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Let's Catch Up - May 2022

OMG! WHAT’S THAT SMELL? I think we can agree on this: A capital city that bills itself as a world-class community shouldn’t harbor “gag-me” odors on still mornings. Or any mornings. Des Moines has no legal definition of a nuisance odor or what constitutes a nuisance odor, but we’re about to attempt to clear the air. Sometime this fall, the City Council is expected to enact odor regulations and guidelines. The goal is to set a baseline for acceptable odor and ask companies to take steps to meet that goal.

In preparation, on May 16, Suresh Relwani, a principal with RK and Associates of Warrenville, Illinois, begins hands-on training of City neighborhood inspectors on odor science, odor sources, detection, and industrial monitoring. Neighborhood Services staff has identified ten odor-producing sources dotting our city.

In part 2 of the training, City staff are sorted by odor sensitivity to identify the best candidates for conducting field monitoring and responding to odor complaints. Those with a nose for this job learn how to locate an odor source, produce a quantitative number, and determine probable composition.

“We’ll train the staff on the scientific perspective and what is acceptable,” Suresh says. “Every odor can’t be a nuisance.” Part of the training includes learning how to use an olfactometer. (The photo above shows one model.) The New York Times recently profiled one model, the Nasal Ranger. Suresh and staff plan to remain in Des Moines for several days to collect samples, then return in August for another round of sampling before finalizing a report to the City Council.

HUGE UPGRADE FOR DOWNTOWN PARKING The long-awaited replacement of downtown parking meters, with 3,406 space identification markers and 400 pay stations, is underway. As of May 6, 1363 meters have been swapped out, and 223 pay stations activated. (The photo, bottom left, is along Water Street.) City Traffic Engineer John Davis expects an early July completion for the $3.2 million upgrades.

With the new scheme, individuals can pay for parking using a nearby pay station (quarters or credit card accepted) or the ParkDSM mobile app. John Davis reports that about 54% of the 2,700 payments have been via the mobile app, available for Android or iOS.

John Solarz and his team at NowNow LLC created the ParkDSM branding.

(I used the technology—and it works easy-peasy as promised! After you download the app, add your credit card info and provide license plate details on your family’s vehicle; it saves time.)

Why the roll-out delay? Besides the pandemic-induced supply-chain-related holdups, the first shipment of space identification markers was lost in transit—the driver, truck, and cargo just disappeared. Poof! Theft at the terminal of origin is highly suspected.


Firefighter Katherine Hoffman, foreground, was one of 17 new Des Moines firefighters sworn in on April 15 at ceremonies at the Fire Administration, Maintenance, and Training Facility on East Dean Avenue. With recent additions, Fire Chief John TeKippe hopes for his department to be at the authorized strength of 312 personnel, an increase of six by the latest City-approved budget.

Katherine was one of four women in the class—the largest female representation among 97 academy classes.

The City’s Human Resources department, Civil Service Commission, and Des Moines Fire Department (DMFD) are reviewing applicants previously certified by other fire departments for an academy class to begin in August. They are expected to join the department in late November. This would be DMFD’s first pre-certified class.

The 98th Fire Academy started training in January and is scheduled to graduate in early 2023.


Two fire department enhancements rolled out as part of the November 2021 opening of Station 11 will be embraced for all DMFD stations.

The $8.3 million Fire Station 11 at Northeast 42nd Avenue uses a direct-capture device that connects to the fire engine to trap vehicle exhaust when preparing to leave on an alarm, and disconnects when leaving the station. It’s pretty slick to watch the device in action.

A second big change: The DMFD now provides a second set of firefighting gear for all personnel, including firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics. This allows personnel to clean cancer-causing agents from their gear after a call without incurring downtime. “We will do this over more than one budget cycle, so it becomes a regular replacement cycle,” Chief TeKippe says. “It takes advantage of gear with years of remaining useful life and avoids a massive replacement cost several years from now.”

