Monthly news and announcements for residents of Story City, Iowa

Story City Briefing

Last Look at the Pool

“Almost makes me a little teary-eyed … good fun was had by all! Still one of my favorite jobs … best co-workers ever! Can’t wait for the next chapter! It was time.” Teri Vrchoticky. Well Said!

Round of Applause for the 137th Iowa Firefighters Association Convention

How about a big round of applause and special thanks to Fire Chief Lysle MacDonald, the Story City/Lafayette Township Firefighters, spouses and significant others, sponsors, and to the many people who volunteered during the 137th Iowa Firefighters Association Convention. This was no small undertaking as more than 3,000 firefighters from across Iowa came to Story City for the convention. This was a well planned, well organized, and well executed convention and showcased what makes Story City such a welcoming and thriving community. And a special thanks to all the volunteer firefighters across the State of Iowa who give their time and are committed to making their communities safe. Well Done Everyone!

When Family and Friends Return

One of the questions asked at the Scandinavian Days meeting held on August 31st was, “Is the focus of the festival for the community or is it to attract people to come to Story City?” Most would probably say both, but one of the responses that struck me was the number of people that return for Scandinavian Days once lived in Story City or have family in Story City or comeback to see former classmates and the town during the school reunion.
Which comes to my friend Mary. She lives in Homer, Michigan, which is the community I served as city manager prior to coming to Story City. When I announced that I was leaving Homer for Story City it was Mary who came to my office and told me all the wonderful things about Story City. Mary’s mother was born here and her father moved to Story City and lived with Brian Sansgaard’s father Reuben and worked for Woodland Farms. Mary comes back to Story City every couple of years. I know she enjoys visiting with people who knew her parents or seeing relatives who still live in the area.
Earlier this month Mary came for a visit and brought her teenage granddaughter McKenna with her so that she would have an understanding and connection of where her family came from and when in Story City there is nothing like taking a ride on the Antique Carousel.

For me, I am always glad to see and visit with one of my good friends from Homer, Michigan, where “Homer is Home” and for Mary as well as many others so is Story City.

Renewal of Capital Improvement Levy

At the November 3rd election the following ballot proposal will be placed before the voters, “Shall the City of Story City, Story County, Iowa continue a capital improvements reserve fund pursuant to Section 384.7 of the Code of Iowa, for projects identified in a capital improvement plan, including allocating at least 80% of the revenues for improvements to the North and South Parks, with the balance of the revenues allocated to the community recreation center, community/senior center, or Fairview Lodge, and shall the City levy a tax for such purpose at a rate not to exceed 30 cents per thousand dollars of taxable valuation, for a period of ten years, beginning with the fiscal year which starts July 1, 2016?”

On April 26, 2005, the citizens of Story City approved, with nearly 70 percent voting in favor, a Capital Improvement Levy for the primary purpose of partly financing the construction of a community recreation center and funds for a senior citizens center. Additional provisions of the ballot included that the tax levy rate would not exceed 30 centers and be for a period of 10 years. The current Capital Improvement Levy will sunset at the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year. The renewal of the capital improvement levy would again contain the provisions that the tax levy rate would not to exceed 30 cents and sunset at the end of 10 years. The proposed allocation of the funds would be at least 80% toward the redevelopment and refurbishing of the North and South Parks and the remainder could be used toward capital needs at the community recreation center, community/senior center, or Fairview Lodge. For specific questions please contact City Administrator Mark A. Jackson at 733-2121.

