Monthly news and announcements for residents of Story City, Iowa

Story City Briefing

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American Packaging Corp. Plans Expansion

Since coming to Story City in the late 1980’s, American Packaging Corp. (APC) has been one of this community’s major employers with approximately 176 individuals working there today. APC recently announced a major expansion to their current facility and operation. APC plans to invest approximately $44.3 million that includes a 96,000 square foot expansion to their facility and the addition of 94 new jobs. The Mayor and City Council will consider offering as an incentive a five year sliding scale property tax abatement and a $94,000 forgivable loan to match a proposed State of Iowa forgivable loan of $470,000. Congratulations APC and Thank You for your continued investment and support in Story City.

Last Day for Swimming

Sunday, August 23rd

Looking at Improvements
to South Park

The South and North Parks serve as the “Gateway” to the downtown area and the primary residential areas of the city.  The parks are an important quality of life asset to our community. The redevelopment and refurbishment of the South and North Parks were identified as one of the top priorities identified in the City’s Strategic Priority Goals Plan and the Parks & Recreation Plan.

The first phase are proposed improvements to the South Park which may include:
1) The removal of the existing enclosed shelter (fireplace to remain) and replacing it with an open and larger picnic shelter, 2) Construction of two scenic areas overlooking the South Skunk River, 3) Development of a picnic grove area along the banks of the river, 4) Provide access for the elderly and disabled with a paved trail, and 5) Improved parking and signage. The planned improvements are preliminary and conceptual at this time, but over the course of the coming months the city will work to finalize and hopefully move forward with this proposed project.

Renewal of Capital Improvement Levy

In 2005, the citizens of Story City approved, with nearly 70 percent voting in favor, a Capital Improvement Levy for the purpose of helping to pay part of the cost for construction of the Community Recreation Center and the purchase of the building for the Community/Senior Center. The ballot measure included that the tax levy rate would not exceed 30 centers and be for a period of 10 years. The Capital Improvement Levy will sunset on June 30, 2016.

The Mayor and City Council are considering placing before the voters at the November election the renewal of the Capital Improvement Levy with a levy rate again not to exceed 30 cents and be for a period of 10 years. Revenues would primarily be used for improvements to the North and South Parks and also for possible future capital improvement needs at the Rec Center and Community/Senior Center.

Water & Sewer Rates

Increasing water and sewer rates in order to support needed services is difficult, but necessary. Waiting a number of years to increase rates then implementing a large jump makes the increase painful. The Mayor and Council are considering a 3.5 percent increase in rates for the purpose of: 1) Generating sufficient revenue to meet short-term operational and maintenance needs, 2) To meet capital and equipment needs, and 3) Comply with more stringent federal and state mandates, regulations, and guidelines.

The wastewater treatment plant went into operation in 1989 and although well maintained, like anything else with age has some needed improvements. And they are not cheap. The water treatment plant has been in operation for over a year now and although we planned and budgeted for operational costs associated with the new plant there were some items that were higher than projected. In both the water and wastewater areas there are aging mains that need to be replaced and other needed capital and equipment replacement items that are costly.

Using the Mayor & Council as an example, the monthly increase would be $1.56. No two systems are alike, but we did compare this with Ames, Huxley, Nevada, and Roland. Even with the increase Story City would still be less than Huxley, Nevada, and Roland and slightly higher than Ames.

What I learned in Political Science 475/575

I teach a graduate/senior level class each year at Iowa State University on Public Management. These are students who are not only studying political science, but some in community and regional planning, a good number from Public Service and Administration in Agriculture, and a few from the history area. Some are traditional (young and in college full-time) and others who are considered non-traditional (older, in a career, and going back to school for a Master’s degree). The 2015 class had an array of quotes on management and life from the presentations or papers they wrote. Here are some of things I learned from the 2015 class.

1. “Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid”
The cigar-chomping Lt. General Russel Horne in a briefing on the evacuation from Hurricane Rita told reporters, “Don’t get stuck on stupid!” Even when another reporter asked a follow-up question he replied, “You are stuck on stupid.” What Lt. General Horne was asking is for reporters to help get the message conveyed to the public as it related to Hurricane Rita. What he was telling all of us is to deal with what is happening now; not the past. That we need to move forward and deal with the situation at hand and not dwell on what didn’t work in the past. Oh, and don’t confuse the people; just talk straight and tell it like it is.