Safety enhancements like these are part of the template for upcoming station designs,” Chief John TeKippe says. “We are also working to see what improvements we can retrofit into stations that will not be replaced for some time.” Before opening Station 11, the newest fire station was Station 1 at 1330 Mulberry, which opened in 2013. Station 4, at 917 University, is the next station slated for replacement; site acquisition, design, award, and construction are projected for 2024 or 2025. Station 4 would continue to be fully staffed while a new station is designed and constructed. Fire medic Tyler Mark created this Station 11 virtual tour. You can schedule an in-person tour for yourself or a group at Station 11 or any station. Contact Lieutenant Rick Thomas at 515-979-6438 or the neighborhood station you wish to visit. SOUND THE ALARM! FREE SMOKE DETECTOR REPLACEMENT FOR TWO NEIGHBORHOODS

When Susan and I were rudely awakened at 4 a.m. one recent morning with four—count ‘em!—direct-wired smoke detectors screaming at us, we dialed 911 and waited outside for a DMFD crew to roll out. Turned out, we were clueless that this is how smoke detectors react when they reach the end of their life expectancy. Who knew that you should replace them every seven to 10 years?

Lieutenant Joe Van Haalen, first out of the truck, nicely explained that when one such direct-wired detector fails, they all join in the chorus. Now we know! It’s not just about the batteries!

On Saturday, May 14, the Indianola Hills and McKinley-Columbus Park neighborhoods are scheduled to host the National Sound the Alarm Event, a free smoke detector installation program organized by the Red Cross, DFMD, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The 115-plus volunteers aim to install dual-sensor (carbon monoxide and smoke) alarms at each home on the appointment list: 300 detectors in one day. Make an appointment today by calling 833-422-1751.


Within the next few weeks, expect to see the remaining trailers crushed and scraped from a troublesome mobile home park near Park and Indianola avenues. Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) Executive Director Abbey Gilroy reports that plans are underway for approximately 54 workforce housing units in two buildings.

The NDC, funded in part by the City of Des Moines, recently took over ownership of the two-acre property at 3140 Indianola Road. At the time of purchase, 27 families occupied 30 trailers; city and county staff helped residents relocate.

Because the park originated in the 1950s, before the property was annexed into the City limits, neighborhood inspectors had limited regulations to seek housing compliance.

The City of Des Moines and Polk County Supervisors played vital roles in providing the resources necessary to bring this long-discussed transformation to reality.


The new Metro Recycling Facility (MRF), just north of I-80/35 and the Iowa Highway 141 exit, has proven in five short months to be a game-changer in the recycling world.

This $28 million facility is part of the Metro Waste Authority (MWA) and its 16 member communities, with Adel and Waukee the newest additions.

Billed as one of the USA’s top recycling centers (on par with high-tech facilities in San Francisco and Chicago), the MRF has recycled more than 11,356 tons, primarily from curbside blue recycling bins. That’s the equivalent of 284 semi-trailers maxed to the weight limit.

The MRF processes 17 to 20 tons per hour, thanks to the no-wrap, non-round augers, which separate many materials before they reach the sorting team. The facility is only the second in the world to employ this technology, enabling it to have sold, in five months, about $1.7 million worth of aluminum, milk jugs, aseptic containers such as drink and milk cartons, paper, cardboard, and glass, 115% over budget. Many recycled products from the metro’s previous recycling center were not considered clean enough for purchase.

MRF vendors currently buy fifty-two 1,500-pound bales of aluminum cans each month; each bale represents about 70,000 cans.

MRF doesn’t just handle curbside recycling. For example, it collects pallets it sells by the trailer load. “We have customers lined up to buy as many pallets as possible,” Metro Waste Authority Executive Director Mike McCoy says. “Trucking companies are especially interested.”

One recent tour by a local breakfast group led to the opening of three new MRF accounts. Bob Tursi quickly signed up Exile Brewing to send broken bottles and cardboard directly to the MRF.

Expanding commercial accounts should help contain residential recycling fees, Mike adds. To schedule your tour, email Sarah Borzo, education and outreach coordinator, at:

Mike also reports that many residents are getting better at tossing approved products into recycling bins. The metro-wide contamination rate is 13–17%. However, Des Moines residents lag behind our suburban neighbors: blue-bin contamination in the capital city remains 17–19%. Most frequent banned products: plastic bags, diapers, and clothing.

