Workers spruce up downtown Fort Dodge

Over the past few weeks, those who have traveled through downtown Fort Dodge may have noticed a number of construction and maintenance projects.

The projects are part of a long-term plan to improve the appearance of downtown and make it easier to navigate.

Senior City Planner Stephanie Houk Sheetz said one recent project is part of an ongoing effort to fix the city’s crosswalks. The city has been redoing the crosswalks for about two years.

“In the spring we saw the intersection at Eighth and Central get repaired, and we’re back doing repairs right now,” Houk Sheetz said. “We’re hoping to do the remaining crosswalks this year, weather permitting.”

The plan is to have all the crosswalks done over the course of five years, a period that began in 2011.

“We’re typically not seeing wholesale repairs where everything is torn up and we replace everything,” Houk Sheetz said. “We take out a portion and redo that portion of crosswalk. That allows us to give attention to the area that needs it.”

With the help of the parks and recreation department, Houk Sheetz said new benches and trash cans have been installed.

“Those were funded through our streetscape maintenance budget that helps pay for improvements happening downtown,” she said. “Our Downtown SSMID (Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District) contributes to that fund to help support downtown expenses.”

That project took about four days to complete.

Another project, which began earlier this week, involves repainting the downtown street lamps.

“That project is going to start off with just all the lights on the interior of the square,” which is adjacent to the Fort Dodge Public Library, according to Houk Sheetz. “They sandblasted all of those and put primer on them earlier this week.”

Those street lamps are now painted black, which Houk Sheetz said will help make everything in downtown look more uniform.

“We’re starting to tie everything together,” she said. “The meters are black, the benches are black and the trash cans are black. Now the lights will start to be black.”

While the lights on the interior of the square have been completed, Houk Sheetz said it will be several years before every light in the downtown area receives the same treatment.

“They’re gradually doing what they can with the funding they have,” she said. “The goal right now is that next year we’ll be able to do the outside of the square and for the square to be done.”

Depending on funding, Houk Sheetz said next year the city might also be able to start painting the lamps on Central Avenue.

Other recent improvements include the repaving of Central Avenue from 14th to 15th Street.

As for the future, Houk Sheetz said the city has a number of ideas they would like to implement, depending on funding.

“We’re continuing to discuss the next steps with parking,” she said. “That’ll come out with the next budget round where we’ll see if we have enough funds to do another parking lot. Hopefully that’ll happen.”

Another idea under consideration is signage for downtown. Houk Sheetz said the city is working with the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance on the content of the signs and their potential placement.

The city typically budgets money to help improve the downtown area.

“Our budget is about $40,000 a year towards downtown,” she said. “We’re splitting that up among the whole variety of things that need to be done.”

Houk Sheetz said SSMID has also been helpful in getting funding.

“They’re providing funding and that’s what makes a project happen,” she said. “The downtown SSMID group has been a key partner in making almost all of this happen.”

She’s looking forward to the improvements to downtown, she said.

“It’s exciting to see some of the things happening downtown,” Houk Sheetz said. “There’s a lot of different things happening and in the hopper.”