IISC Program Coordinator Nick Benson and the University’s Urban and Regional Planning Professor and Director Chuck Connerly gave a presentation during Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Sarah Strandberg)
IISC Program Coordinator Nick Benson and the University’s Urban and Regional Planning Professor and Director Chuck Connerly gave a presentation during Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Sarah Strandberg)
University of Iowa professors and students will be kicking off Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) projects throughout the county this fall.
Decorah/Winneshiek County is one of three communities selected for IISC projects for the 2014-15 school year. The IISC is a campuswide initiative funded through the Better Futures for Iowans grant from the University of Iowa Office of the Provost and is supported by the UI Office of Outreach and Engagement.
UI graduate students in Urban and Regional Planning completed sustainability projects in Decorah during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years. The School of Urban and Regional Planning participates in IISC through its field problems courses which are required of all students. These projects partner students and faculty with Iowa’s urban and rural communities to identify, design and implement sustainability-focused projects.

‘Outstanding’
IISC Program Coordinator Nick Benson and the University’s Urban and Regional Planning Professor and Director Chuck Connerly gave a presentation to the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, county and city of Decorah staff and members of the public Monday afternoon at the courthouse.
“We received many applications across the state of Iowa. Winneshiek County and Decorah submitted an outstanding project. Our Board was blown away by your application,” Benson said.
The other two communities selected by the IISC Board were Sioux City and Iowa City.
Benson provided an overview of a sample of the projects that will be worked on during the school year. Some projects are still in development, and Benson said there would probably be a total of 15 projects conducted. Nine will be launched this fall. They include:
• Frac-sand mining research and analysis (economic impact assessment, mapping and modeling of potential sand mine sites, transportation infrastructure impacts and legal regulatory analysis and recommendations)
• Stormwater utility planning and management with the city of Decorah
• Neste Valley Recreation Area development (south of Decorah)
• Turkey River Watershed analysis
• Interactive arts on the Trout Run Trail
• Marketing Winneshiek County natural resources

How it works
Supervisor Dean Thompson asked how students and faculty would work on projects.
Benson responded each project will have a primary point of contact in the community and that students and faculty will have some “boots on the ground” locally, but will also work on the projects at the university. Students and faculty will keep in weekly contact with community partners in Decorah, he said.
“Every project will have a final deliverable – something tangible that students will hand over to the community,” Benson said. That could include design work and plans, financial reports or engineering studies.
He said most projects will include “check-in presentations” midway, and some will require public involvement.
Winneshiek County Development Inc. Director Randy Uhl asked if there is an estimated dollar amount for the value of the work the students and faculty will be doing in Winneshiek County.
Benson said the hours involved in addition to the project costs covered by the university would be more than $250,000. However, he said the university doesn’t like to “monetize” student and faculty time, because it’s part of their experience as researchers and faculty members.
Mike McGee, a member of the Winneshiek County Zoning Commission, said the county is in the process of redoing its zoning ordinance and wanted to know if the University was aware of the time frames for completing that work. He said information gathered during the University’s work could be helpful for the ordinance update.
Benson said University officials are aware the county’s zoning ordinance is being updated.
“We certainly want this information to be useful,” he said.
City Administrator Chad Bird thanked the supervisors for their willingness to partner with the city, and University and local officials’ work on the projects.
“It’s going to turn out to be quite an asset. A quarter of a million is probably way low. It’s going to be quite a gift to Winneshiek County,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman John Logsdon.