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Surpassing Goals! 

Posted on 10/13/2023 at 10:36 AM

Imagine Grinnell and its 1000 Trees initiative are about to surpass their goal of planting 1,000 trees tomorrow! Between the derecho and the emerald ash borer, nearly 30% of Grinnell's trees have been lost over the past few years. What felt like only days after the 2020 Derecho, a group of community members came up with a goal to plant 1,000 trees as a way to replenish trees in the community. 


I'm sure there were many times in those early days that 1,000 trees felt like an incredible lofty - and perhaps unattainable - goal, but with perseverance and dedication from the organization, its volunteers and community supporters, they will be planting the 1,000th tree tomorrow, Saturday, October 14. A public event will take place at Merrill Park beginning at 11AM, and community members are invited to attend and celebrate this special planting. 


This is yet another example of the good that can happen when people rally around a common goal, and I'm so grateful to groups like these folks who had a vision to improve our community and gain back some of its precious tree canopy. Kudos to the IG team and its army of volunteers for meeting their goal, in turn beautifying our community for generations to come - we hope! ;) 

Are You a Good Communicator? 

Posted on 10/06/2023 at 10:37 AM

'Your communication is persuading your audience to either listen or tune out - which do you prefer?' I don't know about you, but I sure hope it's the first and not the latter. Next week we'll host our fall keynote in our Connecting for Women series and the session will focus on tips to becoming a more magnetic communicator - something incredibly prevalent in our everyday lives. From communicating with colleagues, to family members and friends, potential customers and everyone in between - communication is key. 


October is recognized as National Woman Owned Business Month, and I can think of few ways better to celebrate than by hosting this keynote event, and recognizing some awesome female entrepreneurs in our community. There's still time to get your tickets to the event and join us as we welcome our speaker, Tina Bakehouse. 


Tina is an Iowa native who works with others to share their stories with confidence and communicate effectively, both in business and interpersonally. She will join us next week, and we are excited to be welcoming her to Grinnell. Find more information on our keynote and event HERE


Whether you join us in person next week or not, I hope you'll take some time to recognize and congratulate some of the many women owned businesses in our community this month!

Let's Go Fly a Kite! ♪♪

Posted on 09/29/2023 at 10:39 AM


Ah, the memories that song brings back. As a youngster, I would stay at my grandparents' house for sleepovers and my grandmother was constantly singing songs, including that Mary Poppins' favorite as she'd put the record on the turntable. If you're in the market for something to do this weekend, you should check out the Kites Over Grinnell event sponsored by Grinnell Rotary Club. The event kicks off at 10AM tomorrow morning at Ahrens Park with kites flying through 4PM. Plus, a NEW take with a 'night glow' from 7-9PM is sure to be a fan favorite! 


The weather looks to be a last hurrah for summer which will aid in a great day for kite making, flying and watching - the day is sure to impress the novice and experienced kite flyers alike. Special thanks to the Rotary Club for their sponsorship of this event, and to the Lions Club and Vintage Auto Club for their work to bring events to the community over the past month or so as well - events like this truly take a village. While community members are actively looking for things to do, I hope you'll consider taking part in these events and - as importantly - thanking these groups' members for their time and efforts to add vitality to our community. 


p.s. Don't forget - if you or someone you know is new to the community, we invite you to join us free of charge for a New Resident Welcome event next Tuesday, October 3 from 5-7PM in Central Park.

Are You New Here? 

Posted on 09/22/2023 at 10:40 AM

Have you ever moved to a new place and felt it was really hard to get connected? Perhaps you are new to Grinnell and experiencing this exact feeling. Or perhaps you're new to the community but just want to know more about things taking place. Either way, if you have moved to Grinnell in the past 18 months, we invite you to join us for a NEW event to welcome NEW residents to the community! We are partnering with Community Greetings - Grinnell to host a New Resident Welcome on Tuesday, October 3 from 5-7PM.


Attendees will be able to connect with other new residents, and learn more about area organizations, volunteer opportunities, businesses and general community information. All attendees will receive a free meal, courtesy of Grinnell Hy-Vee! If you are new to Grinnell, or know someone new, would you please invite them to attend this event? RSVP's are strongly encouraged for planning purposes.  


We also have a limited number of vendor spots remaining. If your business or organization is interested in getting in front of new residents, you can find that information HERE. If your business is willing to support this event in other ways, please reply to this email so we can get you connected! 


Whether you've been here for a few days or a few months now, we want new Grinnellians to join us to get better connected! We look forward to officially welcoming you to Grinnell on October 3. 

What's With All The Spray Paint? 

Posted on 09/08/2023 at 10:41 AM

If you've walked or driven around downtown recently, you've likely seen quite a few spray painted numbers along the roads, all in different colors. I'll be honest, the first day I saw it I walked in and asked my team if we were working on an event I wasn't aware of - HA! They confirmed we were not, in fact, out spray painting numbers along the sidewalks but instead the City crews are working to locate areas for improvement.  


