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Editorial: Design on your dime

This news story was published on January 27, 2012.
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by Matt Marquardt –

The Mason City City Council met Tuesday night and was introduced to Finance Director Kevin Jacobson’s 2013 city budget.

The room was full of city department directors.  A few people also showed up who depend on city dollars to survive, like Brent Willett of the North Iowa Corridor and Marty Walsh of Main Street Mason City.   Three or four regular citizens sat in the back of the room.  Several persons involved with the Human Rights Department were in attendance.  The only media there was yours truly.

The council heard about the need for a new $1 million fire truck, and quickly came to the conclusion that public safety comes first.

(PHOTO: Trout, Bookmeyer and Hickey at budget hearing.)

The council also discussed at length the need at the Mason City Police Department for a $600,000 HVAC system.  The discussion ranged from patching it up to a full replacement and then even went as far as talking about a brand new police station building.  “I would, personally, love to see a new police station,” said council member Jean Marinos (see video).  The cost would be approximately $8 million for that.  City staff are looking into it now.  If they add a fire station satellite building, it could cost $12 million.

Along the way, Jacobson mentioned $60,000 for a mysterious first floor remodel at City Hall.  I call this project mysterious because no one knows anything about it, and the council did not discuss it.  At all.  City officials, including Mayor Eric Bookmeyer, City Administrator Brent Trout and all six City Council members so far are refusing to give any details on the project except that they had local architect Randy Cram come in and look around. has attempted this week to find out more about the remodel project but so far none of the above persons will talk.  The word is that the idea originated in the Mayor’s office so that he can keep an eye on certain city employees, see who they are talking to.

Speaking of the Mayor, his right hand man Travis Hickey, while staying totally silent on the Mayor’s remodel plan at the budget hearing, had plenty to say about other expenditures.  He questioned a Trees Forever Program, with a sly smile.  He questioned animal control.  He questioned the police department about their choice of vehicles.  He questioned the fire department on their shifts, and offered a lecture on how they could be more efficient, he decided, after having a meeting with Trout.  Hickey says they could cut down on overtime and increase efficiency and even perhaps add more employees by going to a twelve hour shift.  Fire Chief Bob Platts said the idea wasn’t feasible at this time.

Hickey’s microscope never questioned the dollars the MacNider Museum needs in this budget.  $16,000 for a new entrance sign, among thousands for windows, stucco repair and railings.  The city must cover, using property tax funds, the building, grounds and administration of the museum; a trust fund covers everything else.

The good news is that this is the last year the city has to make a payment on the MacNider Campground debt repayment ($175,000.)

In the end, there wasn’t a whole lot of wiggle room for the council in the roughly $57 million budget, and even less when you consider that Jacobson said that the water fund is “not in good shape.”  He said 40% of water revenue goes to paying debt, but we are producing “really good water.”  Taxes and fees look to be increasing, especially for water and sanitation ($1.79 per month for the average user.)

Remember, this is the preliminary budget and the council is still digesting it; changes will be made.  Next week’s budget meeting will offer more clues as to what direction the council will take.

Watch some video highlights of the budget meeting:

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22 Responses to Editorial: Design on your dime

  1. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Now that the project has been explained in the globe here are several comments. As explained by Trout it makes sense but this is still a 60k expense to the taxpayers so the question is was this action the result from multiple requests from our citizens or the work of an insecure, manipulating control freak to keep a better eye on people. Also I find it most disturbing that all our council members refused to give information to NIT. Would expect this from the existing three but not the new members. So were faced with what to believe. There’s the wonderful world we now live in with unicorns on every corner and a double rainbow over city hall portrayed by one side or what many are now finding a more complete printing by NIT. Its a toss up like the Super Bowl. (Go Giants.)

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    being one of the less than 20% that votes every year gives a person the right to comment on their mistake. You don”t like it go to the globe site where everything is wonderful. I got two years of fun left to comment on this reject unless he chokes on a beer tab or something.

  3. Avatar

    Jim Reply Report comment

    January 28, 2012 at 10:17 am

    you voted for the mob so now quit crying, and take your medacine

  4. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 28, 2012 at 7:58 am

    So the small blip in the globe is the super secrete project at city hall. An office for council members so backdoor can see who is talking to their elected officials. More control from this ego freak.

  5. Avatar

    a bothered citizen Reply Report comment

    January 28, 2012 at 12:59 am

    The sign is just the tip of the iceburg at the museum. The director would like to gut the museum and change every aspect of our humble, small town museum. There are many structural problems that do need to be addressed, however at what cost? Most of the staff is overpaid, and do little to earn the pay that we the citizens pay them for. The museum is just a tax write off for many of the self proclaimed elite of Mason City. There are many good programs, however if the employees could get thier way, most people would not be welcome because they are undesirable. Just look at all the security cameras. The receptionist does nothing but watch the moniter when a guest comes in, but thats why we pay her the overinflated salary. You watch we will be footing the bill for another library type reconstruction in the near future.