How Does Story City
Compare to Others

The City compares itself to other Story County cities on such things as property tax rates and water/sewer costs. At the City we also compare ourselves or as we say in the public sector “benchmark” to approximately 11 other cities in the State of Iowa. There are two basic criteria we use to select these cities: 1) Story City has a population of about 3,431 so they need to have a population of about 3,000 to 4,000, and 2) They need to be in proximity to a city with a population of at least 25,000. Ames is really a town of 30,000 when you subtract the students.
The questions in past years have focused primarily on the financial end. Questions on number of full-time of employees, tax rates, property values, level of debt, revenues, and fund balances. We asked these same basic questions this year, but we did something different. We also asked 15 “quality of life” questions. Questions like, “What makes your community unique?”  We also asked questions around amenities like recreation (programs/centers, pools, golf courses, parks, trails, etc.), the vitality of their downtown, and how has housing and commercial/industrial development been since 2010? Finally, we asked “What would you say are the most important challenges facing your city?”
I’m not going to share with you all the answers to every question, but what I thought stood out from the responses. The good and those that I foresee that pose a challenge to Story City.
On the financial indicators here are the three takeaways;
  1. Story City has the second fewest number of employees compared to the other 11.
  2. Story City has the lowest, yes the lowest property tax rate. Although I anticipate that with the new swimming pool bonds we will move to the third lowest. Still not too bad.
  3. Our 100 percent property valuation is the fourth highest out of the 11. Housing, Commercial, and Industrial development is important for a community to thrive.
What is the Quality of Life in a place we call Story City? What are the community attributes and amenities that truly make Story City special? We asked these 15 questions of each of the 11 cities, but unfortunately not everyone responded. However, those that did I learned a great deal and knew something of the cities that did not respond.
The first question asked, “What is the one thing that makes your community unique?” And the answer isn’t “Great people and Great Schools” every town says that. What makes Story City unique? What are we known for outside of Story City that is different from all the other cities? One answer clearly is the Story City Antique Carousel. There are nearly 20,000 rides each year and they come from all 50 states and about 11 countries. When we asked this question the only one that topped this was from Dyersville with the Field of Dreams. That’s hard to beat in terms of being unique and being known outside your own area. The point is that the Antique Carousel is important and it’s what a significant number of people come to and what they think of when they think of Story City.
Most provide some form of recreational programs, but only a few have a recreation center. Almost all have a pool, but only one other has a municipal golf course. Story City has about 84 acres dedicated to parkland; only two other cities have more. We have about 3 miles of trails within the city; some have trails and some do not, but those that do have less than 3 miles.
Downtowns seem to be doing well and moving in a positive direction, but it has taken both private and public investment for this to occur. Only two have a theater, but I’ll bet if you asked them if they wished they had one all 11 would answer yes.
Housing or more specifically, “How many new homes have been constructed in Story City since 2010?” In Story City that’s a total of 20. That’s not good and is probably our greatest challenge. In Carlisle 54 new single family homes have been built since 2010, 331 in LeClaire, 163 in Adel, 92 in Dyersville, and 125 in Sergeant Bluff. Story City needs to construct about 14 new homes per year if our population is to grow by about one percent per year.

When it comes to commercial/industrial development the first thing you need is land and land that is ready for development. Story City is ready. Some other cities are and some aren’t, but we are in a great position here. Only a few cities have had a significant level of development since 2010. We’ve had some: NextEra Energy’s warehouse, KFC/Taco Bell, and the Story City Locker. It was critical for us to construct the “spec building” in the I-35 Business Park for that helps attract prospective businesses, and American Packaging Corporation’s announced $44.3 million dollar investment including an $8.2 million building expansion is HUGE.
Finally we asked the following question, “What would you say are the three most important challenges facing your city? The common theme came down to these three: 
  1. Finding Balance – There is a need to upgrade an aging infrastructure and city buildings while at the same time balancing this with enhancing and expanding amenities and services. 
  2. Competition and Working Together – most compete with and work together with their larger or “metro” cities. We do as well. We work together with, but also compete with Ames, Nevada, and Huxley for new businesses and new residents.
  3. Planning – Story City is updating its comprehensive plan. So are others. Like we did in the late 1990’s; it’s going to help guide us on how we develop as a city. As someone once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
So, how does Story City compare to others? As a former neighbor of mine would say, “Better than most!”
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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