Believe it or not, the downtown streetscapes first started their renaissance nearly 20 years ago! In 2005, the first streets were completed, taking a major step toward further enhancing the heart of our community. Since that time, the entire central business district - 4 additional phases of construction - has been completed and truly has made an incredible impact. And now it's time for some routine maintenance of the roads, sidewalks and curbs in downtown. The crews have begun identifying these locations, and work is expected to begin next year to address the problem areas. We'll plan to give you an update and reminder next year as the work is set to begin! 


So don't be alarmed the next time you are out and about downtown when you see numbers everywhere, and as you hear people asking about it you can help share the plan and timeline! 


Play Outside! 

Posted on 09/01/2023 at 10:42 AM


Did you know that tomorrow is National Play Outside Day? What a perfect way to kick off a long holiday weekend, and a great opportunity to get outdoors and explore our local parks. We have beautiful public parks, a disc golf course and the hard-surfaced recreation trail that runs to Rock Creek State Park. Krumm Preserve is just a short drive southwest of town, and has wonderful walking trails and shelters. If you're looking for something different, check out the Grinnell College Golf Course for some outdoor time on the links. 


If parks aren't your thing, perhaps taking a leisurely walk downtown would be something you would enjoy. The flowers are still looking gorgeous as the seasons begin to transition to fall. They truly do provide a beautiful backdrop to these - what I anticipate will be - last few summer days. 


Tomorrow is expected to be a warm one, so make sure to take water and stay hydrated while you're out exploring! Wishing you all a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend. 

Ready for Phase 2

Posted on 05/30/2023 at 3:27 PM

Several months ago now, we asked you to participate in the Build a Better Grinnell effort by completing the 'Visioning Survey' to share your thoughts on how we can work collectively to make Grinnell a better place to live, learn, work and play. Boy, did you show up! We heard from hundreds of people chiming in with their ideas, challenges and opportunities. So now it's time for Phase 2! 


The project team has compiled the results and is now asking community members to rank the top needs. This new survey asks you to rank your top 7 issues from the list of needs generated from the initial surveying. The committee asks that you rank the issues that impact you most directly; not what you believe to be the perceived needs or desires of the community. This round of surveying is live now through the end of June, and we hope you will not only complete the survey but share it with people you know and ask them to do the same to ensure we have wide community representation. To participate in this phase, click HERE

The committee is also hosting six community engagement sessions throughout June where people are invited to come and learn about the data collected in the Community Vision Survey, how issues will be prioritized through community participation and how to get involved. Sessions will be held at Drake Community Library in the Caulkins Community Room on the following days: 

  • Thursday, June 1 12-1 PM
  • Friday, June 2: 5:15-6:15 PM
  • Saturday, June 3: 10-11 AM
  • Monday, June 5: 5-6 PM
  • Tuesday, June 13: 12-1 PM (food provided)
  • Thursday, June 22: 5-6 PM (food provided)


Future phases of the Build a Better Grinnell project will work to examine possible solutions to the prioritized issues (phase 2 survey) and develop working groups and action plans to address them. If you are interested in learning more about this project, you may visit the project website or simply reply here and we'll help get you connected. 


As a member of the steering committee, we appreciate your willingness to share your perspective to help ensure our community comes together to address opportunities. 

May Water Treatment Plant Update

Posted on 05/18/2023 at 4:16 PM

As we learned earlier this year, the existing plant was designed to soften water using a zeolite system. The zeolite softeners (pictured right) are badly deteriorated and are no longer in operable condition. In their plans for the new water plant, the City is proposing a new treatment process - direct membrane treatment. Direct membrane treatment has water pumped directly from wells through membranes without additional pretreatment processes required. 

As the City is not currently using direct membrane treatment technology, the Iowa DNR requires a pilot study in order to confirm the effectiveness of direct membrane treatment with Grinnell’s specific raw water characteristics. The pilot study became fully operational earlier this month and will last for three months.

After the pilot study is complete, the membranes will be autopsied to evaluate presence of fouling (buildup of particulate material on the membrane such as limescale, mineral deposits, etc.) to determine the condition of the membranes and efficacy of this treatment process. At that point, new membranes can be installed in the pilot and the pilot can be manipulated to optimize performance for treatment of Grinnell’s raw water. Information gathered from the pilot study will be used to design the full-scale water treatment plant.

Below are pictures of the pilot study. We'll share more information on the Water Treatment Plant process as it becomes available.




