Council mulls ward boundary changes

The city council discussed possible changes to the city’s wards during its regular council meeting on Monday.

City Administrator Jessica Kinser presented several potential modifications to boundaries of each ward based on recent census data. According to the 2020 census, Marshalltown’s population is 27,591. Splitting the population evenly between the four established election wards creates a general ideal ward population of 6,898.

The council must review its ward and precinct boundaries every 10 years to assure they are in compliance with current laws.

Changes to the city’s precincts and wards will go through three readings at council before being submitted to the Secretary of State and eventually signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The proposed changes include extending the southern border of Ward 1 to E. Nevada Street, changing four blocks between N. Third Street and N. Fourth Street from Ward 1 to Ward 2, separating Wards 3 and 4 along Highway 14 in a straight line north to south and changing the section of Ward 3 south of Iowa Avenue to Ward 4.

Council member Gary Thompson asked if he could explore another option for a new ward map, which he would present at the next council meeting on December 13.

“We’re setting guidelines for the next 10 years,” Thompson said. “I would like us to look at another option of redefining the wards.”

Thompson motioned to table the item for the next meeting. Mike Ladehoff seconded the motion, but it ultimately failed.

Kinser suggested that if the council would like to meet with staff to explore alternative ward maps, at least three members should be involved rather than just one.

The council approved the ordinance to establish new boundaries of election wards with Thompson voting against the proposal.

In other business, Casey Byers and Jennifer McCoy of Bolton and Menk updated the council on the new bike lane which is coming to State Street as part of the Downtown Implementation Plan. Bolton and Menk previously recommended bike traffic be moved off Main Street to State Street.

The estimated cost of the project is about $6.4 million. The bike lane would go from Third Street to Third Avenue.

Byers, a landscape architect with Bolton and Menk, said the final design was started in October and is expected to be finished in February. The project will go out to bid early in 2022 and will have two construction seasons with a target finish of fall 2023.

McCoy, senior traffic engineer with Bolton and Menk, showed the council two possible options for the bike lane or cycle track: an elevated lane and a street level track. Both plans would see two-way bike traffic alongside State Street with a buffer from vehicle traffic.

The consulting firm chose the elevated track option, and McCoy highlighted the pros and cons of that choice.

“There’s greater separation of bicycle traffic. It’s the more family-friendly version,” she said. “It fits better in the right-of-way on State Street and eliminates many bike and vehicle conflicts.”

The track will be located on the north side of the street. According to Byers, the north side was chosen over the south side because there were fewer conflicts with vehicle traffic on the north side of the street.

“This option presents a lot of opportunity for visual quality enhancements,” Byers said of the elevated cycle track. “There are great opportunities for buffer areas and landscape elements. It’s going to be a great addition to bicycle circulation downtown and a great addition to State Street.”

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