'Green' Ribbon cut, streetscape celebrated


CUTLINE: With a large crowd around them, former mayor Merlin Dunt (center, left) and current Mayor Kent Halverson joined together on Thursday, July 11, to cut the ribbon to officially mark the grand opening of the Green Pilot Streetscape Project. (Jerry Wadian photo)




'Green' Ribbon cut, streetscape celebrated


By Janell Bradley
Contributing Writer

It was a beautiful day to celebrate a “green” event, said Jim Collins of Alliant Energy, as sunny skies prevailed for the ribbon-cutting and grand opening marking the completion of the Green Pilot Streetscape Project on Thursday.

The $10 million streetscape project – one of just two in the state – was designed to serve as a model across the nation. The construction of permeable pavement and sidewalks, rain gardens, energy-efficient lighting, and installation of a districtwide geothermal heating and cooling system was made possible through numerous grants, including a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state of Iowa.

The project developed after city leaders in 2008 committed to not only replacing aging water, storm and sanitary sewer infrastructure, but were later convinced to do so with environmentally friendly initiatives.

As one of the keynote speakers, Collins noted that through the company's Branching Out program, communities like West Union save energy by shading buildings and creating windbreaks. 

In more than 20 years, Branching Out has helped see that 1.4 million trees were planted. Those trees mean a savings of more than 14 million kilowatt hours, enough energy to power 1,400 homes.

Patty Peterson with Trees Forever said an oak tree planted on the courthouse lawn will have an eventual value of $80,000. As the temperature warmed to 82 degrees, she noted that the difference in temperature from a concrete area to a shaded area, was 30 degrees, on this day.

Fayette County Supervisor Vicki Rowland noted Thursday that the recently completed Green Pilot Project would be part of the legacy left by the current generation.  Rowland said that as a baby boomer, she's noticed that Fayette County has inherited much in the way of beauty and historic structures.

"What will our legacy be to future generations?" she asked. A historic courthouse of marble and granite built in 1924 serves as a centerpiece to the downtown business district. While its $275,000 price tag was controversial at the time, she said it continues to serve the community beyond the 50-year life suggested for a $100,000 structure.

Now that once-controversial courthouse construction has a value of $7 million, she said, and still serves us well. The pilot project is not just a pretty street project, she said, but an effort in water conservation and reduction of storm water runoff.

Upper Explorerland's Rachelle Howe echoed those sentiments when she said, "We're only as good as our projects, and today we're excellent."

David Yocca of Conservation Design Forum described the project as one of the most complete applications of “green” designs. "It's a new paradigm for a city streetscape, like none before," he stated.

Yocca said West Union's Streetscape design and features have been reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. 

While participants in Thursday's program admired the rain gardens and permeable pavers in the sidewalks and streets, a less obvious feature is the 132,300-ft.-deep geothermal wells that were drilled on the courthouse lawn. Individual businesses have the opportunity to hook on to a districtwide geothermal system for heating and cooling.

The grand opening event was emceed by Dean Pedersen, former resident and city council member. As part of his comments, he noted that city resident Jim Boelman recently visited more than 200 businesses in the city. From his efforts, he determined there are 1,575 full-time and more than 175 part-time jobs in West Union. That doesn't include home-based businesses, farmers or volunteers.

"We have been able to show others what can be accomplished when we work together for a strong foundation for generations to come. To the citizens of West Union, we truly appreciate your patience as streets were closed." Pedersen said. He also thanked Blazek Corporation for keeping storefronts open and for their cooperation and efforts to accommodate community members throughout the project.

Following the presentation, the public was invited to take part in a ribbon-cutting at the intersection of Elm and Vine streets. Tours of the streetscape project were also available. The festivities concluded with music by Fusion in the summer’s first concert in the “Playin’ on the Plaza” series.



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