Muscatine County Supervisors approved having the Muscatine County Historic Preservation Commission go from nine to 11 members Monday, Jan. 30.
Bill Koellner spoke to the supervisor’s about the work the preservation has done and why there was a need for more members.
The first example, last year the commission received a transportation grant of $21,000 from the state, Koellner said. The total amount for the transportation survey is $35,000. The commission is coming up with $3,400, which will come from the commission.
“The rest is made up of sweat equity,” Koellner said. “Those of us like Lynn (Pruitt) and myself and the rest of our commissioners (who) go to all locations in Muscatine County.”
They’re looking for where the old railroads and ferry crossings are, he added.
In 2017, the commission received a “Planning for Preservation” grant, which had commission members going out into the county to photograph homes and old barns to see if they were eligible for the Historic Registry.
“It took a lot of hours,” Koellner said. “Similarly, when we did the historic churches and schools. We’re one of only a few in the state that have done the whole county and have a publication like we have.”
Besides the Historic Transportation Grant, the commission is writing a grant for Historic Fruit and Vegetables, he added. Muscatine County is known for Muscatine Melons and an old tomato plant in West Liberty. Chickens were also produced in West Liberty and the turkey factory is there.
“The whole county has been responsible for a magnification of food products so that’s going to be looked at in the grant we’re going to write this year,” Koellner said.
In Wilton, a historic neighborhoods grant is being worked on by the CLG (certified local government), Koellner said. In the past, the commission has had two members from that community on the commission, the owner of the Candy Kitchen and Rebecca Allgood. The Candy Kitchen owner had to step down from the commission because business was picking up.
The City of West Liberty is also making plans to apply for historic neighborhood designations in 2024. They will be Third and Fourth street all the way from Wapsi Creek to downtown and North Calhoun Street, which is an old stage coach route, Koellner said.
“But it takes a lot of manpower to go from house to house to talk to people,” he added. “What is the age of the structure? What is the condition of the structure? Is it eligible to be on the National Historical Register?”
Meanwhile, the commission is placing signs around the county marking historic locations and is working on getting the Fairport Fish Factory on the list of historical location, he added. This will help to make it a tourist attraction like several other spots in the county.
“We are proud as a historic commission to be able to enhance our county to be noted,” Koellner said.
In 2025, the Muscatine County Historic Commission will be hosting the “Preserve Iowa Summit.” They were asked by the state to do this.
There were only nine members on the commission, Koellner said. They have a lot of working coming at them needing more people. This is why they asked to increase the commission from nine to 11 members.
Supervisor chairman Scott Sauer asked Koellner if people have to be a member of the commission to get apply for historical grants.
“I would say the answer to that is no,” Koellner replied.
In the City of West Liberty there is the Heritage Foundation, which Koellner has asked for assistance with going door to door to speak with people living in the neighborhoods being considered for historical designation. He hopes to have five to six volunteers from that group to help.
“They wouldn’t be members of the commission,” he added. “If you get on the commission, you’ve got to have an obligation to want to do things.”
Pruitt has been on the commission since 2012. Koellner has been on the commission since 2015, he said. Both have put a lot of time and effort into the grants they’ve received.
The supervisors approved the resolution unanimously making the Muscatine County Historical Commission an 11-member group.
Later in the meeting, the supervisors approved Jimmy Hyink as the newest member for the commission.
Other items covered during the supervisors meeting included:
• approving a letter of support for the City of Durant’s Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship grant application for the Feldham/Mud Creek storm water quality wetland initiative project;
• and set a public hearing for 9 a.m., Monday, Feb. 20 for proposed amendments to Title II, Chapter II for the Muscatine County Code of Ordinances – private sewage disposal systems.