City Week

For one week every October, we take you behind the scenes in city departments to show you the important work that takes place to keep Johnston running well. Check out what we covered in 2016:

Friday, October 14: Community Development & Public Works Departments

The Johnston Community Development Department fosters a proactive approach to helping developers succeed that has led to more than $348 million worth of commercial construction and 135 new structures since 2000, an average of more than $23.2 million per year. During that same time period, more than 805 new townhome units, 1,600 condo/apartment units and 2,673 new single family residential dwelling units have been constructed. That's an average of more than 298 new dwelling units per year. Community Development is responsible for a wide range of services, including but not limited to:
  • Development and implementation of various long-range plans
  • Development and implementation of the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances
  • Provide staff support to the Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Adjustment and City Council
  • Reviewing development proposals for new construction
  • Building permitting and inspections
  • Code enforcement
  • Economic Development
If you have a construction project or development in Johnston, Community Development Director David Wilwerding oversees an expert staff that will see that your project moves through the process with ease. "The city strives to ensure all regulations are competitive and all review times are streamlined to ensure the development review process is completed in an efficient and timely manner. Staff stands ready and willing to work with developers on engineering solutions to assist in reducing the time and costs involved in developing a project," said Wilwerding.

In the fall of 2016, the Community Development Department expanded with the addition of Adam Plagge as the City’s new Economic Development Manager. Adam will develop, oversee and maintain the City’s economic development plan. He will conduct negotiations with developers, businesses, and others regarding the public participation necessary for desired economic development; perform tax and public benefit analyses for economic development projects; create and administer a city-wide business retention program; and serve as a central point of contact for businesses, developers and contractors who use City economic development services.
“Our focus is on attracting a variety of dining, entertainment and retail options as well as high quality jobs that will diversify Johnston’s tax base and encourage a high quality of life. I look forward to working with landowners and developers to unlock the resources needed to continue to build off the current progress Johnston is seeing on Merle Hay Road and elsewhere in the community,” said Plagge.
Community Development Department
The Public Works Department consists of streets, construction and stormwater observation, waste water, water, and traffic and facilities divisions.

The Department provides maintenance and service for streets, storm sewers, water and sewer lines, and city property. Department staff also maintains drainage ways, city facilities, and signs. In all, this includes, but is not limited to:

• 95 miles of streets or 234 lane miles in total
• 81 miles of sanitary sewer lines
• 1775 sanitary manholes
• 277 grinder pump assemblies
• 6 sanitary lift stations
• 151 miles of water mains
• 1,677 hydrants
• 1328 hydrant valves
• 1320 water main valves
• 4 water pump stations
• Three storage tanks that hold an estimated four million gallons of water
• 75 miles of storm sewer
• 1,454 storm sewer manholes
• 2681 storm sewer inlets

Administrative services for the department are performed by the director and administrative assistant. Customer service calls and other inquiries are received by the administrative staff and the necessary action is taken to respond to the situation.

Streets Division
When traveling on a city street, taking a stroll on a sidewalk, or going to the library, you are benefiting from services provided by the Johnston Public Works Department. Streets Division staff is responsible for cleaning, repairing and maintaining city streets, storm sewers, and rights of way. Snow removal is handled by the Streets Division with assistance from all Public Works Divisions as well as Parks Department staff. The Streets Division consists of seven employees and a Superintendent.

Construction and Stormwater Observation
Johnston is a growing community and with the growth comes construction. The activities included in this division are plan review, construction observation of all city infrastructure, sidewalk and driveway construction and replacement, right of way management, and contract services management.
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Water/Waste Water Division
The public works facility also houses the water/sewer maintenance division. When you turn on the water, this division assures that you receive safe drinking water. Likewise, when you use the washing machine or wash the dishes, this division is responsible for the handling of the waste water. The six employees and superintendent in the division maintain the entire necessary infrastructure related to water distribution and sanitary sewage collection. The Water/Waste Water Division also provides utility locating service for city-owned buried utilities and contract management for related improvements.

The community has approximately 81 miles of publicly owned sanitary sewer that the sewer department is responsible for maintaining. Tasks completed by the department include jetting sewer main, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) inspections of the sanitary sewer system, inspecting manholes, repairing manholes, maintaining pumps, repairing damaged sewer main, and various other duties.
The city is also a member of the Wastewater Reclamation Authority (WRA). The WRA is a regional sewer authority that is responsible for the treatment of wastewater that is created in the Des Moines Metropolitan Area. The wastewater that is generated by the city is transmitted to Des Moines to be treated at the Wastewater Reclamation Facility.
Traffic and Facilities
The traffic and facilities Division includes three staff. This division maintains traffic signals, traffic signing, street painting, and custodial/maintenance services for public buildings.

Thursday, October 13: Johnston Police Department

Thursday at noon we hosted our first "Tweet-Along" on the City of Johnston Twitter feed. We took you behind-the-scenes as two detectives took to the streets to find people of interest in various crimes. You can review the Tweets here.

For the first time ever, Police Chief Dennis McDaniel answered questions from his office at the Public Safety Building during a LIVE event on Facebook. You can still watch the interactive Q&A by visiting the City of Johnston Government Facebook page.

