McGregor discusses gaining authority to regulate riverfront
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
At McGregor’s regular monthly meeting on Dec. 18, City Attorney Mike Schuster said he would look into creating an ordinance that would give the city, and thus the dock commission, authority to regulate the riverfront.
At the city’s Aug. 21 council meeting, members of the dock commission raised some concerns regarding the safety and disrepair of the city’s riverfront. The commission said it had received a number of complaints from residents, boat owners and visitors regarding the safety of some of the docks, mentioning that the docks were unstable and not cleaned or repaired. However, commission members also bemoaned the fact that the dock commission has no teeth to enforce lease conditions.
At the December meeting, the council discussed some initiatives the dock commission suggested in order to improve the use, appearance and safety of the riverfront area.
In a letter to the council, the dock commission said: “The dock commission needs authority and backing by the city council to prohibit use of boat docks in leased areas that are inspected and deemed to be unsafe. Repairs would need to be made to make docks safe and usable in reasonable time or the commission would have the ability to recommend lease terminations. There was some discussion of no boats being allowed in the slips until repairs were made.
“The lack of maintenance and unsafe conditions of one of the main dock systems of McGregor Marina made it non-usable most of the boating season. Boaters were floating in wait for an open slip at the public dock. These people bring more business into the town and riverfront properties if they can dock.”
The council agreed the best way to give the dock commission some teeth was through an ordinance.
“I’ll look at draft ordinances and use them as a template to develop our own ordinance,” Schuster said to the council. “There’s no reason we can’t do that now. I’ll get the draft ordinances to the dock commission and let them tell us what they want, then tell me what you want as soon as possible.”
Councilwoman Rogeta Halvorson agreed that time is of the essence, as boating season will approach quickly.
“It’s already December,” she said. “In three months, you’re looking at March. We need to make decisions now.”
The council also considered a dock commission initiative that would look into expanding the city’s public dockage in order to “create more positive access for visitors, including the handicapped.” This would be achieved by “incorporating some of the currently leased area of the McGregor Marina.”
Through conversations he has had, councilman Joe Collins said he thinks the initiative is doable.
“Everyone down there is open to the idea of getting more public docks,” he said. “All the businesses know that, if more people are in town, they’re going to eat and buy gas.”
The city will sit down with the marina again to further discuss the possibility.
The dock commission also suggested that the dock lease rate remain the same for the coming year. The lease rate increased each year from 2010 to 2012, but remained the same from 2012 to 2013.
“We feel we should stay stable at that rate, $10 per foot, to allow renter improvements,” said the dock commission letter.
The council was unsure about the recommendation, but chose to go with it, agreeing that it would be good to reassess the rate after the city’s riverfront improvements and plans have been completed.
MMU Board terms
Council members chose not to extend McGregor Municipal Utilities (MMU) Board Member Charlie Zahn’s tenure another term (until Dec. 31, 2019), explaining that they wanted to review the term length for MMU board members.
“I have no personal grudge, but it needs to be shaken up,” said councilman Joe Muehlbauer, pointing out that Zahn has already served for at least 20 years.
Muehlbauer, along with his fellow councilmembers Halvorson, Charlie Carroll and Janet Hallberg, declined to approve the appointment of Zahn, which was motioned by Collins. Muehlbauer and Halvorson suggested changing the ordinance to shorten the term not only to shake up the board, but to encourage more people to consider getting involved.
“There are not a lot of people who want to commit to six years,” added Mayor Gay Hallberg. “Maybe four or two.”
Schuster said he would look into the change and suggested that the council hold off on the appointment.
“Let me look into what you can and can’t do before making a decision,” Schuster recommended. “Then you’re locked into something that might contradict what you may do.”
Eagle Scout project
At the meeting, Eagle Scout Drake Jensen informed the council of his plans to develop a sign for the city’s riverfront that would give a timeline and brief history of McGregor. Jensen said he has already consulted with the dock commission and that they said something about the city’s history would be a good addition to the riverfront. He has also worked with the historical society to get historical information. He is considering incorporating the MacGregor clan tartan into the sign as well.
Jensen came to the council to ask for its opinion on the sign’s location. He said, once the sign’s stand is placed, it will be permanent, but that the sign can be removed if there is flooding. The councilmembers discussed several possible locations, but advised Jensen to first get approval from the park board, then return to them. The city questioned how the timeframe will work, as Jensen said the Eagle Scout project needs to be completed before he turns 18 in July. Since McGregor will be redoing the riverfront, the council does not want Jensen’s sign to be placed, only to be moved when the work is done.