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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!

Jan 14

Fire Department urges caution when using portable heating devices

Posted on January 14, 2021 at 5:53 PM by Kevin Jenison

010321 Space Heater Fire (JPG)

MUSCATINE, Iowa – During the New Year’s weekend a trailer fire in Muscatine resulted in fire damage to one room and smoke damage throughout the trailer. The resident was lucky. The quick response of the Muscatine Fire Department prevented a much bigger tragedy.

The investigation into the fire determined the initial cause was a heating device left too close to combustibles. The investigation also found several other space heaters plugged into extension cords, placed in close proximity to combustibles, and smoke detectors present but the batteries taken out.

“This fire brings up safety topics of smoke alarm maintenance, use of extension cords, and the use and spacing of space heaters,” Mike Hartman, Muscatine Fire Department Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal, said.

Heating, cooking, decorations, and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months. The National Fire Protection Association says that it is important to pay careful attention to the proper use and maintenance of heating equipment, which are one of the major causes of residential fires.

The primary culprits in home heating fires are open-flame space heaters, portable electric heaters, and wood-burning fireplaces and stoves. Improperly installed or maintained central heating equipment can also be a cause of fire in the home, although not as often.

Heating is the second leading cause of residential fires, deaths, and injuries in the United States with December, January, and February the peak months. Space heaters are the cause in two out of every five home fires.

Hartman said fire code does allow space heaters but they are required to be plugged directly into the outlet.

“Space heaters pull a lot of power and can overheat extension cords and multi-plug adapters,” Hartman said. “The heaters need to be properly listed (kind of a given anymore), and spaced at least three feet from combustible materials.”

Carbon monoxide (CO) is often called the invisible killer. This odorless, colorless gas is created when fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, propane, etc. do not burn completely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of CO. Carbon monoxide incidents are more common during the winter months, and in residential properties.

The Muscatine Fire Department suggests a few simple precautions to help reduce the risk of a home heating tragedy, either by fire or deadly carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning:

  • Open-flame space heaters: Maintain at least three feet of clearance from the front and sides of the heater to any combustible materials, such as curtains, drapes, furniture, and bedding. Make certain the heater burns with a clean blue flame across the entire burner. If it does not, a plumber or heating expert should clean the burner and adjust the flame. Avoid the use of any type of unvented fuel burning heating device, and if absolutely necessary use only if the space is equipped with both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Portable electric heaters: Should always to be placed on the floor, not in a chair or on other objects. The portable electric heater should have an automatic shut-off device to turn it off if tipped over. Its electrical cord should not be in an area where it will get walked on repeatedly, without being protected by a cord protector, mat, or rug.
  • Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves: Maintain at least three feet of clearance from the front and sides of the fireplace or wood-burning stove to any combustible materials (see open-flame space heaters above). The flue or chimney should be checked periodically (optimally once a year) for creosote buildup, cracked, or broken flue tiles, loose mortar joints, and corroded or leaking flue pipes. The flue or chimney should be checked before use to be certain it isn’t blocked. These are attractive locations for birds and squirrels to build nests.
  • Fresh air: Be sure to allow some fresh air into the area where the stove or fireplace is in use. A lack of fresh air can cause incomplete combustion and/or interfere with the unit’s ability to draft properly, either of which can cause carbon monoxide to accumulate in the home.
  • Type of wood: The type of wood burned in a fireplace or free standing woodstove is important. Your best bet is to use hardwood, such as oak, maple, beech, or ash. It should be properly dried or seasoned for about one year. We also advise removing ashes regularly for maximum air flow. Disposal of ashes should be in a non-combustible container such as a metal bucket. Hot ashes or coals can smolder for days, and if placed in a cardboard box, or plastic garbage container the results can be disastrous.
  • Avoid burning trash: Homeowners should avoid burning items such as trash or gift wrapping paper.
  • Fireplace screen: Also, when leaving a room while a fire is burning, a fireplace screen or glass door should be closed to protect the room from sudden sprays of sparks.

