Don’t let anyone tell you we’re not moving forward
Being a part of local government certainly opens your eyes to new things; seeing the perspectives of citizens that live a variety of lifestyles, who have a variety of concerns, and listening to a plethora of issues — all while looking ahead to help make decisions for a better future.
Understandably, it is not a role that everyone seeks out.
For two years, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a city councilman for the Jefferson city council. It has been a pleasure to work with folks in the community to solve problems, address concerns and progressively move the city in an exciting direction.
Things aren’t perfect, and at times things can move slower than many of us would prefer. But with enough positivity, compassion, dedication and collaboration, much open-minded, forward-thinking progress can be and has already been made.
I felt like it was a good time to highlight some of the recent successes that the greater Jefferson area has experienced.
This list — which is far from conclusive — is a variety of items that past and current city councils have played a part in, as well as mayor, city staff, and other community leaders and organizations.
It’s easy to be critical, but not always easy to be aware of what great things have happened and are in progress.
• A very popular topic: City’s property tax rate has actually gone down the last six years. (The assessed value is what has gone up.)
• New liner and cover for the swimming pool — solving the issue of rough paint and leaking.
• Relocation, expansion and retention of two longtime local businesses: Wahl-McAtee Tire and Ace Hardware.
• Slip lining of sewer mains. (Not exciting, but necessary, and not often seen thanks to new technologies that have alleviated the need for trench digging. Streets and sewers are being addressed, even if it’s not often seen.)
• Extensive patching of concrete streets, expanded crack sealing of existing streets, surfacing of alleys.
• Resurfacing of Highway 4 from U.S. 30 — a $750,000 project of which the city only had to pay 10 percent.
• New overpass for Highway 4, alleviating any waiting for trains.
• The city has played host to several big events, including RAGBRAI (which netted more than 400 volunteers), various races, biking events, motorcycle runs, car shows, golf tournaments and festivals, to name a few. All of which have brought people to the community from near and far away — literally from around the world.
• The community passed a new school bond, which has already had positive ripple effects, including attracting new staff from large, reputable school districts, as well as attracting new, young families to the community.
• The city has been involved in the new school project by planning new trail connecting the school to the community for students.
• The Iowa Central Community College Career Academy will be an additional, outstanding new part of this community.
• BOOST (Bringing Optimism and Opportunity to Students & Teachers), a community volunteer organization, has raised upwards of $100,000 for students and educators in its first two years.
• The airport will be getting an expansion of its runway, which will be 100 percent covered by federal grants, costing the city nothing.
• Wild Rose Casino opened in 2015 and over $3.5 million has been distributed to projects around Greene County.
• RVP-1875 and History Boy Theatre received top Iowa Tourism Awards.
• Thomas Jefferson Gardens flourishes and attracts visitors to the Welcome Center staffed by Greene County Chamber of Commerce.
• A new animal shelter is well on its way to being a reality.
• A variety of quality amenities, including beautiful city parks and golf course, swimming pool, library, community center, locally owned movie theater bringing new releases to town, a growing Deal’s Orchard, Raccoon Valley Bike Trail and a successful Greene County Fair, to name a few.
• Thirteen downtown facade projects have been completed using CDBG grants, with more renovations of roofs, empty buildings and more to be completed. Many new businesses have already expressed interest in several of the vacant buildings being renovated.
• New businesses on the Square in recent years include Sensibly Chic, ShineOn Designs/More Time, Meythaler Photography and Skeeter Creek Fabricators.
• The ability to attract Pillar Technology/Accenture with The Forge is a tremendous success for the city and our community. They are scheduled to open Sept. 7.
• The city’s ongoing partnership with Jefferson Matters: Main Street. (I encourage you to visit their page, jeffersonmatters.org, for an extensive list of projects, initiatives and accomplishments that have benefited Jefferson.)
A few recent highlights include:
• Downtown cultural improvements and additions: flower planters, hanging baskets, seasonal banners, Sally’s Alley and Arch Ally — which has had tremendous community involvement, ongoing public art installations — all of which draw people downtown.
• Tower View Team received the 2018 Governor’s Art Award.
• New wayfinding signage.
• Jefferson reached the $5 million benchmark of public/private improvements to downtown since becoming a Main Street community in 2012.
• Jefferson is looked upon as a leader in the state for rural communities, with articles and interviews in state and national publications and radio stations.
We are doing a LOT right here, and I hope you’ll join me in being proud, in being involved and in spreading some positivity in this very deserving community of great people.
Matt Wetrich serves on the Jefferson city council.