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Finally, we told residents about the Johnston Police Department's Adopt-A-School Program. The program is the result of an ongoing partnership between the Johnston Community School District and Johnston Police Department. The goal of the program is to provide Johnston elementary schools with an approachable police presence that both strengthens community ties with Police and extends an added layer of security for the elementary schools. The program assigns each patrol officer working during school hours a specific elementary school in the district. Each officer, when not addressing priority calls, is present occasionally during the day to check on their assigned schools and to interact with the children and staff.
Officers may greet students during drop off and pick up, provide traffic control/enforcement, eat lunch with students, or simply walk the halls of their schools. This creates a visible presence at the schools and also cultivates a positive relationship between students, parents, the officer, and police department as a whole. Learn more about the JPD by visiting

Wednesday, October 12: Parks and Recreation Department

Head into the heart of Terra Park for brand new pictures of Johnston's largest park improvement project by watching this video.
Picture a beautiful eight acre fishing lake that will be surrounded by a great lawn for concerts and games, an open air amphitheater for large gatherings, a picnic pavilion, smaller shelters, a fishing pier, trails, children’s play structures that will be handicap accessible, and numerous native plantings. That is what the city of Johnston has planned for Terra Park, located at 6300 Pioneer Parkway.

One question we get a lot: "Will we be able to fish or boat on Terra Lake?" Here's the answer!

A new park, located in Crosshaven on the city's northwest side, is currently being constructed. Check out some of the progress to this neighborhood park in the photo below! Watch our Facebook page next week for more updated photos.
Tuesday, October 11: The Johnston-Grimes Metropolitan Fire Department

Tuesday morning, members of the Johnston-Grimes Metropolitan Fire Department performed water rescue training on Saylorville Lake. Check out this 40 second video!
The Johnston-Grimes Metropolitan Fire Department is proud to serve the City of Johnston as well as areas of unincorporated Polk County and Camp Dodge. The Department actively supports mutual aid response to neighboring communities when requested. The men and women respond to more than 1,200 calls for service per year in a response area of roughly 19 square miles.

New Fire Chief Jim Clark starts on Monday! Welcome, Chief Clark!

Monday, October 10 - The Johnston Public Library

The Johnston Public Library is an essential resource that grows with our community, enhances the quality of life of our users, supports lifelong learning, and offers access in a variety of ways. We provide outstanding customer service and a welcoming environment for all. The most recent community survey of Johnston residents showed that 87 percent of people are either satisfied or very satisfied with the Johnston Public Library.

Check out this new video that shows you the Life of a Book in the Johnston Public Library --- taking you through the entire process of delivery, onto the shelves and into your home.

The Library’s collection of books, DVDs, music CDs, and magazines continues to be an important resource for the community’s education, enrichment, and entertainment. In addition, the library has responded to the trend toward accessing books and other media electronically by offering borrowers over 15,000 downloadable books, three million downloadable songs, and nearly 70 electronic magazines. For materials we don’t have in our collection, our interlibrary loan service is a way for cardholders to borrow nearly any item (a book, a journal article, etc.) owned by a library in the United States.
In addition to books and other materials, the Library also offers activities that, for many Johnston families, have become annual traditions: Holidays in Johnston, Summer Reading Program, Art in the Barn, and other special events and ongoing programs. These activities enrich the intellectual, social, and cultural life of our community and provide opportunities for citizens of all ages to learn, to play, and to get to know one another.
We continue to make changes to the library building to improve visitors’ experience and offer new services. In 2013, the Library opened an art gallery in our meeting room hallway with space to show dozens of paintings and photographs. In 2014, we constructed a glass-walled space dedicated to teens and technology programming. And last year we opened a space with technology for library users to digitize and preserve photos and slides and video and audio recordings.
Please contact us at 515-278-5233 or by email or stop in if you have questions about our services or need more information. We also invite you to follow us on Facebook.
Sunday, October 9: Administration Department

The City Clerk's office, Finance Department, Utility Department, Human Resources and Communications office are all a part of the Administration Department, which is located in Johnston City Hall at 6221 Merle Hay Road. Did you know City Administrator Jim Sanders has been leading the city since 1997?
Administration keeps all aspects of the city moving forward (including 95 full time city employees, and more than 75 part time) and oversees a multi-million dollar budget. This department manages the city's finances, maintains records, city code, city council proceedings and communicates with residents, visitors and business owners on various issues and events. The administration office is also where you will find information on utilities such as water, garbage, recycling, stormwater, and sewer services.

Currently, city operations (everything from police officers to street improvements) account for 27% of the property taxes Johnston residents pay. Schools account for 43%, the county receives 17% and hospitals account for 8%. A combination of Ag extension, assessor, regional transit, the state and DMACC make up the rest.

The City Clerk's office is also located within Administration. The City Clerk provides various services to residents and business owners, including facilitating liquor licenses, door-to-door solicitor's permits, block party requests and cigarette and tobacco permits.
City Clerk Cyndee Rhames is a custodian for the city's official documents, including the city code and public records, ensures legal requirements are met regarding public notices, publications and posting of city business, and prepares and distributes the City Council agendas, packets, and supplements. To request records or information, please contact the City Clerk. Most requests can be handled with a phone call to 515-278-2344 or by email.
The Communications office covers many aspects of communications and outreach for city departments. This includes the city's social media pages, the city website, YouTube channel and newsletter. It also covers media relations, crisis communications and event coordination. Check out our Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube Channel and city website by clicking on these links!