More lots needed in Le Mars Industrial Park, council told

Monday, January 23, 2023

LE MARS — More lots are needed in the Le Mars Industrial Park, the City Council was told during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

The city is down to six lots, Community Development Director Mark Gaul told the council. That’s why the council was urged to approve the fourth addition to the industrial park, which it did unanimously.

The plan is to grade 30 acres in the park and create more lots for development. In 2021, the city bought 237.77 acres of property south of the park to provide room for growth. Now, the need is to create more lots.

“We don’t have the inventory,” Gaul said. “My recommendation would be to do it sooner than later.”

Some of the land has been leased out for farming. It’s unclear if the land will be planted this year, however, according to City Administrator Jason Vacura, depending on when the city can get a contractor in to work on the land.

If the dirt is moved in the fall, crops could be planted and harvested, Vacura said. But if the city gets going on the project before then, it would need to pay the tenant for fertilizer applied to the ground last fall.

“It’s all a matter of timing,” Vacura said Thursday in a follow-up interview with The Sentinel.

The city will need to update its urban renewal plan. The city may use tax increment financing funds to pay for the project, since it is TIF-eligible, Vacura said.

ISG Engineering of Sioux Falls, S.D., is assisting the city. The council approved a maximum of $17,500 in fees for the firm.

In other business, the council:

• Held a public hearing on the PlyWood Trail Phase 1B section planned from Merrill to Le Mars at County Road C-38. No one spoke.

Bids will be opened at an Iowa Department of Transportation office on Tuesday, April 18, and the bid will be awarded by the council on Tuesday, May 2.

The Siouxland Regional Trail System has been awarded $7 million to develop five trail projects and connect the communities of Sioux City, Le Mars, Hinton, Merrill, and Sergeant Bluff. It will connect more than 100 miles of continuous trail projects in the area, including the 18.5-mile PlyWood Trail and 4.3-mile Loess Hills Scenic Trail and the Cone Mountain Bike Park.

There is an estimated cost of $1.5 million, with a Destination Iowa grant, funds from the Le Mars Area Betterment Foundation and money raised by the Plywood Trail Foundation covering the cost. The city will serve as the contracting authority.

• Discussed the sale of the former Public Works Department coal gas plant at 331 First St. N.E. The Le Mars Coal Gas plant was constructed by the Le Mars Gas Light Company in 1884, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

It was purchased by the Iowa Public Service Company in 1942, and then sold to C.W. Miller of Le Mars in 1953, who constructed a service building and leased the property to IPS. Miller sold it to the city in 1967.

In 1985, the city installed an underground storage tank, and during that work, potential contamination was spotted. In 2004, the EPA led an extensive cleanup project of the site and continues to monitor groundwater near the site. A deed restriction has been placed on the 1.16-acre property and will remain there in perpetuity.

The city stopped using the old brick building at the site about a decade ago, Vacura said. It has leased it to private owners since then, but the facility “needs work,” he said, so the city decided to sell it.

The city has received six offers for the building, ranging from $100,000 to $305,000, the council was told. Bids closed at the end of 2022. The council will announce the buyer during its Tuesday, Feb. 7, meeting.

The city is in contact with the EPA and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, but the council was told the prospective new owner is a good fit for the area.

• Heard a report on a storm sewer improvement project to pipe an open drainage ditch from 12th Street Southwest to Prospect Street Southwest. This would be the second stage, with four stages possible at a total cost of $335,000. A public hearing will be held during the Tuesday, Feb. 7, council meeting.

Bids will be due by 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 1. The winning bid will be determined at the Tuesday, March 7, council meeting. Completion is expected by Saturday, July 15.

• Approved the transfer of a 2003 Sierra 2500 pickup from the Water Department to the Streets Department. The departments will exchange $4,500 for the truck.

• Was reminded that the 2023 city budget process will begin in earnest with a workshop following the Tuesday, Feb. 7 meeting.

• Was told a new code enforcement and building inspector has been hired. Lucas Bernhardt, now of Sioux City, will start on Monday. He will work with Greg Smidt, who is retiring in the spring.

• Council member Mike Donlin took part in the meeting remotely.

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