MUSCATINE, Iowa – Four members of the Muscatine City Council will participate in their final Council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, after each selected not to seek re-election this past year. The four will be honored during a reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on December 19 in the Muscatine City Council chambers.
All are welcome to attend and honor these four gentlemen for their years of service to the community.
The reception will be followed at 7 p.m. with the swearing in of four new Council members who will begin their terms of service at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2020. This may be the first time in the history of the modern day Muscatine City Council that four new members will be seated.
Dennis Froelich (First Ward) will be replacing Phil Fitzgerald who chose not to run after 28 years as a member of the Muscatine City Council. Peggy Gordon (Third Ward) will be replacing Tom Spread who chose not to run after serving two terms (eight years) on the Muscatine City Council. John Jindrich (Fifth Ward) will be replacing Allen Harvey who chose not to run for reelection after four years on the Council. Dewayne Hopkins (At-Large) is the final new member of the council, replacing Santos Saucedo who also chose not to run for reelection after four years on the Council.
The four retiring members spoke about their years of service as a member of the Muscatine City Council.
Phil Fitzgerald has served for 28 years as a member of the Muscatine City Council representing the First Ward. Fitzgerald retired as an industrial technology instructor in the Muscatine School District in 2010 after 35 years, and currently operates Fitzgerald Construction. Since first being elected to the Muscatine City Council in 1992, Fitzgerald has seen a lot of changes in Muscatine.
Fitzgerald was instrumental in the development and establishment of the Muscatine Geographic Information Consortium (MAGIC) and was a charter member of the organization. MAGIC is a partnership between the City of Muscatine, Muscatine County, and Muscatine Power & Water established in 1999 that provides Muscatine County citizens access to property information and maps online free of charge.
He was also instrumental in the development and establishment of the Muscatine County Joint Communication Commission (MCJCC) the Muscatine Joint Communication Center (MUSCOM), serving several times as the board chairperson. MCJCC is responsible for the overall governance and fiscal management of MUSCOM.
Tom Spread served eight years on the Muscatine City Council representing the Third Ward. The accomplishments he is most proud of fall into one of three categories: (1) the financial condition of the city; (2) the services that the city provides; and, (3) the public works projects that have been advanced.
“I start with the financial condition of the city simply because that is the foundation that supports the provision of city services and the development of public works projects,” Spread said.
He remembers 10 years ago when the city had to dip into the emergency fund to pay its bills, and was basically living paycheck to paycheck. In the past 10 years that reserve has grown from 10 percent of General Fund expenditures to nearly 24 percent, or from 30 days cash on hand to 82 days of cash on hand.
“That means that we have the capacity to fund the unknown such as repairs to the ruptured forced sewer main on the sound end, and the endless effects of flood conditions,” Spread said. “And we have been able to accomplish these thing without increasing property tax rates.”
Spread commended city staff for their success in finding sources to fund a long list of public works projects and operations from sources other than tax revenue.
“When my family and I relocated to Muscatine in 1999, our new friends and co-workers lamented the fact that Mississippi Drive was in dire need of repair,” Spread said.
The redevelopment of Mississippi Drive is one of the public works projects is proud of.
“We benefited from the change in jurisdiction, $13 million from the State of Iowa, and a $4 million contribution from Canadian Pacific,” Spread said of the project. “To the credit of city staff, the results are attractive and functional, and a significant improvement to the quality of life in our town.”
Mississippi Drive is just one of a long list of public works projects that have been completed, are underway, or are being planned that Spread is proud of.
“All of these are consistent with the city’s ‘Complete Streets’ policy,” Spread said.
Another project that Spread says deserves a special note is the planned development of the Water and Resource Recovery Facility that will have a lasting impact on municipal operations and the environment.
“Imagine the impact of converting waste into CNG to power the city’s fleet of vehicles, and perhaps develop a new revenue stream independent of the tax base,” Spread said.
Spread said he could not emphasize enough the importance of economic development as the means to increase the city tax base.
“It is the foundation for providing essential services,” Spread said. “Future councils will continue to be challenged by increasing costs, and by the unanticipated changes in code and appropriations coming out of Des Moines and Washington, D.C. The city has not yet fully realized the impact of changes to the real estate tax code (reclassification of multi-family, etc.), and the backfill promised by the state legislature will not last forever.”
Unfortunately, he said, Muscatine missed the opportunity to develop Carver Corner and that would have been a significant step toward the revitalization of the Grandview Avenue corridor and the much needed development in the south end.
“My advice to the next Council is to listen to the voices of everyone,” Spread said. A vocal minority is often the loudest. Our roles as elected officials is to do what is best for all 10,000 households and 25,000 residents. We all benefit from prosperity.”
Allen Harvey spent the past four years on the Muscatine City Council representing the Fifth Ward.
“I must say that my four years on council were undoubtedly a page turner,” Allen Harvey said. “Most certainly it was not boring. It started with a bang and ended with a bang and there was lots and lots of excitement in between.”
Harvey added that he was grateful to be a part of several community improvement projects including Mississippi Drive, Riverfront beautification, Grandview Avenue, 2nd Street Improvement Project, and the Park Avenue three-lane project.
“We also welcomed our new public library,” he said.
One of his proudest memories is the fact that the City was able to hold the city’s tax level steady.
“With the help of the City Administrator, Finance Director, and the rest of City staff we were able to continue to avoid an increase in the property tax rate just as we have done for the last 10 years,” Harvey said.
Sadly, Harvey and the Muscatine community, lost a good friend during Harvey’s time in office.
“We lost our good friend and fellow council member Bob Bynum during my four years,” Harvey said. “He was a great advocate of the community and a great asset to the council.”
Harvey’s words of wisdom to the new council?
“I welcome our four new council members who will take office on January 1, 2020,” Harvey said. “I wish them the best of luck and I am confident they will continue to support all the good things happenings in Muscatine.”
Santos Saucedo is finishing his first term as an at-large member of the Muscatine City Council and was elected the District 1 Representative to the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors in 2017. He will continue to serve on the Board of Supervisors.
“Overall it has been a great experience,” Saucedo said. “I truly will miss it.”