Posted Online: July 06, 2010, 8:58 pm

Silvis council hears audience growing for local gardens

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By Seth Kabala,

A national audience soon will get the chance to see the efforts of Silvis gardeners up close and personal.

Silvis Garden Club President Kathy Hall told city council members Tuesday night that Dr. Laurie Harmon, an assistant professor at George Mason University's school of recreation, health and tourism, had contacted her about a club exhibit.

"She asked the garden club to send her some pictures of our gourd tunnel in the various stages, and they want to feature that in a national magazine," Ms. Hall said.

The magazine is a National Park & Recreation Association publication, she said, with credit given to Silvis garden club members for the photos.

The gourd tunnel is an elongated arch of several wires with gourds planted at the base. As they grew, the gourds snake up the metal frames and eventually enclose the entire structure in a translucent covering, creating the "tunnel" effect.

In other business:

-- Council members approved architectural fees of no more than $86,000 for the city's new fire station to Bracke Hayes-Miller-Mahon. Ald. Jim Cramblett, 3rd Ward, said the city is once again looking at the $1.2 million dollar version of the fire station, the one that was axed in favor of a $600,000 version when a FEMA grant fell through earlier this year. The costlier version includes restrooms, offices and training facilities, prompting $39,000 more in architectural fees. Ald. Barb Fox, 2nd Ward, said it appears the Tax Increment Finance District 1 will have sufficient funds to justify the original version of the station.

-- Ald. Fox said the city will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on July 20 for additional appropriations to the city budget. They include roof repairs to city hall and the public safety building; both are leaking, she said.

-- City engineer Roger Geiken said longer than expected lead time for materials, specifically poles and lamps, has forced the 1st Avenue lighting project not to start until after the Moonlight parade in August. "What we don't want is a project that is partially constructed with as many people as we're going to have in the downtown area," he said. "We don't want them stumbling over the construction site."