SMOKE & CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are two essential tools every resident needs to protect their families and their homes. Working smoke alarms provide an early warning of a fire and allows residents to exit the home quickly and safely according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Carbon monoxide detectors are also a life saving device, notifying residents of the odorless gas that could be fatal.

Residents should check the batteries in each device located in the home at least twice a year and replace each device after 10 years (always write the date of installation on the device).

EXTENSION CORDS & POWER STRIPS

102520 Power Strip Melted (JPG)Most extension cords and power strips are meant to handle lower amounts of current and cannot handle the high currents space heaters draw. Extension cords and power strips are also a tripping hazard in the home and that could be harmful to a person and also cause the space heater to fall over.

Space heaters need to be plugged directly into the wall as heating elements can reach 500-600 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also keep an eye on them when it is in use.

“There is a common theme in space heater fires,” Hartman said. “They were left unattended.”

Other common safety tips:

  • Have a fire extinguisher on hand: Having fire extinguishers – and knowing how to use them – is an important part of maintaining a safe home for you and your family. When seconds count, having a fire extinguisher nearby is crucial for rapid response. Fire extinguishers should be stored where they are easily reachable and in key rooms where there is a higher risk for fires such as the kitchen and garage.
  • Practice candle safety: When burning candles for festive lighting, keep them at least a foot from anything flammable, never leave them unattended and place them out of reach from children. Make it a routine to check that all flames are extinguished before you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Play it safe in the kitchen: Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home injuries, so it's important to know what you can do to help keep your friends and family safe while entertaining during the winter season. The primary cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended stovetops and ovens. If you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen and use a timer for reminders. When cooking for longer periods of time, don’t forget to use the exhaust fan or vent above your stove to help prevent carbon monoxide (CO) from collecting inside your home.

Additional Information:

Winter Fire Safety video

Portable Heater Fire Safety video

FEMA Up In Smoke – Space Heaters video


Dec 29

Safe and efficient snow removal key to City policy when Winter storms come calling

Posted on December 29, 2020 at 1:52 PM by Kevin Jenison

MUSCATINE, Iowa – When winter weather events (snow and/or ice) come to Muscatine, the City of Muscatine endeavors to maintain adequate traction for vehicles properly equipped for winter driving conditions and safe routes of travel for pedestrians. Snow and ice control is considered an emergency operation by the City of Muscatine; an operation that must be initiated quickly and continued on a round-the-clock basis until completed.

Representatives from City administration, the Department of Public Works, Muscatine Fire Department, and Muscatine Police Department monitor the forecast, determine resources needed for the weather event, and begin to stage those resources for snow removal operations. These representatives continue to meet as the storm approaches to determine the impact to public safety and to the safety of City workers.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) Snow and Ice Control Policy defines and outlines the objectives and procedures to be followed. Each winter storm has unique characteristics with climatological factors such as storm intensity and duration, wind, temperature, and snow/ice accumulation that are used to determine the City response to the event. The DPW plows streets in the order of (1) snow routes including hospital access streets, school access routes, and transit emergency bus routes, (2) central business district route, (3) residential streets, and (4) alleys. For more details, feel free to review the policy.

011020 Trucks loaded with salt and ready to roll 001 (JPG)Snow Emergency Parking Plan

A snow removal operation, also called a “Snow Emergency”, activates an established plan for on-street parking. The activation can be declared by the DPW Director or the Roadway Maintenance Supervisor at the time ice or snow accumulations impede or hinder the safe movement of vehicular traffic or otherwise interfere with the safe movement of emergency vehicles or public transportation.

The City does its best to alert the public when a Snow Emergency is declared through the City website, City social media sites, local media channels, and Notify Me, the City’s free text notification system. Notice to the public is provided at least four hours before the beginning of the declaration. The Snow Emergency duration is a minimum of 48 hours. Sign up for Notify Me now to receive notifications.

