Spencer City Council Chambers sign

Mayor: Yield, stop and wait for pedestrians at flashing lights on Grand Avenue

Spencer city officials have a message for drivers on Grand Avenue: Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists at the two flashing lights crosswalks on that street. Officials spoke out Tuesday at the Spencer City Council meeting following a collision between a bicycle and vehicle at the South Grand crosswalk earlier that day. 

“We had a very unfortunate bicycle accident on South Grand Avenue recently,” Mayor Kevin Robinson said. “And it was at the intersection where the lights are.”

The flashing lights are located on both sides of the street at two locations, one on South Grand and another on North Grande. “It’s an extremely dangerous four-lane (street) to cross, especially early evening or afternoon as people are going,” Robinson said. Robinson asked Spencer Police Chief Mark Warburton what drivers are supposed to do at those flashing light crosswalks.

Glass Block Hallmark building

Game State moving into former Hallmark building

After years of sitting empty, the former Hallmark building on Grand Avenue is getting a new resident. Game State will be moving to the new location on September 1.  

Game State is a store in downtown Spencer specializing in board games, card games, table-top games, and game accessories. Aside from selling games, Game State hosts open gaming and game tournaments.  

Game State opened in November of 2014 at their current location, 8 W 5th St in Spencer.  Over the last six years, the store has grown in popularity in the community and surrounding area. With their popularity it was time for the store to grow.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

City to purchase new mosquito sprayer, apply for traffic light grant

Spencer’s getting a new piece of equipment for its annual mosquito battle. On Monday, the Spencer City Council approved the purchase of a London Foggers Model 18-20/GPS Mosquito Sprayer for $15,940. The purchase was identified in this year’s capital improvement plan, but only for $14,500. The rest of the money will be covered through the public works equipment reserve. According to an agenda memo, because the project is over budget, a budget amendment will likely be needed.

OPINION: Spencer needs to hear what protesters have to say

Spencer needs to hear what Thursday’s protesters have to say. If you don’t know, there’s a peaceful protest planned for 5 p.m. Thursday in Spencer. Protesters will gather at East Leech Park and march on the sidewalks of Grand Avenue to the Spencer Police Department, where they will share their message before heading back. The protest is called the March For Justice For George Floyd on its public Facebook event page. 

The group’s purpose is made clear in the event description: “We will march and stand as one community to fight racism and call for the Minneapolis Police Department to prosecute the officers involved with the MURDER of George Floyd. Demand justice.

5:13, 513 S Grand Ave., was open Thursday for the first time in two months.

Spencer bars ready for nightlife to return

Kay Meyer was more than ready to reopen her bar Thursday afternoon. Like other bar owners throughout Iowa, Meyer, owner of 5:13 at 513 S Grand Ave. in Spencer, has had to keep her establishment closed to guests since March 17. That was the day Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered restaurants, bars and many other businesses to close to the public as part of a declaration intended to slow community spread of COVID-19. A later order allowed bars and similar establishments, such as breweries and wineries, to sell drinks to-go.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

Architecture firm to prepare design guidelines for Grand Avenue Historic Commercial District

A Mason City architecture firm will begin preparing design guidelines for the Grand Avenue Historic Commercial District. The Spencer City Council on Monday approved with a 7-0 vote an agreement with Bergland and Cram to create the guidelines. The discussion about the need for guidelines began, City Manager Amanda Mack told the council, after a “rather intense” discussion about murals on commercial buildings. “Painful,” said Bill Orrison, Ward 2 council member, regarding those mural discussions. The new guidelines will provide business and property owners with guidance on certain topics, such as murals, replacing windows and more.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

ATVs, golf carts to be allowed on city streets effective May 27

ATVs and golf carts will be legal to drive on city streets effective May 27. On Monday, the Spencer City Council voted 7-0 to approve the third and final filing of two sets of ordinance revisions that make those vehicles street legal on all city streets but not state highways in town. City Manager Amanda Mack said the city will work to spread awareness of the rules, including who may drive the vehicles and how to do so legally. 

Ward 4 City Councilman Donavan Wunschel suggested the city do more to share what is allowed under the ordinances. He added that there was confusion about the golf cart ordinance in the community. “We’ve got a lot of young, under age 16 kids thinking they’re going to drive (golf carts) and we definitely don’t want that,” Wunschel said. 

Mayor Kevin Robinson said the city would undertake a media campaign to “get the rules out.”

Golf cart ordinance revisions

The revisions to city code affecting golf carts now allow golf carts to be driven on city streets, but not state highways 18 and 71.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

Large increase in cost estimate spurs Grand Avenue traffic signal replacement study

Though the city hopes to update traffic signal timing systems on Grand Avenue in the next few years, a steep increase in the expected cost has led the city to take a closer look at its options. On Monday, the Spencer City Council voted 7-0 to have Bolton and Menk conduct a review of the signal timing and equipment for $7,000. “The Grand Avenue signals have been on the (capital improvement plan) for several years,” City Manager Amanda Mack said. “I think we’ve annually budgeted about $90,000 for them and they’re coming to the end of their life. And when we went to update the CIP this year, (the cost) jumped from $90,000 to about $200,000.”

The city plans to “update the obsolete traffic controllers in the Grand Avenue corridor” in fiscal year 2022, an agenda item memo states.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

Council approves first filing of new microbreweries, microwineries and microdistilleries ordinance

Like a bad batch of beer, some ordinances apparently are best dumped and brewed fresh. The Spencer City Council did just that last week when it voted 5-1 to approve the first filing of a clarified ordinance that would allow microbreweries, microwineries and microdistilleries downtown and other areas as a permitted use. The council flushed a previous version of the ordinance last month. City staff had said the ordinance needed clarified language and other improvements. The purpose of the ordinance is to make it easier for someone to open a microbrewery, microwinery or microdistillery in downtown and other areas around Spencer.

From left to right: Scott Simpson, Kerri Sirovy, Katy Petersen, Katie Techen, Teresa Ohnesorge, Diane Higgins. Missing: Jon Coulander, Bill Weisbrod and Alison Simpson

Community Insurance puts emphasis on giving back

Scott Simpson’s favorite part of working in the insurance industry is being there for people. “I love helping people and working with people,” said Simpson, owner and president of Community Insurance. “My slogan has always been ‘Insurance stinks until you need it.’ It’s great when you can work with people and when something does go wrong, you’re there to help them through the situation. Whether it’s a fire, or hailstorms, accidents, just to be there to help people put things back together, that’s what brings real enjoyment.”

Community Insurance provides personal, business and farm insurance to customers mostly within a 60-mile radius of Spencer. Lately, the agency has stood out due to its remodeled office at 315 Grand Avenue.