MASO CITY – City Administrator Aaron Burnett will present this update to the city council at tonight’s Mason City council meeting:
The Mason City Arena officially opened with 2 near sellout North Iowa Bulls games. The public response has been outstanding and the interest in events continues to be strong. Staff and partners are working through the details of operating the space, but great planning has led to very few surprises while operating the arena in its various capacities over the last month.
Additionally, the first concert event was announced and nearly one third of the tickets were acquired in the first two days. The Mason City Arena will host the State of North Iowa event which will feature the Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham as a keynote speaker. Her keynote address at this event is fitting considering Mason City was recently highlighted by the IEDA as an example of developers utilizing the new federal Opportunity Zone program. The Talon apartment development south of the River City Renaissance project was the project featured and it is one of the first of its kind in the State of Iowa.
With the start of the New Year, the city is working through the process of budgeting and planning to achieve council priorities. Two of these initiatives are the Riverwalk and the High Line Trail. Both are included in the capital projects for the upcoming year and staff is seeking grants to further the development of these amenities. The Willow Creek area that encompasses the River Walk will be the subject of a public input meeting for the Willow Creek Master Plan on the 23rd. Planning and Zoning Commission has been working on this plan update for months and, once it is complete, it will be presented for council approval. This Master Plan will strengthen future grant applications and provide a better blueprint for the development of this underutilized area in Mason City. As for the High Line Trail, the final section of the trail is expected to be transferred soon and improvements will likely begin shortly after this acquisition.
This budget year continues to be tight with departments again being asked to do more with less. The allocation of resources toward departments is a process that the whole staff takes very seriously. This year we continue to work to build reserves and continue to budget conservatively while providing the same or better level of service. The workshops and budget presentations will continue through the spring and I cannot commend the staff enough for their partnership in working to present a fiscally responsible budget that continues to develop the city as high-amenity and high-quality public service community.
Staffing concerns continue to plague the city as 16 positions are currently open. Human Resources and the various departments continue to market and recruit quality employees to these positions, but the number of hires can be daunting when considering training and time committed to this process. The Fire Department recently held a swearing in ceremony for 3 new firefighters which featured new faces from outside the area. I believe this is representative of the city departments having a solid reputation statewide and effective recruitment efforts by the city staff to cast a wide net for applicants in open positions.
Lastly, winter weather has arrived in force and I would like to specifically thank city staff for their extra efforts during the season to keep our roads and community safe through this time.