Monday, January 24, 2022

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Once Upon A Time

From the Des Moines City Council minutes


100 years ago (September 1915):
First item of business of the month: Moved and carried, “that the City Hall be closed Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 1, to give the employees a chance to attend the Fair.” Later, a claim presented from Department of Public Safety for “the sum of $305.30 for detective service during State Fair.” (Buying power of $305.30 in 1915 is equal to $7,213 today.) The State Fair closed the Sunday before Labor Day then, in later years on Sunday a week before Labor Day, and now it ends on the Sunday two weeks prior.

Two communications received and filed regarding the proposed streetcar franchise — one from “jobber’s committee” of the Chamber of Commerce and another from H. E. Teachout and the East Des Moines Commercial Club. A resolution by Mayor Hanna relative to fixing capitalization of the street railway system presented, voted upon, and lost. Resolution passed establishing a committee composed of Mr. Chapman from Des Moines Street Railway Company, Mr. Reed of the Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Byers, counsel of the City, all appointed to confer and write a new section for “street car ordinance” regarding capitalization. (Apparently, the “east side” not represented on the committee?)

City Engineer “authorized and directed to purchase two pair of rubber boots, same to be used by the Inspector and Assistant Inspector of ‘Pumping Stations and Septic Tanks’ in their work at the Thirtieth Street Pumping Station.” Other business, Department of Streets and Public Improvements authorized to purchase “five pairs of rubber boots to be used in carrying on the work of the department.”

End-of-month “Pay rolls, presented by the various departments,” as follows: “Department of Public Affairs…$3,349.77” (about equal to $79,000 today) “…Accounts and Finances… $1,182.32” (about $28,000 today) “…Public Safety… $9,290.45” (about $219,500) “…Parks and Public Property… $1,105.69” (more than $26,000) “…Streets and Public Improvements… $9,683.56” (about $228,800) “Total $24,611.79” (about $581,500 in today’s monies).

50 years ago (September 1965):
Contract procedures were revised because of Dutch Elm disease requiring so many more trees to be “condemned as a public nuisance and ordered removed” — 32 locations this month. Future bid proposals are for 1,000 trees per bid, divided into four different diameters of trees, and are required to be cut within four inches of the ground.


Council approves “freeway construction from 44th Street to Cummins Parkway” with bridges at 56th Street and Polk Boulevard. Also, new “median” approved on Merle Hay Road from Douglas to 500 feet north of Madison Avenue.

A complaint filed with a request to “close the dump in the vicinity of Walnut Hill and 63rd street” led to an inspection which found “there are no licensed dumps in the area,” “no evidence of the disposal of garbage or refuse,” but “land fill work with materials such as brick, concrete and cinders is being done.” The complaint now “has been brought to the attention of the State Natural Resources Council, which regulates land filling adjacent to rivers and streams.”

Contract approved with M & H Wrecking, Co. for demolition of 718 Mulberry St., the St. Frances Apartment Building.

Resolution passed to begin hearings regarding bids for new Mulberry St. Parking Garage, estimated to cost $1,350,000. For financing the project, the City to issue revenue bonds bearing interest not to exceed 5 percent per year. (Cost equals about $10.25 million in today’s monies. Also, notice the next item related to this facility 25 years later in 1990.)

25 years ago (September 1990):
Mulberry Parking Garage Restoration project completed by Barton-Douglas Contractors who are due $11,513.24 for “costs of construction.” (That is about $21,000 today.)

Easter Lake Park Plat #2 at SE 28th and Watrous approved.

Communication from Mr. Denton resigning from “Citizen Odor Board.” Council Member Brooks requests copies of the Odor Board minutes for review. (Odor Board still exists today, busily sniffing out problems. Check out the City of Des Moines website for membership and activities.)

Legal Department approves payment of $4,645 to Des Moines Limousine Service and Richard H. Doyle IV, attorney, and $7,855 to David Miller and Richard H. Doyle IV, attorney, in conjunction with damages arising out of a collision between a police squad car and his limousine. (Total of $12,500 is about $22,800 today.)

Since the early 1960s, City has been authorizing “nuisance abatement” of trees infested with Dutch Elm disease. September 1990, it continues, but now City also condemning trees with Oak Wilt. CV

Steve Nelson-Vaux is a retired Iowa farmer-turned-library explorer and vintage prospector digging Des Moines’ and S.E. Polk’s historical aether-ore.

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