BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison riverfront marina and docks will get some needed repairs, but it will take three years to get done.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, which for the first time had all council members in regular attendance since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the council voted 7-0 to move forward with repairs.
City Public Works Director Mark Bousselot gave a presentation to the council about the needed repairs compared to the budgeted revenue and expenses associated with the marina and docks.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is putting up 85% of the costs of repairs, but the city still will be saddled with about $87,000 worth of costs.
Repairs include roadway repairs to the retaining walls in the dock area, dredging the marina, and removing debris. Most of the repairs are associated with flooding and therefore trigger FEMA assistance.
Despite eventually voting to move forward with the repairs but space them out over “several” years, most of the council wanted to see a more comprehensive plan to take advantage of the marina.
“We have a beautiful downtown and it’s a shame not to see us have a marina,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker.
Councilman Rusty Andrews said he agreed with Bowker and the city needs to get aggressive about getting the marina up and flourishing.
“I wanna see more conversation about how we promote it. How do we make this a lot easier,” Councilman Rusty Andrews said.
Mayor Matt Mohrfeld said making the improvements makes sense only if the city plans to keep moving toward a sustainable project down the road. He also said they may need professional assistance in creating a sustainable path forward.
“We can all be blessed with good intention and good vision, but we have to translate that into some form of reality. I’m going to suggest if we do this, we bring in professional help,” said Mayor Matt Mohrfeld.
Councilman Chad Cangas said that has to be the direction the city goes, but if they can’t make a go of it, they have to be prepared to wash their hands of it.
“I don’t think anybody here disagrees, if there is a way forward for the marina, that’s our goal. That’s the direction we’re looking at. But we have to at least discuss the fact that we may have to wash our hands of it if we can’t make it go. But I think everyone here has their eyes on the prize,” Cangas said.
Mohrfeld said prior discussions on marina plans included seven figure city investments with business plans that were in the region of $5 million.
Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker said the city needs to put effort back into marketing the property to investors and not rely on past failures to undermine future success.
“Just because something didn’t work then doesn’t mean it can’t work in the future. With the right contacts, the right energy, and the right positive thinking, I would think we could overcome some of these objections we’ve heard in the past,” she said.
City Manager David Varley said he’s had interest from outside parties, but all those inquiries fell flat and he doesn’t know what else the city can offer interested parties.
Mohrfeld said he was going to keep putting the issue on the agenda until a plan is hashed out.
Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker said a small committee with forward-thinking ideas should usher in options for the city to consider.
In other action, the council:
• voted 6-0, to approve a resolution in support of a workforce housing tax credit application from Green Oak Development to begin building homes in Fort Madison.
• voted 7-0 to approve a resolution to waive subdivision requirements for property in the 2700 block of 220th Street within the city’s two mile territorial jurisdiction.
• voted 7-0 to approve a joint agreement for the creation of a Southeast Iowa Safety Group. The agreement is a three-year commitment.