Sustaining Webster City

University of Iowa to partner with city on community projects

— Submitted photo Downtown Webster City is shown during Junquefest 2017.

The Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities at the University of Iowa Wednesday announced Webster City as its next community partner.

Webster City’s resilience and grass-roots recovery initiatives reportedly inspired the IISC advisory board to choose the community for IISC’s engaged-learning partnership that will bring 150 or more university students, faculty, and staff to work alongside Webster City officials and community members on 10 to 15 projects during the 2018-19 academic year. Webster City was selected in a competitive process from a pool of community applicants from across Iowa. This partnership’s value to the community is estimated at $250,000, officials said.

“I’m really honored they chose us for this partnership,” said Webster City Community Vitality Director Lindsay Henderson, who found out Webster City was selected for the partnership on Friday.

“This is a game changer for Webster City. This new opportunity will energize the community and lay the groundwork for future investments,” said State Rep. Rob Bacon, House District 48. “I’m very excited for Webster City and Hamilton County.”

“The IISC is thrilled to partner with Webster City. They are a community in which we can have a great impact. Webster City proposed challenging, substantive projects that provide University of Iowa faculty and students with opportunities for hands-on teaching, learning, and collaboration. Through the partnership with Webster City, students will gain valuable experiences that enhance their learning while also helping to create lasting, meaningful change to benefit the lives of Iowans,” said Travis Kraus, assistant director of the IISC.

“They chose Webster City because of the strength that we showed in the face of adversity with Elextrolux and the way we rallied together as a community to stay strong and keep moving forward,” said Henderson. “They found that really inspriring and can see that we’re a community that’s ready to move to the next stage and really start reinvesting in ourselves for a more sustainable future.”

“In today’s environment municipalities cannot accomplish great things alone. They require partnerships and collaborations not only within our communities but also with partners and institutions outside of it. Great things have occurred in Webster City with much more primed to happen. The partnership with the University of Iowa and its Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities is a testament to the capacity in the community and leadership of our community’s elected leaders to continue to guide Webster City in a positive direction well into the future,” said Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez, city manager for Webster City.

For the IISC partnership, Webster City proposed strategic planning, arts and culture projects, marketing, park design and planning, and many others. IISC works with faculty, students and staff across multiple colleges and departments at the University of Iowa to facilitate the community engagement projects, which address issues and challenges identified by the community.

“This is definitely going to take involvement from the community,” Henderson said. “A big part of their philosophy is community engagement and community-driven decision making.”

Henderson heard about this partnership opportunity just two weeks before the grant application was due. Due to the short turnaround, she did not have time to get much community input. Henderson hopes to involve Webster City residents as the process continues.

“I would have preferred to have had more community stakeholder meetings and get input from the broader community, but it was a really fast timeline for me,” Henderson said.

“Our goal is to participate at the highest level in meeting the needs of our community partner while offering university expertise that coincides with the wishes of our Iowa citizens in Webster City,” said Linda Snetselaar, associate provost for outreach and engagement at the University of Iowa. Past projects have drawn on the expertise of faculty and students in urban planning, civil and environmental engineering, business, public health, art and art history, and more.

“Being chosen for the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities is a great honor. It is very exciting to partner with the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Iowa,” said Kent Harfst, assistant city manager/recreation and public grounds director, City of Webster City. “Through this process, it will be a great opportunity to review the accomplishments and amenities of Webster City, as well as brainstorm to make our community an even better place to live, work, and visit.”

“I’m excited to see the community coming out of its shell and old ways of thinking. We are looking more towards the future and how we can make it the kind of place where the next generation will choose to live. Working with the University of Iowa will help us realize our highest potential and accelerate our efforts to turn that vision into reality,” said Webster City mayor John Hawkins.

Project coordinators will visit Webster City this spring to tour the town and see what projects are plausible. They will design a series of action steps and bring those back to the students and faculty who will come to Webster City this fall. Students will be from a diverse set of departments including the arts and engineering realms. Depending on the scope of the project, some may take months, some may take a couple of years.

For more information about the partnership contact Henderson at (515) 832-9151 or email lhenderson@webstercity.com.

“I would be happy to answer any questions and take suggestions,” said Henderson.

The Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities is a campus-wide, engaged learning program housed in the Provost’s Office of Outreach & Engagement at the University of Iowa. The IISC pursues a dual mission of enhancing quality of life in Iowa while transforming teaching and learning at the university.

IISC is currently completing two-year partnerships in Mason City and with the East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA), which spans Cedar, Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque, and Jackson counties. In the 2016-17 academic year, IISC completed 22 projects with 23 community partners and involved 123 students, faculty, and staff from the UI. Some projects are already being implemented, including the Pearl Street Park project in Sioux City, which leveraged $500,000 in private investment to complete plans developed through the IISC partnership. To view past partnerships and projects visit http://iisc.uiowa.edu.

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