Manson is renovating
Time is right for Main Street project, town leaders say
MANSON — Residents and visitors to Manson are going to enjoy the benefits of some Main Street renovations this summer in the Calhoun County town’s downtown business district and have several new businesses and other improvements to be proud of in their community.
Thelma McGough, Manson Community Development director, said the Main Street renovation project is slated for the summer of 2018.
“Preliminary plans call for complete reconstruction of the street, curb, gutter and sidewalks,” she said. “Also, removal of existing canopies, replacement of underground utilities, the replacement of street lights and the traffic signal.”
The work, slated to start in March, will concentrate on Main Street between Ninth and 11th avenues.
Mayor Dave George said the City Council has wanted to work on the project for some time.
“Now is the right time, financially, to do this project and make this investment in Manson,” George said.
In addition, the town is also planning to start a street resurfacing program this year.
There have been other local changes as well.
The Senior Congregate Meals program has moved to a new location in the Manson Area Community Center.
“The MACC offers the seniors the use of a newly-renovated multipurpose space and adjoining lobby,” McGough said.
Seniors can also take advantage of the onsite fitness center. More parking space has been added and the kitchen has been upgraded meet state guidelines, she said.
Manson has also seen the addition of several new businesses and changes in ownership of some existing ones.
Kristin Gansz has opened Star Struck, a dance studio, in the former Pizza Ranch building.
“Kristin purchased the building and completely remodeled the space into a beautiful dance studio,” McGough said.
The Dollar General Store also opened on Iowa Highway 7 in the spring of 2017.
“Local residents comment that with Dollar General in town they now have the option to shopping local for a lot of their needs, making a trip to Fort Dodge unnecessary,” she said.
Deb Huntsinger has opened a business called Oceans Above in the Manson Mini Mall. She and her staff produce handmade pearl jewelry, much of which is marketed and sold online.
Heartland Market, formerly Affiliated Foods, has a new owner. Nick Graham, who owns several other grocery stores, purchased the business in 2017.
In addition, Fitgerald Welding, owned by Dan Fitzgerald, has recently purchased an additional building to expand his business.
McGough is also proud of the new electronic sign installed along Highway 7.
“It’s an ideal site for local nonprofits to display their upcoming event information,” she said.
Funding the sign was a community effort. The city of Manson, the Manson Chamber of Commerce, Manson Economic Development Corp., Manson Northwest Webster school, MACC and the Calhoun County Community Foundation all contributed funds to the project.
Students in the art department at MNW High School have been using their talents to create murals, ceiling panel paintings and artistic lettering in the halls of their school. Some of their work, has also migrated out of the school and is now adding to the decor in several other locations, including the Manson Public Library.
Library Director Laura Koons is happy to have the two works on display. One is hung behind the checkout counter. The other overlooks the children’s area. The paintings are the work of students Tiffany Espe and Andrea Lamphier.
“We were pretty excited,” she said.
Koons maintains a number of ongoing programs at the library to encourage community involvement.
One of the most recent was a tea party.
“We had a little tea party for the preschoolers,” Koons said. “The little girls got to dress up. We learned about tea etiquette and we made crowns to wear. It was a lot of fun.”
Of course there was some literature included in the event too.
“We read a story to them from the Fancy Nancy books,” she said.
Each Thursday night at the library features a different activity in which the library patrons can take part.
“The first Thursday is game night, the second is needle night, the third is readers circle, and then the fourth is game night again,” she said.
There are also special programs in the schedule.
On March 22 at 6:30 p.m., author Linda McCann will present a program on the Prohibition era. She is the author of “Prohibition in Eastern Iowa.”
Koons has been working to increase the number of large-print edition books in the library’s collection to benefit the adult readers. She also said that the demand for audio books is on the increase.
There’s something new and exciting at the Manson Fire Department too. It has recently added a fire boat to the equipment roster.
Assistant Fire Chief Dave Anderson said it will be used on nearby Twin Lakes.
“We’ve had a few house fires at Twin Lakes,” Anderson said. “A lot of them are so close to the water that you can’t get around to the front of them.”
The new boat will let the department fight any future house fires from the lake side in addition to the shore side, Anderson said. It will also be used for boat fires, water rescue operations and to help out at rural fires.
“During rural fires we can use it to fill tankers,” he said. “Now we have to take a pumper truck to the lake to fill them. When we are able to use the boat we can take that truck to the fire instead.”
Funding for the boat came through donations from Twin Lakes Restoration and Sherman Township. In addition, the Calhoun County Community Foundation provided a $5,000 matching grant to help with the project.
The Fine Arts Department at the MNW High School isn’t the only one being busy this school year. Principal Kevin Wood said the school is committed to its students and the community.
One of the ways that is achieved is by providing continuity from the elementary level through high school with programs such as the Gateway program for seventh- and eighth-grade students which builds on Project Lead the Way at the elementary level.
“They look at pre-engineering concepts, automation, robotics and basic computer programming,” Wood said. “Beyond that, our ninth- to 12th-grade students can participate in the technical challenge.”
That program lets the students design and build a robot to perform a specific task. The students then get to compete against other students’ robots in district and state competitions.
Manson’s school district enjoys a reputation of respect and admiration through the area.
“The big thing for us is we make it work for the kids, we make it work for the staff,” he said. “It’s a friendly environment with everyone willing to help and go the extra mile.”
Manson is located on top of an ancient meteor crater that was covered up during the last ice age, and while there’s no actual crater to see, there is still an annual celebration to attend.
This year’s Manson Greater Crater days will held on June 22, 23 and 24.