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How can rural Iowa communities best address the challenges of a shrinking population?
That was a main topic on the agenda at the Monday, June 7 meeting of the Mount Ayr city council.
Dr. Kimberly Zarecor, professor of architecture at Iowa State University, met with the council via Zoom to ask for the city’s participation in the Rural Shrink Smart Initiative.
This initiative, she said, will assist rural communities “accept and manage” the reality of dwindling populations.
“We’re not here to help you guys necessarily grow in population,” she said. “What we’re interested in is to understand how these communities are protecting quality of life, how you’ve adapted to the changing population, and to learn from other communities that are doing better than expected.”
Mount Ayr would be part of what Zarecor called a “Community of Communities” who would learn from each other’s shared challenges and successes.
The goal, she added, would be to develop educational resources and data-driven tools to assist towns to address the realities of dwindling populations.
Participation in the Rural Shrink Smart Initiative comes at no cost to the city.
Following Zarecor’s presentation, the council approved participation in the program.
Zarecor and a group of ISU students will visit Mount Ayr Friday to introduce themselves as well as to get first impressions of the city.
American Rescue Funds
City superintendent Brent Wise informed the council the city will receive approximately $220,000 from the American Rescue Fund.
The dollars will be received in two separate payments over two years.
According to plan requirements, cities may use American Rescue Funds for recovering tax revenue lost due to the pandemic, water system projects, sewer projects, grants to groups or individuals responding to the negative effects of the pandemic, recover bonus pay for essential workers, and acquisition of broadband Internet.
The city will receive the first half of the funds this summer, at which time the council can decide how best to use the additional dollars.
In other business the council:
• approved application for financial assistance from the USDA for wastewater system improvements.
• withheld approval of the contract with the county to provide law enforcement services to the city, pending additional contract language pertaining to the payment of employee benefits. It is expected the contract will come up for approval at the June 21 council meeting.
• heard a report from Wise that revisions in the city’s zoning ordinances are underway. Included in the zoning changes are recommendations for increased allowable square footage of garages.
• reviewed a slide presentation of serious storm water drainage issues along several city streets. Wise said the city has budgeted $400,000 in the FY22 budget to begin to address these problems, but the council will need to decide which streets get top priority.
• heard a report from Wise about plans to deliver water and sewer service to the new concrete plant south of town.
• approved a liquor license renewal for Lefty’s Club Tavern and a new Class C beer permit for rAyr Market.