If you place only qualified objects to be recycled in your bin, you can earn Gold Level distinction. Request an audit today; if you pass muster, you can have your bin’s blue recycling bin lid replaced with a gold one—and be a recycling example for your neighborhood.

Another MWA improvement: You no longer have to wait for the biweekly pickup to dispose of your recyclables. The MWA has opened 16 drop-off facilities around the metro for residents and businesses. Find them here. RIDESHARE VAN KEY TO AFGHAN JOBS AT MRF

Thanks to a DART RideShare van, Abdul-Nawid Mohabati and other Afghan refugees who work at the MRF should soon find it easier to get to their jobs.

Earlier this year, Abdul-Nawid and several refugee friends landed $16-an-hour sorter jobs at the MRF. But transportation was a hurdle.

MWA Executive Director Mike McCoy’s wife, Lisa, drove the group for the first few weeks. Then, Abdul-Nawid earned his driver's license. (A MRF employee loaned his car for Abdul-Nawid’s practice laps around the parking lot during lunch breaks.) Next, Metro Waste employees teamed up with DART to get him in line for a RideShare van.

Abdul-Nawid’s first RideShare trip is slated for May 27. His backup driver is an Afghan friend who served as an interpreter in their home country. In addition to being paid to pick up and ferry the other newly arrived Iowans for their MRF shifts, Abdul-Nawid receives 200 free personal miles per month with the RideShare van.

Abdul-Nawid’s journey provides a snapshot of how collaboration accomplishes great results in Des Moines.


In mid-April, four Des Moines high school athletes were part of a presentation seeking Prairie Meadows supporting dollars for the community stadium under construction for Drake University and Des Moines School District athletics. Teagen O’Brien, a North High sophomore soccer player, spoke first. “North isn’t known for much,” Teagan began. “We’re the high school that everyone looks forward to playing because they think we’re the easy team to beat.

“No, we’re the high school with a chip on all of our shoulders. The high school that works harder and pushes more than any other high school.

“Behind the scenes at practice, we’re going at it 110 percent all the time, every time. We don’t worry about what people say about us. We show up, do the right things, and be great people every day.

“This isn’t just a stadium for middle and high schoolers. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the start of a partnership between DMPS and Drake. It’s the start of something that can offer student-athletes like myself more opportunities to become D1, D2, or D3 athletes.

“If you build this stadium, we will be something.”

Good luck, Teagen. When the stadium is finished, you’ll be a senior and one of the first soccer teams on the pitch.

And good luck to all the Des Moines football, soccer, and band programs eagerly awaiting this community stadium, scheduled to open in Fall 2023.


Five people have been hired to the new Crisis Advocacy Response Effort (CARE) team, a Broadlawns Medical Center group expected to roll out this summer, responding to emergency calls where mental health is a factor.

Working out of the Des Moines police station, team members, including registered nurses, master’s-level psychotherapists, and social workers, participate in crisis-response training. “We will respond to all child, and adult mobile crisis requests through DMPD and other area law enforcement,” Broadlawns Administrator Steve Johnson says.

The City of Des Moines is funding two pediatric CARE clinician positions. (City funding was promised as part of the successful LOSST effort supported by AMOS and others.) “Both nurses have a great background in child mental health,” Steve says, adding that meetings are planned with Des Moines Public Schools staff to see how the program can assist with their child mental-health needs.

Three other CARE team members hold bachelor’s degrees with mental health experience. Referred to as CARE Crisis Advocates, they rotate between working in the DMPD dispatch room to determine the appropriate level of response to a call, and in the field with a CARE Pediatric Clinician. Dispatchers from the three Polk County communication centers—about 100 in all—have received 16 hours of mental health training to aid in the dispatch of the CARE members.

CARE adds to the existing Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT), which provides short-term on-site assessment and intervention in emergency situations. Des Moines Police Sergeant Lorna Garcia, who has worked with MCRT for more than five years, reports that a DMPD-added checkbox into the computer-aided call system prompts a dispatcher to transfer the call to a CARE Crisis Advocate if a call is determined to have a mental-health component.

Added tracking data should guide the CARE team on how the program should evolve. An ultimate goal of this new program is to handle such calls independently over the phone, saving time, money, and possible tragedy.

