BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Bob Morawitz ran for 2nd Ward city councilman in 2013…against Brian Wright. Morawitz is throwing his hat in the ring again in 2017…against Brian Wright.
Morawitz has also run unsuccessfully for state senator in Iowa, but said he heard when he was campaigning that people wanted him to run for City Council instead.
A former member of the U.S. Navy, Morawitz moved to Fort Madison about 31 years ago and says he plans to stay here for quite a while. One of the biggest reason he’s running is that he’s concerned with the direction of the council and the city.
He said one of his biggest concerns is the Hwy 61 project that is currently underway.
“I don’t know what the schedule is for that but they started in the wrong place. I think they should have started between 2nd and 6th streets. They have $14 million and I don’t think that’s going to be enough to do all the things they want to do and the most expensive is between 2nd and 6th,” Morawitz said.
Morawitz said they would have the sewer separation and costs associated with the Old Fort and the historical significance of that area of the highway will result in higher costs and those improvements should have been done first and then move down the highway with the money that’s left over.
In contrast to his opponent, Morawitz is in favor of moving the depot back downtown, not because it will increase business but because it’s a more attractive place to drop off and pick up passengers and they’ll get to see more of the beauty of Fort Madison, which is another area he’d like to have an impact.
Morawitz said the city isn’t doing enough to promote itself.
“We were traveling in northern Iowa recently and you see those tourist racks and you see flyers from Keokuk and Nauvoo, but there wasn’t anything from Fort Madison. I don’t know why we’re not promoting ourselves. We’ve got a beautiful river and park here. We used to have bass tourneys here all the time and we don’t have that. We don’t have the restaurant at the marina any more. That drew people in, boats fill up with gas and grab a burger and drink. We’re sitting at the widest part of the river and we’re just sitting on it.
As far as the Fort Madison economy, Morawitz said the investors should come because of what we have to offer, not necessarily what financial incentives we can give them, but he said there is a time and a place for those types of incentives.
“It’s almost become a have-to thing. I don’t like it. Sometimes they’re offered before they’ve even asked for it,” he said. “I’ve been at city council meetings where there are people remodeling a home and asking for a TIF. I don’t agree with that. As far as businesses it just becomes a game where they try to see how much they can get and they’re going to be here anyway. I’m kind of upset with the state, they were looking at our renewable energy and we didnt need to give them that. It shouldn’t be a first step, it can be negotiated – but that’s taxpayer money.”
He said incentives used at the Iowa Fertilizer Company were heavy, but the potential for feeder industries to come to the area is greater now and there’s been talk of expansion out on that property as well as the local employees still spending money locally. IFC does pay a sum annually in lieu of property taxes for 20 years. The amount increases every five years before the company comes on the tax roles.
He said property taxes in Fort Madison are about average for a city its size in the state but he said as long as similar homes are assessed equally the system is fair and people are paying what needs to be paid to make sure services from the city and schools and other taxing bodies are intact.
As far as what he’d like to see improved, Morawitz said he’d like to see the downtown area spruced up for businesses and residents in that area, but those improvements are very expensive.
“At one time the city had talked about redoing Avenue G and installing new curbs and sidewalks. It would be very expensive. The businesses don’t want to pay for it. I don’t like when they redo a street and I have to pay for it. Things need to get done downtown. They talked about putting brick back in, not old bricks but a newer brick and that would be an asset to the town to bring the old feel back to it with the older buildings we have.”
He said when he tells people he’s from Fort Madison he’s heard them say, ‘Oh…that’s the town with the old Victorian homes and the brick streets.’
Morawitz is a former chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission and was integral in bringing the city’s Park to Park district onto the National Register of Historic Places. He also helped design and purchase the brown historic street signs that are now present in the district.
He said the river is another feature of the city that isn’t being utilized to its fullest potential.
He agreed with Wright that it’s good Riverfest is back because it’s helping bring people into town and down to the riverfront but he said the city should be more engaged in trying to reopen the marina.
“I’m a bit upset that the city has not done anything with the restaurant. They say it’s in a flood zone but it’s always been in a flood zone. They’ve had offers to renovate it but the city hasn’t moved on that yet. They did some work on the docks and they’re constantly dredging to keep the marina open. At one point there was a plan to extend the break water further into the river to prevent some of the silting. That’s probably very expensive and probably why that hasn’t been done. But we have a beautiful view of the river and we need to promote it.”
He said the rumors of the Viking Cruise lines are still out there and he thinks that would be a good addition to the city and riverfront.
“Last I heard they were still trying to get approvals for boats to be built – I don’t know where that ended up,” he said. “I would love to have them here but we need to work on the riverfront.”
Morawitz said he would most likely limit his term to two if he won as he thinks younger people need to be more involved in the future of the city, but he thinks term limits ultimately should be left up to the voters.
“I think that should be decided at the polls, but I pretty much decided I would like to do just two terms if I get in. I think some younger people should get involved. The thing is it’s hard getting people to run,” Morawitz said. “I think there’s things I’d like to get done and I think it would take more than 4 years. I think Councilman Chris Greenwald was going to do two terms also, but since no one ran he stayed in. I’m hoping more people get involved.”
Morawitz has set up a Facebook page for his candidacy where information on these topics and more can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/Bob.Morawitz/.