  6. Avatar

    Sandy Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I wish I had a tape recorder of myself when I was talking to some people the other day. I told them your taxes wouldn’t being going up right away but you watch your water bills they’ll be going up. Man I’m a genius, not really I just know how these people work sad isn’t.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      January 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

      Sandy, apparently you didn’t hear the Finance Director say that HALF of the water treated at the plant does not get billed. That means it is leaking from the system before it gets to the meter. That is one of the major reasons that water rates are high in Mason City. We have to treat twice as much water than we need just to make sure there is enou. In addition, the water tower on S. Federal Is almost ready to fall over. The Council refuses to bite the bullet and fix it. If this tower goes out of service, a big part of town will have no water. You can’t just go to the water tower store and buy a new one. This would be a disaster.

  7. Avatar

    Life Long Resident Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    It is to bad that our Mayor and his posse will only be around just long enough to F*** this town up so bad that no one will recognize it. Its to bad you don’t have to take a test to see if you are qualified to be a council member or Mayor. None of them could find their ass with both hands. But wait, I guess they all could find Bookmeyer’s!! Just not with their hands!!

  8. Avatar

    City Hall is where I work Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    The mmod in City Hall is dismal; I have never seen it so bad and the reason is the over weight bufoon who thinks he’s God. I can’t wait until the next election when he’ll be gone

    • Avatar

      screwedbysystem Reply Report comment

      January 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      REALLY hope there’s not already some way for them to track that comment…or u could be jobless come Monday.

  9. Avatar

    Joe Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 6:20 pm


  10. Avatar

    Sandy Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I know how the mayor works I seen him in action at the Planning a Zoning meeting. When Pam Myre was asking to many questions I told the person next to me and anyone else that was listening she will be kicked off the board and sorry to say I was right. If it is not his way it is the highway. It has been proven over and over again. The thing that people may or may not understand it is not what the people want it is what he and council want. They don’t care how we feel about anything. I can feel it when I am at the city council meeting. I keep telling myself every time I leave the meeting I am not going back because it is just so frustrating. I keep going back because as a citizen I want to know what is going on in our city. I voted on these people to represent all citizens of Mason City and NOT for what they want. They are to be representing ALL of us!!

  11. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Bookmeyers awful red in the face. Might be chocking on his ego. Someone get him a beer.

  12. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Bookmeyer is the worse kind of boss. He has no abilities and an over inflated ego. Would love to see his monthly expenditures. By the look of his waste line it’s steak every night on the taxpayers.

  13. Avatar

    screwedbysystem Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    What the eff? $16000 for an entrance sign? Is it to be made of precious metals and gems? How many area artists would be willing to donate time to make one if materials were provided? Can’t we tap into community resources and not just community FUNDS? Am I the only one who knows how to stretch funds as much as possible? Let’s spend a ton of cash on something that could be done beautifully for much less. Shoot, I’ll make ya a kick butt entrance sign for a fraction of that and feed my child & myself for the rest of the year. Heads outta butts…hands outta pockets, please. Sheesh!

  14. Avatar

    John Bunnell Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I’ve lived in mason city for 63 years. I don’t go to the council meeting, or watch them on TV. I get the globe gazette news paper and I watch the news on KIMT. I have read in the globe, that the city wants to spend big bucks at city hall. Unless I missed it, which is possible, I haven’t seen or read anything about what work is going to be done at city hall. So I guess that I’m in the same boat as Matt, so could someone with knowledge of what is going to be done, let us know? I’m sure there are others that would be interested too. I don’t think that spending 60 grand so the mayor can spy on city employees is a good investment, if thats true. I also thought that this city was run by an administrater, and not a part time mayor. Oh wait, I don’t remember the city ever getting to vote on the administrater form of government either. So I guess now we have both. No conflict there!!!

    • Avatar

      screwedbysystem Reply Report comment

      January 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      I agree. If people know they’re being watched, don’t they just get sneakier? Maybe if we’re paying for spyware, we should also have access to viewing on a website…

  15. Avatar

    Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Steve, you may be right. I give the information I have. City Hall is holding out and not communicating with me. If what you say is true, why won’t Trout, Bookmeyer and the other 6 council members simply give me the information I asked for? Why wasn’t the item discussed at this budget hearing when other CIP items were discussed? Was it already a done deal? Are there backroom deals being made? Did the media report the details of the remodel to the public? If not, the public is still in the dark and my assertion that this project is mysterious holds water.

  16. Avatar

    bodacious Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    When was the present Mason City Police Department built? Who installed the HVAC at that time? Where would Marinos want to build it? I am sure her husband has some sites on hand that would work for that.

    • Avatar

      UStoleMyName Reply Report comment

      January 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      There is a huge empty chunk of land across the street from central Kum & Go that isn’t doing anything important.

  17. Avatar

    Steve Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Matt if you would have been at the previous meeting you would have heard Brent Trouts reasons for having the work done on the first floor. So don’t pat youself on the back for being to one meeting when you were not at the meeting the week before. If you would have been there you would have received the answers that you were looking for.

    • Avatar

      UStoleMyName Reply Report comment

      January 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      I wasn’t at last week’s meeting either. Maybe instead of being critical of Matt’s reporting, since he did go around and attempt to get answers from others with no luck, you could offer the answers to everyone that might be curious.

      Just a thought.