The city of Decorah is joining the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors and Winneshiek County Conservation Board in an application for a grant through the University of Iowa's initiative for sustainable communities.
During its meeting last week, the Decorah City Council approved providing a letter of support for the grant application on a 6-1 vote. Randy Schissel was the only Council member voting against it.
The city was involved in the U of I program in 2010 and 2011. The city's Smart Planning Principles document was created through the program, according to City Manager Chad Bird.
"This grant cycle would provide the opportunity to implement one or more of the initiatives outlined in the document," Bird told the Council.
The project could include a watershed study, storm water utilities, website work and design, transportation and infrastructure studies or partnering with the county on rural broadband service, he said. Bird said the county would also have specific projects to accomplish through the program.
The city manager has been working with Winneshiek County Development Inc. Director Randy Uhl, Winneshiek County Supervisor Dean Thompson and Winneshiek County Conservation Board Director Barb Schroeder on the application.
If the grant is approved, University students from various disciplines will work to complete selected initiatives, Bird said. The students would take the information gathered back to the University for classroom projects that would bring the projects to fruition here, he explained.
The grant does not require financial matches, but the city would be expected to cover some out-of-pocket costs for the students. Winneshiek County and the Conservation Board have each agreed to contribute $5,000 toward the program, but Bird said he is not suggesting such a pledge at this time.
Mayor Don Arendt asked Schissel why he did not support the grant application.
Schissel said Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission in Decorah does the same type of work locally.
"This is really different," Arendt responded.
"If Upper Explorerland can work here in town it would defray costs even further. They've got those kinds of programs here," Schissel said.
"I would argue they don't have the resources the university has in the various departments," Arendt said.