MASON CITY – Mason City administrator Aaron Burnett offered an update on the status of the community that will be released at Tuesday’s city council meeting:
COVID continues to impact our community and, like many organizations, the pandemic is starting to have a large impact on the city workforce. Human Resources staff is working diligently to provide guidance to individuals and departments on the use of leave and the return to work for city staff requiring quarantine and/or that test positive for COVID. Unfortunately, as our case numbers have increased in the community, so has the rate of absenteeism in city departments. We are taking the precautions necessary to protect employees and ensure continuity of operations, but it is becoming apparent that at some point service disruptions will likely occur. Depending on the department, impacts can vary. Smaller departments have fewer individuals that can step into roles when an employee is out for an extended period and, in other departments, the number of employees needed to complete a task is critical to the performance of the department. Some services that may be impacted over the next few months include: possible reduction in frequency of trash, recycling, and other pickups by the sanitation department, increased time for the removal of snow after a snowfall, longer times for customer service in city hall and on the phone, etc. At this point all departments are running close to normal, but it is likely that the trend in the workforce will continue and require notifications of change in services over the winter. We are hovering around 20 employees out in various departments at any time due to COVID and often these employees arc out in departments that are already running down positions due to retirements or ongoing recruitments. Our communication efforts like press releases, press conferences and social media will work to provide information as it becomes available.
While city finances continue to weather the pandemic and stay solid, city staff monitors ongoing impacts to revenues for potential shortfalls that could influence our projections. Should any particular fund start to reflect a concerning trend, that information will be provided immediately to the Mayor and City Council.
The solar project has started construction at the Mason City Arena and Water Reclamation Plant. These projects will both create long-term savings and reduce carbon footprint at both facilities. I will work to report back to council on both these goals as the solar arrays become operational and data is available. Additionally, we are continuing efforts to implement conservation efforts such as occupancy sensors and LED lighting at city hall. As future sustainability opportunities become apparent, staff will work to present these options to the Mayor and Council for consideration.
Lastly, this Council meeting has an important step forward in the execution of the River City Renaissance project with the award of bid for the Principal Pavilion. This will complete another large step toward implementing the vision for the downtown that was embraced several years ago. This project will provide a great opportunity for our downtown to be party ready upon the end of the pandemic. Gatherings for all types of events will be easy to accommodate with the new facility. This facility will not only be functional, but also incorporates the unique characteristics of Mason City providing a substantial improvement to the outdated aesthetics currently featured at the back end of the plaza. On the opposite side of the mall, the city recently submitted a grant application, concept drawings and renderings for Iowa Great Places funding for the Riverwalk. These improvements will provide a new gateway into Mason City for individuals entering from the south or visiting any of the new amenities in the area.