Marquette flea market location still up in the air
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
The Iowa Department of Transportation is willing to work with the city of Marquette to move the flea market back under the bridge.
In an email dated Feb. 5, to Marquette City Manager Dean Hilgerson from Kathie Rustad, engineering operations technician from the Decorah office, Rustad said, looking at right-of-way plats, the DOT owns the green space beneath the bridge where, up until last year, the flea market had been held.
“There would be no permit issued to accommodate activities in this area,” she said.
Hilgerson had contacted the DOT before the city’s February meeting, when flea market organizer Mary Jo Pirc came to the council asking for permission to move the flea market back under the bridge. Last year, for the first time, the flea market was located along Edgar Street, due to safety concerns. However, Pirc said the move was detrimental to the flea market and the Marquette Action Club (who puts it on), as the Action Club made little money, vendors pulled out and visitors disliked walking the longer distance to and through the flea market. If the flea market remains on Edgar Street and does not do well, said Pirc, this will be the flea market’s final year in Marquette.
At the end of the meeting, Marquette Mayor Norma Mason said the city would contact the DOT to see if a move would be possible.
At the March 18 council meeting, the city said the DOT had denied their request. However, councilwoman Cindy Halvorson piped up, explaining that she recently contacted Rustad, who told Halvorson it was not Rustad’s decision, but Dave Little’s, who is the assistant district manager.
According to Halvorson, Little said no decision had been made as of yet, that no denial had been issued, and that the DOT would be willing to work with the city.
“It’s frustrating,” Halvorson said, wondering how she and the city received different answers. “It’s frustrating for me and the businesses. Why is it we as a city council and the people are being told no?”
Some audience members spoke up at this time, urging everyone to work together and asking the city to consider the benefits the flea market has brought Marquette over the years.
“We’re not here to argue,” explained Mason. “We have a name and we’ll call and figure it out and go at it again.”
She also said the city wants to proceed cautiously because the DOT currently leases the parking lot under the bridge to the city, and Marquette doesn’t want to risk losing that parking.
If the city can get a meeting set up with the DOT, City Manager Hilgerson said it will be open to the public so that anyone who is interested—council members, the Action Club, Legion, business owners, residents—can provide input.
The meeting would likely take place soon, as Pirc needs to inform her vendors of the location in time for the Memorial Day weekend flea market.
The council approved preliminary plans for the city’s riverfront shelter project. The plans now include adding seven parking spaces, up from the five originally planned. The extra space adds $3,900 to the project budget, bringing the total to nearly $74,000. The Action Club will contribute $15,000 to that total.
The city reported that Marquette has two residences with frozen water lines. For those going without water, the sewer fee will be waived. For other residents who have been running water to prevent frozen lines, City Clerk Sue Weipert will use her discretion to determine reimbursement.