Grinnell Water Treatment Plant Update

Posted on 02/13/2023 at 9:50 AM

Ambassadors recently visited the Grinnell Water Treatment Plant. We’ve been hearing a lot of feedback about the city’s water quality and in particular, the softening system. Our visit was incredibly insightful and while soft water is very important from a quality of life perspective, it’s one of many critical issues that also need to be addressed at the water treatment plant. We’ll touch on the status of the softening system along with more information about the other updates planned.


 Softener Status
Like many communities across the country, the City of Grinnell’s water treatment infrastructure is well past its prime. According to Water Department Director Jordon Altenhofen, there are no physical records that date the specific building of the current water plant but estimates put it at 80+ years old and its most recent upgrades were done in the 1990s. The Water Treatment facility utilizes zeolite softening primarily for hardness removal. This system is similar to your home water softener but on a much bigger scale. The steel tanks pictured are where the water and salt mix before it goes through the chemical treatment process. Grinnell’s facility has limited treated water storage (more on this tomorrow) so the tanks, when in use, also worked as limited additional capacity for our system. To do this, they were constantly full and under increased pressure. Salt water and steel don’t mix well, so repairs have been made over the years until recently. The quality of the steel has deteriorated to the point where patches can no longer be made. The softeners were taken offline in the Spring of 2022. It’s important to note that Grinnell’s water, while hard, is still safe to drink. The water is still being chemically treated before it arrives to residents.

So why not replace it? To replace the current tanks would cost in the millions. Our zeolite system is no longer the standard recommended practice for community water softening. The used salt water in the backwashing process inevitably makes its way to the wastewater system and ultimately put back into the environment. Should we continue to use the current softening system at the same levels of salt, we would be required to make additional updates to the wastewater plant to remove chlorides. Grinnell had budgeted to spend $238,000 on salt for FY ‘23, this money will instead be put towards improvements in the distribution systems. The City is looking to replace our current system with Membrane Treatment Technology. The new membrane system will also assist in the removal of more constituents like Gross Alpha Particles, Radium, Ammonia and others which are naturally occurring in the water pulled from our water source, the Jordan Aquifer. Once the new plant is online, it will produce high quality water that it will likely negate the need for in-home systems.

The City of Grinnell is working with McClure Engineering to study the community needs, develop a plan and design a new water treatment plant. Preliminary studies are being finalized and an initial plan will be presented to council in the near future. The current goal is to have the new plant on-line in 2026. Spending millions to do a temporary patch on existing, worn out equipment that will ultimately be rendered unusable is not recommended. Instead, the city will continue to operate with the softeners offline and will be putting its resources towards new water infrastructure for the City of Grinnell.


Capacity Issues
As mentioned above, Grinnell has limited capacity to store treated water. The Grinnell water tower was built in 1926 and holds 300,000 gallons of treated water. Grinnell uses, on average, 1.2 million gallons of water per day. The Iowa DNR recommends that cities be able to hold enough treated water to service community needs for 24 hours. If you do the math, that means Grinnell currently has enough storage to hold roughly 6 hours of water for the town, should the plant ever need to be taken offline. We’ll address one of the reasons the plant may need to come offline in Saturday's post.

As part of the new water treatment plant plans, the city is planning to build a new water tower on the south side of town. Current designs for the new tower estimate it will hold 1 million gallons of treated water. The new plant will also have additional on-site storage of 0.3 million gallons. Those two, paired with the existing tower which holds 0.3 million gallons, equal a grand total of 1.6 million gallons of stored, treated water. This puts us above the DNR recommendation and allows for business and residential growth of the community.

When Grinnell lost power for a week after the derecho, the water treatment plant did not have a whole building generator that allowed them to continue operations of the entire facility. Instead, they utilized a Cummins diesel engine that was used to supply one of the pumps with rotation. This process must be manually monitored by staff but does get the water from the wells into the lines to be treated. A second Honda generator then powered the chemical feed pumps to treat the water before it was pushed out into the service lines. While this system does work, it is certainly not ideal. The new plant will have a better power backup system that will allow for more automation and supply the entire facility with power in the event the plant loses access to its main power supply again.

Lead Line Problems
Another key piece of the water process is getting treated water to businesses and residents. Grinnell has 65 miles of water service lines! Approximately 17 miles of this was built in 1930 or before, with some systems dating pre-1900s. Grinnell has just shy of 500 fire hydrants, 1,300 main valves and around 3,300 home/business connections. Based on records, the city knows that at minimum 30% of the home/business connections are still lead lines. Their staff estimates that the actual number is closer to 50%. After the Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, the EPA is updating their standards and is phasing out the use of lead water lines. A new ordinance has been introduced to the city’s code that would require the replacement of any lead service lines in the event of a leak or break. The replacement cost for updating this infrastructure averages approximately $6,000. Important to note: the city is not requiring property owners to make updates if there is not a current issue.

