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NIACC proposes creating career academy in expanded downtown Charles City Center

By Travis Fischer, [email protected]

The new multi-school high school career center planned for Charles City will likely be located at the existing – but expanded – NIACC Center, it was announced Monday.

The Charles City Council discussed the North Iowa Area Community College building expansion, OmniTel fiber plans, and parking lot policy during its regular workshop meeting on Monday.

NIACC president Dr. Steven Schulz talked with the council about acquiring a portion of the city owned-parking lot adjacent to NIACC’s downtown property, to facilitate the school’s plans for an expansion of its Charles City Center.

Originally, plans for the career center involved building a new facility outside of Charles City on land that would be donated by the Floyd County Fairgrounds. However, an abrupt rise in construction costs forced the project to look at existing buildings.

To that end, Schulz reached out to see if the City Council would be receptive to gifting the southern corner of the parking lot to NIACC.

“We’d like to at least know where we stand with the council as we continue to plan for this career academy in Charles City,” Schulz said.

Schulz and the council discussed potential impacts of the expansion, including how the additional traffic would affect neighboring Hy-Vee, how new construction would affect the storm water intake on the property, and if the longstanding Eagle Scout rock garden project on the corner would remain.

Schultz said he didn’t foresee any problems with these considerations and will return at a future meeting with more detailed architectural plans.

“We’re really excited to do this and I think it’s a great fit downtown,” said Schulz.

The regional education center will consist of four academies where students will earn both high school and college credit in a “work-based learning” approach.

The Charles City School District is working with NIACC, along with Riceville, Osage, Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock, Nashua-Plainfield, Clarksville and North Butler school districts. Each school district has made a 10-year commitment to the academy.

The Charles City Career Center will offer college credit to high school students in four subjects currently identified by Iowa Workforce Development as areas where workers are most in demand regionally — advanced manufacturing, construction trades, information technology and health careers.

In another downtown development, the council also discussed a proposed easement agreement with OmniTel Communications, which is asking for permanent utility easements for its planned fiber service expansion. OmniTel is asking for 10 foot easements on the east side of the 100 block and the west side of the 100, 200, 300, and 500 blocks of Main Street.

These easements would facilitate phase one of OmniTel’s fiber expansion plans for downtown. OmniTell Chief Operating Officer Josh Hveem explained that additional downtown locations will be considered based on demand and viability, but the company is looking at moving forward with the current expansion as soon as possible.

“I would love to get conduit placed yet this year,” said Hveem.

The council will need to hold a public hearing before voting on the easement agreement. A public hearing date will be on the agenda for the next meeting on Oct. 3.

In other business, the council discussed a request from Brandy Salinas to waive the parking lot requirements of the city ordinance. Salinas is purchasing the former Casey’s property, which has been left with a gravel surface where the gasoline tanks used to be.

City code requires hard surface parking, however Salinas expects it will be difficult to finish the required work done immediately. As a result, Salinas is asking that the city waive the ordinance until Sept. 1, 2023, expecting the paving to be completed by then.

“They would just like to have a little bit of time to get this paved,” said City Engineer John Fallis.

The waiver has already been reviewed and recommended for approval by the Planning and Zoning committee.

Finally, the council reviewed the construction administration services agreement for the clearwell project. Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. will provide engineering services for the construction, which includes construction administration, answering information requests, and reviewing change order requests. Fees for the agreement will be included in the overall estimated cost of the project.


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