For snow removal crews to properly and safely clear routes for travel, a snow parking plan is implemented on a voluntary basis until a Snow Emergency is implemented at which time the parking plan becomes mandatory. Vehicles parked on city streets in violation of the Snow Emergency Parking Plan, when in effect, are subject to $35 fines and/or towing. For more details, review the Snow Emergency Parking Plan.

The on-street parking plan works to increase the efficiency of snow removal operations by limiting on-street parking even if a snow emergency is not declared. In fact, the City urges residents to remember and utilize the on-street parking plan for any snow event of two inches or more.

The ability to clear city streets, curb to curb, and alleys in a timely, efficient manner benefits residents who need on-street parking and the City who can move on to other projects once the snow removal has concluded. Adhering to the parking plan can reduce the frustration of vehicle owners who often find their vehicles surrounded by snow piles and reduce the difficulties faced by snowplow drivers who must be aware of parked vehicles while clearing the streets.

To find out if a Snow Emergency has been declared you may call 563-272-2506.

Snow Emergency Routes & On-Street Parking

The City has five emergency snow plow routes which include snow ordinance routes, hospital access streets, school access routes, and transit emergency bus routes. These routes are cleared from curb to curb before the City proceeds to other streets. During a snow emergency, on-street parking is not permitted on either side of one of these routes until the streets are cleared. A color coded map of these routes is available on the City of Muscatine web site. (Snow Route Map)

According to City Code, streets that normally allow parking on both sides of the street will be subject to “alternate side of the street” parking during a snow emergency and this is the recommended parking plan during non-snow emergency events as well. The parking plan states that, on odd-numbered days of the month, parking is permitted only on the odd-numbered side of the street. Likewise, parking is permitted only on the even-numbered side of the street on even-numbered days.

There are two provisions for all streets where parking is allowed only on one side. If that side is on the even-numbered side, street parking is allowed only on even-numbered days with no parking allowed on odd-numbered days. Likewise, if the one side is on the odd-numbered side of the street, parking is allowed only on odd-numbered days with no parking allowed on even-numbered days.

The grace period (or transition time) for moving a vehicle between the first and second snow emergency day (and subsequent days as needed) is 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. For example, if the day was Nov. 28 and you were parked on the even side, you have until 8 a.m. on Nov. 29 to move your vehicle to the odd numbered side of the street. No tickets will be issued during the grace period.

Just because the snow emergency is over does not mean you can leave these vehicle on the street without moving them.  Muscatine Police will continue to ticket and tow vehicles that have not moved since the snow storm until the streets are clear. Muscatine Police Chief Brett Talkington reminds residents that the city parking ordinance states you MUST move your vehicles every 24 hours at least 25 feet. 

Snow Removal_editedSidewalk Snow Removal

It is the responsibility of abutting property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks within 24 hours after a weather event has ended. If a property owner fails to remove the accumulations within a reasonable time, the City, after attempting to notify the adjoining property owner, may remove the snow and assess the cost to the property owner. Residents are reminded that it is unlawful for any person(s) to remove snow and ice from private property by dumping them upon any public highway, street, avenue, alley, or sidewalk. Learn more about sidewalk snow removal.

The benefits of clearing sidewalks and driveways include reducing the potential for pedestrian falls while traversing the property, and clearing a safe path for public safety personnel if they are needed at the property. Cleared sidewalks help ambulance crews get to patients and to move patients from houses to the ambulance safely.

Refuse/Recycle Bin Placement

Snowplow drivers would greatly appreciate residents placing refuse and recycling bins in driveways and not in the streets during and immediately following any snow event. This will allow drivers to focus on clearing streets and will prevent damage to bins. Containers that are left in the street are subject to either being hit with a snowplow or forcing the snowplow driver to leave their plow to remove the container from their path.