All CARE team members will drive unmarked vehicles and wear a Broadlawns lanyard and attire for identification.

NEW TRAIL MAPS ARE AVAILABLE The 2022 Greater Des Moines Regional Trails map is available at local bike shops and through Des Moines Parks and Recreation. This year’s edition, its 13th, has moved to a larger format and includes 50 updates and expanded trail detail. The Street Collective updates the map each year; more than 400,000 maps have been printed since its inception. This year’s version features Scott Bents with twin 4-year-old daughters biking on the Waveland Trail. Scott bikes the twins around Des Moines on an Urban Arrow Family electric cargo bike—yes, e-cargo bikes are now a thing in the cycling community. Dan Koenig at Ichi Bikes reports an uptick in e-cargo bike sales that matches national trends. The New York Times reports that e-cargo bikes are popular ways for parents to ferry kids.


“Hey, you can’t get any more local than me,” local artist Jimmy Navarro exclaims. When he sets up his Des Moines Arts Festival booth, scheduled for June 24–26 in Western Gateway Park, Jimmy, who paints at Crane Artist Lofts at 15th and Walnut streets, expects just a short walk. And this local artist might be walking on air about being juried into the prestigious show for the first time. He intends to have artwork from 5 x 7 inches to 60 x 60-inch canvases—something original to fit many pocketbooks.

“Last year was a really good year for me,” Jimmy says while detailing another canvas in his first-floor studio. “I’m 50 years old now, and I feel like things are finally coming to fruition. Everything I wanted at 25, I’m getting now.”

Liz Lidgett, who represents Jimmy at her East Village gallery, couldn’t be prouder.

“Jimmy has passion and energy that he channels into his beautifully vivid Plein-air paintings,” Liz says. “I’ll always be jealous of his ability to see something and perfectly represent it on canvas. We’ve done so many commissions and murals with Jimmy because he has this connection with his paintbrush to create whatever he decides.”

One of Liz’s favorite things about Jimmy’s work is his bold use of colors such as orange, hot pink, and purple skies and sunsets. “You feel like Jimmy captured a perfect moment in time when Mother Nature was really showing off,” she says.

Also, Jimmy’s 2021 larger-than-life murals wrapping around a cinderblock building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds caught the attention of many visitors. Here’s a time-lapse video of Jimmy’s work.

Jimmy often connects with the Iowa landscape and city views while running or biking. In 2020, he was part of Taylor Ross’ support crew when Taylor set an elapsed-time record for running across Iowa from Muscatine to Council Bluffs along Highway 92. “I filled up my smartphone with scenes I’m still painting,” Jimmy says of the nearly five days accompanying Taylor.

Before committing oil to canvas, Jimmy revisits some locations multiple times during the day to capture the changing light. One downtown Des Moines scene he is working on encapsulated 22 trips.

After the Des Moines festival, Jimmy will participate in the Door County Plein Air Festival,

followed by a three-week residency at White Rock Conservancy—all the makings of another good year for Jimmy.

Eric Burmeister, Polk County Housing Trust Fund; Angela Connolly, Polk County supervisor; and Michael Kiernan, a general partner, walk through the 6th Avenue Flats.


Located just north of University Avenue in the River Bend Neighborhood, the 6th Avenue Flats plans to begin leasing on June 30, after a November fire pushed the project back several months. City Council, county, and nonprofit leaders toured the site earlier after the fire damage was abated and construction crews were rolling again.

The project shows a preference for young adults aged out of foster care who have the ability and interest to enroll in the DMACC Urban Campus, blocks away. Youth and Shelter Services (YSS) will occupy first-floor offices in the five-story building. The remaining apartments will be leased to adults who earn 60% of the area median income, which is $54,780 for a family of four.

Many of the 38 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments have incredible views of the city. Five first-floor live-work lofts could appeal to retailers or entrepreneurs.

The Iowa Finance Authority, City of Des Moines, and Polk County Housing Trust Fund provided public financing.

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Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds
May 09, 2022

Great overview of current city developments.. especially liked the attached video of the mural. Thanks,

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