Courier Staff Writer
Ottumwa City Council members had a lot of questions about Mayor Frank Flanders’ idea for “Pride in Ottumwa” Awards.
“I had a discussion with Terry McNitt [executive director of the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce] a few months ago, and he brought the idea up,” Flanders said.
He said unlike the Gene Schultz Community Service Award, which is awarded annually, the Pride in Ottumwa Award could be awarded monthly.
“One concern is how do you identify pride in Ottumwa, so it’s clear,” said Councilman Bob Meyers.
Flanders said the award should be given to those who show “in any significant way” pride in being an Ottumwan.
“One of the things I want to see in Ottumwa is people have that greater sense of self-esteem, particularly groups who haven’t felt as enfranchised,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what part of town you live in ... if you show in some significant way your pride in Ottumwa.”
But if the award is given to too many people, it minimizes it, he said.
“I think you’ll have a tough time defining pride in Ottumwa,” said Councilman Jeremy Weller. “Is it a person who mows their grass, who plants flowers? Where does pride start and where does it stop and how do you define pride in Ottumwa?”
Flanders said it’s “something that would get the attention of people.”
He also noted that he doesn’t want the award to be influenced by a person’s socio-economic status in any way.
Weller said defining the word “pride” is not hard, but narrowing down the definition of the award is.
“Doing something like this is more important as a morale booster than worrying about the details,” Flanders said.
Councilman J.R. Richards suggested that the keyword be changed from “pride” to “citizenship.”
The council also discussed options for the Market Street Bridge deck replacement. They can choose all, none or a combination of an aesthetic fence, aesthetic barrier rail, aesthetic lighting, 8-foot sidewalk width or viewing platforms at pier locations.
It will all come down to how much money they want to put toward the project’s enhancements.
The original cost estimate of the deck replacement and bridge enhancements was $3.07 million, which would include a chain link fence, basic concrete barrier rail, basic light poles and no aesthetics.
Depending on which aesthetics and which sidewalk the council chooses, the project cost could range from $2.8 million to $3.6 million.
Aesthetic additions of decorative steel handrails, an aesthetic barrier rail and decorative light poles would tack $425,000 on to the project cost.
Widening the sidewalk to 8 feet would also add $400,000 to the project.
Public Works Director Larry Seals said roughly two decks will last on every bridge super-structure.
“And we did get a 40-year life out of it,” he said.
Councilman Mitch Niner said he hopes the city will take better care of this bridge as it does with the Jefferson Street Bridge.
“There was already some damage early on with deck failures,” Seals said of the Market Street Bridge. “There was patching done with bag mix and at some point the decision was made, at least 15 years ago, to overlay it. That’s one of the things you don’t do is put asphalt on top. We will change how maintenance is done. We’ll adopt the practices we do on Jefferson.”
Councilman Brian Morgan said it would be nice to have aesthetics, an 8-foot sidewalk and lookouts, “but we can’t spend $900,000 on this all ourselves.” He suggested that the city partner with the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation to fund the enhancements.
City engineer Dan Sturm said the council has approximately one month to make a decision on what it wants the bridge to look like.
The city received a $1 million grant from the Highway Bridge Program, as well as $1.5 million in STP funds through Area 15. The city will contribute approximately $575,000 in local funds.
“I would like to see us proceed with aesthetics and an 8-foot sidewalk,” Weller said. “It would be great if when the project comes to us for approval if Legacy could step in and help out, but even if they don’t, I would like to see this happen.”
He said parking at the Bridge View Center is terrible, and with a wider sidewalk that connects to the trails on either side of the river, patrons would be more likely to frequent downtown restaurants and shops.
“When we started five years ago, the concept was to tie the two downtowns together,” Seals said.
Seals previously told the Courier he hopes to begin construction on the bridge in January or February 2014.