2. “I Just Do”
What is our mission? It’s the foundation of any organization, business, and community. One of the requirements is for the student to develop their own individual strategic plan and the very first question is, “What is my mission?” Or a question we ask ourselves at various points in our lives, “What is my purpose?” One student simply said, “I don’t necessarily know; I just do.” Wow! This one truly made me think. It made me come to the realization that it necessarily isn’t for us to determine what our mission or purpose in life is to be. That is for others to determine, based upon what it is they need; not necessarily what we think it should be or what we want it to be. When someone is in need our mission is to “just do!”

3. “Not my Monkeys, not my Circus”
Is an old Polish proverb. In management if there is a problem it’s my job to fix it. Is it really? Not necessarily. One of the true arts in being a successful manager is to realize that it’s not your responsibility to address or try to fix every problem that comes before you. The art is knowing what issues or challenges require your attention and which do not.

4. “We don’t have Duels on the White House Lawn anymore, that’s what Social Media is for”
There are many benefits to the social media we have available to us. One of the unfortunate things that takes place is the incivility that sometimes occurs. Many are willing to post something on social media – with or without their identity – that is hurtful, derogatory, and demeaning that they would never say face-to-face to that individual. A great lesson is from President Lincoln who when angry with someone would compose a letter and put it in a drawer never to be sent. I’m sure there are times that someone posts something that upsets you and it is alright to compose a response and then hit the “delete” button not the “send button.” Or you can resolve your differences the old fashioned way by challenging them to a duel; at least the individuals are confronting each other face-to-face.

5. “Who Knew”
Who knows whether the decisions we make today will turn out to be a huge success or utter failure tomorrow? We are able to gather a vast amount of information and speak with many wise and seasoned individuals on what course of action we should take, but in the end one unknown variable can lead to the heights of success or the agony of defeat. Who knew that the difference or variable between success and failure is often times luck.

6. “Zero = Zero”
Zero is the value between a positive and negative value. Politics is often called a “zero sum game.” There is a winner (plus 1) and a loser (minus 1) which equals zero. We have all heard the saying, “nothing ventured, nothing gained” or risk-taking. Responsible risk takers are not reckless. They gather information and are detailed planners. They may have failed, but they stay focused and are patient for when an opportunity presents itself they take advantage of it. Risk often has an upside, but maybe not as we intended – so adapt. Risk takers understand that zero equals zero – sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

7. “Build a system that can handle you being wrong”
Every decision made has the possibility of failure. In college, I worked for a law firm and one of the attorneys represented a number of developers. I got to know and do some work for one individual who constructed a number of housing subdivisions and malls. I remember him saying this to me one day on whether or not he would “do the deal.” “I ask myself two questions and need to answer yes to both: 1) Can I afford to lose my investment?, and 2) Am I willing to lose my investment?” Whether it be in our professional or personal lives there is a very good chance that half the decisions we make will be wrong. Have you asked yourself these two fundamental questions, “Can I?” and “Am I willing?”

As part of the course we read three books. Not text books, but books most students would want to keep and books those of us in public management read or should read. Let me share one item from each of the books that resonated with the students.

8. Lincoln
From the book Lincoln on Leadership. Only one other individual throughout history has had more books written about them than Abraham Lincoln. There is so much about Lincoln that we can learn that there are no few words that can be used. Each student learned something different from the book, therefore, Lincoln. I think that says it all.

9. Jungle Gym
From the book Lean In written by Sheryl Sandburg the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. One’s career and life advanced or went backward like a step ladder. In today’s world it is more like a jungle gym. Think of the jungle gym in the park with the kids playing on it. You move up and down and swing side-to-side moving in different directions depending on the time and circumstances and situation you find yourself in.

10. Small and Fast
“Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” This was from the book, The Road to Reinvention. The book was written by Josh Linkner who is a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and jazz guitarist. Josh spoke at a conference I attended several years ago. I sat next to him at lunch and learned that he was from and lived in Detroit. We made a connection and have stayed in touch since that time. Not only did we read his book, but we skyped him into the class for a 45 minute talk. Change is the only constant and is inevitable. The key to success and even survival is the ability to reinvent. Keep changing your best.

Sometimes the teacher is the student. That’s why it’s called life long learning.

Mark A. Jackson
City Administrator

City of Story City

504 Broad St.
Story City, IA 50248
(515) 733-2121
(515) 733-2460 Fax
Office Hours:
M-F 8am-4:30pm

Mike Jensen

Dwayne Fiihr
Valaree Muhlenburg
Dave Sporleder
Becky Watson
Matt Triggs 

Mark A. Jackson
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