 Fire Hydrants

The Muscatine Fire Department asks that property owners who have a fire hydrant on their property to take a few extra minutes while clearing their sidewalks and driveways to clear at least one foot around fire hydrants all the way to the ground and out to the street. Fire Department officials remind residents that seconds do count as emergency crews respond to structure fires and medical emergencies.

Thank You

The City of Muscatine extends their thanks to residents for their cooperation and in helping City staff do their jobs and to serve the public. If, by chance, City crews miss your street or if you need to file a complaint about a snow covered or icy sidewalk, etc., create a muscatineiowa.gov account and use the Let Us Know feature to submit problems or comments.


Nov 25

Mississippi Driver Corridor design recognized with Urban Design Award

Posted on November 25, 2020 at 9:41 AM by Kevin Jenison

Reconnecting Muscatine has been and continues to be an ambitious project by the City of Muscatine to reimage and reconstruct vehicular and pedestrian pathways that enhance the connection between the downtown area and the Mississippi River.

The work of the City of Muscatine and the design team at Bolton & Menk, Inc., on this multi-phased project was recognized in October 2020 when the City of Muscatine and Bolton & Menk, Inc., were named the recipients of the Urban Design Award from the Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA).

The vision began with a thought to transform a riverfront filled with old buildings, grain bins, and a switchyard into a park that the citizens of Muscatine could be proud of and visitors would want to make a destination. Out of that came the realization of the need for a strong connection between the riverfront and Downtown Muscatine.

The vision expanded with the realization that the park would attract people to the area and that would ignite investment into the downtown district. But to get from the park to downtown, or from downtown to the park, people needed a safe connection … a safer, more pedestrian friendly Mississippi Drive.

The vision of a connected Riverside Park-Mississippi Drive-Downtown Muscatine was created in the 1980s and has been enhanced since then with public and private input along with public and private funding.  The development of Riverside Park with free parking (542 spaces), plenty of green space for people to enjoy, and other amenities was the initial project. For several reasons that free parking was not being utilized including people having to walk to the downtown area for work, shopping, or dining, and for the many safety concerns to pedestrians as they attempted to cross Mississippi Drive.

As part of a phased reconstruction strategy for Downtown Muscatine, the City reimagined 1.6 miles of Mississippi Drive, developed plans for 2.1 miles of Grandview Avenue, began the reconstruction of 2nd Street through the downtown district, and completed an impressive roundabout at the intersection of Mulberry Avenue and 2nd Street.

In their project summary, Bolton & Menk, Inc., noted that Muscatine has a rich cultural and ethnic diversity rooted in industrial beginnings that shaped the city’s growth along the Mississippi River. Front Street, which was renamed Mississippi Drive in the early 1970s, was once a bustling boat and rail yard turned truck route that divided downtown Muscatine from the riverfront.

The riverfront was transformed into a regional amenity as the city evolved offering recreational opportunities along with public open space. However, the riverfront suffered from increasing vehicular traffic and the lack of connectivity to downtown. Accessibility challenges, dangerous railroad crossings, and aging infrastructure historically plagued the 1.6 mile corridor.

The reconnecting of the downtown district to the riverfront revolved around several key principles including:

  • The need for the infrastructure to encourage private investment;
  • Solving fundamental planning, circulation, and public safety issues that have plagued the downtown and riverfront corridor for decades;
  • Redefining the public perception of how the Mississippi Drive and Grandview Avenue corridors should function while putting more emphasis on establishing multimodal corridors;
  • Using technically sound design and detailing practices that are mindful of flood potential and other adverse effects on the built environment;
  • Incorporating beautification and complete streets design principles with every project; and,
  •  Engaging the public often, educating them on the “big ideas”, and building consensus throughout the process.

Through a series of public meetings, the project team was able to gather public input and support for some monumental changes to Mississippi Drive.

