself. Even the noise from the passing vehicles on the 61 bypass cannot drown out the songs sung by the many birds that inhabit the area or dampen the tranquility of this walk through nature. Imagine, if you will, the park as it matures and becomes a haven and a home for all the pollinators that are so important to our lives. (You can Google Muscatine Pollinator Project for more information).

 

Every step of the trail will take the pedestrian or bicyclist past something worthy to see or to experience. Even walking around the Recycling Center & Transfer Station has its rewards in the nature that abounds along that stretch of the Muscatine Slough.

 

This is another great addition to the trail system and the park system that the City of Muscatine and Muscatine County enjoys. This is a testament to the visionaries who have worked and are working hard to provide safe, accessible places to walk or ride a bike. These individuals are not resting on their laurels either as they continue to discuss and seek out ways to enhance the current trails or find funding to create new trails or extend others.

 

Among those are a short section that would connect the Muscatine High School trailhead on Cedar Street with the Houser Street trailhead located near Karen Drive, the currently in development West Side Trail that would connect the Kent Stein trailhead with Discovery Park, and the Mad Creek Trail which may become part of the Riverfront improvement project and complete a recreational trail that would extend from the Mississippi River to the Park Avenue West trailhead on the north side of the bypass.

 

What Muscatine has is a concerted effort from both the public and private sectors to create recreational opportunities that will keep residents and visitors coming back and enjoying the simplistic, safe, and accessible parks and trail systems that Muscatine offers. It is a vision that extends beyond the riverfront, beyond the downtown area, and even beyond the borders of the city.

 

041118 pollinator park trail 06Pollinator Park will become a valuable gem among nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts as it matures in the years to come. It will be an educational experience for school children and adults alike. It will be a recreational experience for those who just want to commune with Mother Nature (as long as she cooperates with warm temperatures and at least partly sunny skies).

 

These little loops off the main trail are a welcomed change to the hiker or bicycle rider. And this is just the first of the “mini-trails” that the City of Muscatine and trail enthusiasts are looking at. There will be more to come on this little off-shoots of the main lines in the future.

 

Until then, I look forward to another hike along the Pollinator Park Trail later this year and capturing the maturing landscape and the pollinators who will also be paying a visit on their travels.

 

-Kevin Jenison, Communications Manager