Eggs And Issues Begins At The Local Level

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk speaks at Eggs and Issues on Saturday morning.

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk speaks at Eggs and Issues on Saturday morning.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Eggs and Issues kicked off its 2019 season inside the warm confines of Smokey Row Coffee on the square in Oskaloosa.

Despite the snow storm making its presence known, dozens of people filled in to hear about, and ask questions about issues concerning them at the city and county level.

Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt, and Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk were the representatives center stage providing information and answering questions.

Andy McGuire was the day’s moderator for the morning.

The day started off with a quick update from Krutzfeldt about what the city of Oskaloosa has been a part of during the past year.

South D Street was one of those projects that was highlighted. “That was a huge project,” said Krutzfeldt, who shared some of the statistics of what was done during the project. Two thousand three hundred fifty feet of concrete paving, 1540 feet of sanitary sewer, nine sanitary sewer manholes, 3062 feet of storm sewer pipe, seven storm sewer manholes, 29 storm sewer intakes, 3100 feet of water main, 7 fire hydrants and a 10-foot wide recreation trail.

“So if anybody was saying, hey, this project’s taking too long, that’s the magnitude of what we were doing,” added Krutzfeldt.

The street will continue to be opened and closed as work on the project comes to completion. Officials said they would rather have the street open to the public when possible.

Krutzfeldt also highlighted the work that had been completed at the Lacey Recreation area, where new streets were paved at that location. “Notice that the design is very similar between what’s out at the Lacey Complex and what was done on South D.”

Krutzfeldt explained the design is in an effort to calm traffic, and to add safety for pedestrian traffic.

Krutzfeldt also touched on the early childhood education and recreation building that both the city and the school district have agreed to work on together.

Groenendyk highlighted some of the projects Mahaska County has undertaken during the past year.

One of those projects that was undertaken was the repairing of the Mahaska County Law Enforcement Center. Roof leaks and exterior wall issues are being addressed, with funding for the project coming from the remaining endowment fund from the LOST funds that helped to build the center.

Groenendyk said that the Glendale Highway was re-blacktopped to the tune of approximately 1 million dollars a mile. That stretch of repaving goes from the South Skunk River to the Lacey Blacktop.

Groenendyk said the county is planning to complete their part of the Burlington Road paving project in the coming year.

The east half of County Highway G-71 is scheduled to be reworked this coming summer.

McGuire asked both Groenendyk and Krutzfeldt about the challenges in the workforce. “Particularly when you are looking at skilled workers like welders. Can you tell us about your perception of those challenges and what you’d like to do to help our community prepare for that future?”

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk responded by saying, “On the county level, we’re involved with workforce development, and Indian Hills. I know the high school, they’re being more involved with the industries in our area to get welders IE Certified and their specific job qualification, certified even out of high school to where they are capable of moving right into the industries working.”

“Part of the workforce development, a lot of it is numbers. We need bodies. And so, you know, it goes back to moms and dads having children. A lot of it is attitude. Developing in our youth to going through the schools, the workforce, workforce attitude. So, it’s a big circle. I know there’s troubles everywhere,’ said Groenendyk. “I’ve talked to people in Kentucky, South Carolina, they think up here, they enjoy it, going to our restaurants and be able to speak with people that speak English, that actually get their menu right, order right, that actually can count the change when they bring it back to them. So, I know the workforce is tight, but there is blessings when you have people that are qualified to do the jobs at the same time.”

Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt at Saturday's Eggs and Issues.

Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt at Saturday’s Eggs and Issues.

Krutzfelt shared his thoughts on the subject stating, “The challenges of workforce aren’t that much different than the challenges we have as a city regarding population. It’s a goal of mine to continue to increase the population of Oskaloosa, and we’ve had some success over the last ten years, and so I’m pleased by that. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s actually many, many hands that are pulling together in the same direction to make Oskaloosa the kind of place that’s attractive to move to.”

Krutzfeldt explained that he sits on the Regional Workforce Development Board, Area 15. The group meets at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa. “The challenges we run into, Indian Hills in particular talks about this where they have a data processing, code writing, and networking type of curriculum.”

“They will see students from all over the southern tiers of Iowa come to Indian Hills. They will take these classes, and then they will succeed in those classes and then they will be recruited out to Silicon Valley. The really dark humor of it is that the number one export that Iowa really has is its talent,” added Krutzfeldt. “Why? Because there’s opportunity and there’s big dollars.”

“They would love to stay home but the money isn’t there,” explained Krutzfeldt. “What we need to do is be able to create the infrastructure for businesses like that to say, I’ll bet you’re having trouble recruiting and so what if you were to set up some operation, modest in size if you like, over where the talent is actually at, back here. Their answer back would be, well, we need to have infrastructure. If you can have gigabit service, okay, maybe now we’re starting to talk. And then when we mention that the cost of operations in this part of Iowa is dramatically less than Silicon Valley, now we’re getting somewhere. It starts to look attractive.”

“The other challenge we have is just what I would call the quality of life challenge,” said Krutzfeldt. “So let’s say we have the businesses in Oskaloosa that are recruiting an engineer or someone else, a young professional. They’ll go ahead and make their pitch saying, here is the job we would like you to do, here’s the salary that we will give you. They’ll say, you know what, that looks like a good idea. Let me come to town and I’ll just do a quick look and see what the living is like.”

“That’s where the Chamber and the city of Oskaloosa, the Oskaloosa Band, all hands on deck, have been working diligently for the last several years to make the city of Oskaloosa a great place to live, so we can talk about, take a walk through the downtown. How’s that make you feel? You feel safe. You feel comfortable. Are you actually kind of having a good time enjoying the feel of this place? We’ve got the conveniences you’re looking for.”

Krutzfeldt highlighted the restaurants available in Oskaloosa, but the more exotic restaurants are within an hour drive. “But you probably don’t want to pay the cost of a house in Des Moines if you can get it substantially less in Oskaloosa.”

“Those are the kinds of things we’re doing to try to get behind the workforce need that we’re feeling here,” added Krutzfeldt.

If industries can’t find the employees, the businesses may turn to the ever cheaper automation. “We see some advanced technology taking place at the various industries here in town as well. There is a significant amount of manufacturing that happens in this area, and so automation, if you can’t get a person to do it, becomes the next best,” added Krutzfeldt.

The next Eggs and Issues will feature local legislatures Sen. Ken Rozenboom, Rep. Dustin Hite, and Rep. Holly Brink on Saturday morning, January 26th at 8:30 am.

Posted by on Jan 13 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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