By evaluating the corridor’s traffic needs, understanding the barriers facing pedestrians, and identifying the impacts from the adjacent railroad, a concept emerged that featured a 4-to-3 conversion of Mississippi Drive. Incorporated into the concept was Complete Streets principles that would improve safety and create a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere to reinvigorate Muscatine’s riverfront.

The innovations contained in this project included an agreement between the city and Canadian Pacific Railroad to implement a quiet zone through Downtown Muscatine, and creating safer vehicular and pedestrian rail crossings. Other significant changes in the corridor project included back-in angled parking, landscaped medians, and a roundabout at the gateway to downtown.

Each of the Muscatine riverfront projects is unique but still work together to establish a cohesive look and feel while strengthening the community’s connection to the river. The roundabout created a vibrant entryway and solved key circulation issues. The Mississippi Drive corridor calmed traffic and re-established the riverfront connection. The Grandview Avenue corridor project will solve much needed infrastructure and access management problems that have stalled business development. The 2nd Street Project will inspire the creation of an even more vibrant retail, commercial, and housing market.

Each of these projects bring a creativeness to overcome specific challenges, and all in a combined effort for the betterment of the community.

The Mississippi Drive project has become a showcase corridor for the city and for the region. The re-imagined corridor will continue to have a positive influence on the economic vitality of Muscatine’s downtown area while influencing the expectation for future public improvements.

The Mulberry Roundabout project has proven that semi-trucks and other vehicles can safely navigate a roundabout and speed up the transition from one direction to another. The 2nd Street Project will improve the walkability of the six-block downtown area and create areas where people can congregate while shopping the unique stores and restaurants when it is complete in 2021. The Grandview Avenue Project that will use the principles of the Mississippi Drive Corridor Project will create a friendlier atmosphere for business growth while also creating an area that is more conducive to pedestrians and pedestrian safety.

The project team did not come to the final design for these projects entirely on their own. The City of Muscatine and Bolton & Menk, Inc., hosted numerous meetings with local businesses, freight truck drivers, public safety officials, and other key stakeholders including various members of the general public to gain a better understanding of the community needs and how the proposed changes would affect businesses, residents, and visitors. These meetings assured that specific needs were addressed during design and implementation while minimizing the disruption caused by the construction.

This engagement process helped community members gain a better understanding of the project’s technical aspects. Based on the technical analysis and public input the project was “right sized” for existing and future vehicular traffic while emphasizing safety and connectivity for pedestrians.

The design developed a distinct corridor identity that could be replicated in future phases of community redevelopment and reconnected the riverfront to downtown.

In addition to the infrastructure improvements that earned the City and Bolton & Menk, Inc., the award, another phase in gaining momentum that will not only further enhance the connection between the downtown and the riverfront, but also future enhance the connection between the riverfront and the rest of the community.

Segments of the Riverfront Park Master Plan are in the early stages of development. While it is still too early for details of these efforts to be released, it is an exciting time and something to look forward to by Muscatine residents and visitors.

The Mississippi Drive Corridor Reconstruction Project began in May 2017 and wrapped up in November 2018. The roundabout was a separate project and was constructed January thru July of 2020. The Mississippi Drive Corridor Reconstruction Project is the biggest public works project undertaken over a two-year period in the city’s history, reconstructing 1.6 miles of U.S. 61-Business with a 4-to-3 conversion of the traffic lanes, improved street lighting, landscaping, gateway features, pedestrian crossings and sidewalk improvements, new traffic signals and geometric improvements, storm drainage improvements, and roadway embankment work to improve flood protection.

Modernizing U.S. 61-Business through the reconfiguration and reconstruction of the sub-standard, deteriorated roadway, and enhancing the aesthetics throughout the corridor that are consistent with Muscatine’s riverfront improvements was one of the objectives of the MDCRP.

The proposal also sought to meet the objectives of Muscatine’s complete street policy by improving both Muscatine’s quality of life and image by providing a safe and attractive environment for street users of all ages and abilities such as motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, mass transit, children, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, freight carriers, emergency responders and adjacent land users.