To help offset the cost of replacement, Grinnell City Council recently approved an agreement with HomeServe (Service Line Warranties of America) to offer insurance to Grinnell property owners. This insurance would cost property owners around $6-7 per month and will pay for repairs per incident up to $8,500 with no deductible after 30 days from the start of the insurance. Property owners should expect to begin to see letters in the mail from HomeServe by the end of February or beginning of March. We encourage you to check with your local insurance provider to see what options may be available on your current policy.

The city has both electronic and paper records of work done to about ⅓ of properties in Grinnell over the years. If you’d like to learn more about your own property, please contact Altenhofen at 641-236-2635 or email

It’s important to note that water department staff test approximately 20 water sources a year and while some lead is detected, it is under the current allowable EPA guidelines. Lead can be found in internal pipes and faucets in addition to the service line from the main to the house. If residents are interested in testing their water, Altenhofen recommended working with Keystone Labs in Newton. Tests cost $25.25 and can tell property owners if lead is present, though not its exact source. Contact Altenhoven or Keystone Labs to learn more about testing.


Pipe Gallery Issues
Arguably the most critical piece of infrastructure updates needed is to the pipe gallery. Pictured is the ductile, mechanical “Y” in the pipe gallery. This section of the pipe is responsible for carrying water that has been chemically treated from the water plant out into the main line distribution system through town. This is the only source of connection between the treated water and the rest of the community water lines. As you can see, the pipe is in incredibly poor condition. Should it break or leak, the water tower would inevitably drain back into the building and the water department would presumably lose its capability to operate.

To repair or replace this piece, the water treatment plant would need to be offline for multiple weeks. If you’ll remember back to Thursday’s post, Grinnell currently has about 6 hours of water on standby. Unfortunately, Grinnell happens to be located in a deadzone for other water suppliers. Rural water suppliers do not have enough pressure or flow to connect to Grinnell and fully service the community.

Altenhofen and his team have come up with an emergency by-pass connection they’re hoping to have online later this year. A small substation will be built in the parking lot south of the plant. This substation will take untreated water, treat it with chlorine, and utilize the existing wells to push the treated water into the water tower which will then go out to the rest of the community. This plan allows for the water treatment services to remain online in the event of the Y bend failure.

The new water treatment plan will be built on the east side of the property where the current plant is located. Once built, the current plant will not be needed. The new plant will have built in bypass systems to allow for the repair of sections if needed.



Well Information
Before we wrap up this series, we want to take a moment to say thank you to Water Department Director Jordon Altenhofen for his time and willingness to share more information with our Chamber members and community at-large. Jordan has been in his role for almost two years and it’s safe to say he has his work cut out for him as he and his team navigate this complex work. 

Grinnell currently has 5 wells to the Jordan Aquifer. Well 5 & 6 are about 50 feet apart and are located on the property where the plant currently sits. These wells were drilled over 100 years ago. Well 7 was drilled in the 1950s and is located by First State Bank. Well 8 was drilled in 1974 and is located on the Public Services Department property. Well 9 was drilled in 2002 and is near Lake Nyanza.

In addition to the updates we’ve already mentioned this week, the new water treatment plant will require a new well to be drilled while wells 5 & 6 would be taken offline. Well 10 is expected to be drilled on site with the new plant. The option to add an additional well near Hazelwood Cemetery is being explored, should additional community growth increase water needs.

The Iowa DNR requires new water plants to be able to service communities and their possible expanded growth for 20 years. Altenhofen estimates that Grinnell’s new plant will have enough capacity addition options that it should be able to service Grinnell for the next 50 years. The new plant (and all the pieces of infrastructure it will require) is estimated to cost north of $30 million.

City of Grinnell and McClure Engineering are reviewing the final studies and wrapping up the initial plans. We will continue to share updates from the city over the coming months.

Be Like Brent 

Posted on 12/16/2022 at 10:47 AM

Have you ever thought of the impact your dollars have when you shop locally? Really actually thought about it? Your dollars can be recirculated in a much more meaningful and impactful way when spent locally! 

Yesterday, my friend Brent shared his afternoon of shopping Grinnell on social media. Wow - what an impact he had on our community in just one afternoon! Showcasing stop after stop, and giving kudos to the amazing individuals he encountered in each location, his dollars are going to be recirculating in our community in the very near future. Heck, they probably already have! 

If you don't want to Be Like Brent, and showcase your shopping experience online, that's okay but please, please consider supporting our small, locally owned businesses however you can. The dollars you spend with them will recirculate far more quickly right here in our own community than if you choose to purchase online or outside the community. And I know - it may be 'easier' to shop online, but ask yourself this - does Jeff Bezos really need your support? Will he invest in our community when we need help with a community project or infrastructure, or will he come to the table when our local businesses need financial support? 

Please Be Like Brent, and shop Grinnell first this holiday season! It truly does make an impact!! 


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