Marquette Council handles changes with Wetland Centre

By Trudy Balcom

The Marquette City Council took steps to move forward with changes in the management and ownership structure of the Driftless Area Wetland Centre.
The Wetland Centre became the primary project of the 2008 Iowa Great Places joint initiative between Marquette and McGregor. The building was completed late last year and is now open to the public. The building is owned by the 28E entity called the MarMac Driftless Area Wetland Center—a joint organization made up of representatives of both cities and the MFL MarMac School District. That ownership will end on June 30.
The City of McGregor submitted a letter Oct. 31, 2012, notifying Marquette of its decision to withdraw from the 28E. Subsequently, the City of Marquette began taking steps to transfer ownership of the building, and to draw up a new 28E agreement for the continuation of the Wetland Centre.
The Marquette Council approved two agreements drawn up by City Attorney Jim Garrett to accomplish these tasks; one a termination of the MarMac Driftless Area Wetland Center, the other a 28E agreement for continuation of the Driftless Area Wetland Centre. The packet of agreements also included a bill of sale and a quit claim deed transferring the building to the city for $1.
The change will not impact on the operation of the centre, which will remain a nature center and will be available to MFL MarMac and other schools for environmental education.
The continuation agreement calls for the formation of a five-member board; four members appointed by the mayor of Marquette and one member appointed by the school district.
According to City Manager Dean Hilgerson, the new board will function as a city commission.
Hilgerson also told the council that the 2014-15 fiscal year budget will likely need to be examined and amended in order to provide funding for the centre. “Marquette shall provide a reasonable amount of funding as necessary to maintain the Wetland Centre and make it available to the school and the general public as originally contemplated,” the document states. However, the document also states that the city is not obligated to staff the centre. Last year, the council approved $458,000 in funding to help complete the structure.
Structures funded by Great Places dollars need to remain in the public domain for a minimum of 20 years, or state funds must be returned. The project received $325,000 from Great Places, and several other significant state grants. The Great Places program is housed in the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA).
Hilgerson said that City Attorney Garrett was in touch with the DCA about the change in ownership. He said the DCA did not require the termination agreement. The McGregor City Council did not vote on the termination agreement, which was on the agenda at their meeting. The McGregor Council requested their attorney to verify if signing the agreement is required by the state. The new 28E agreement with the school district and the termination agreement are set to take effect July 1.

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