Iowa City partners with UI, Johnson County to keep county clean inside and outside

A look at collaborative community-cleanup projects highlights the interconnectedness of Iowa City, the University of Iowa, and Johnson County.


Michael Guhin

Litter is photographed on a hillside off of Riverside Drive near the theater building on Monday, March 25, 2019.

Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

The newest partnership between the city and university moved more than 1,000 tons of salt and sand off the sidewalks and streets after a long winter.

Shawn Fitzpatrick, assistant manager for landscape services at the University of Iowa Facilities Management, said that for the past few years, Iowa City and the UI have collaborated on snow cleanup. Before the collaboration, at the end of the season when it was time to clean up the salt and sand, their separate efforts would step on each other’s toes by sweeping the salt and sand into each other’s spaces, he said.

In this partnership, Dave Jackson, assistant director of Facilities Management said in an email to The Daily Iowan that five people from the UI landscape services worked downtown, the T. Anne Cleary Walkway, Iowa Avenue, Madison Street, and Jefferson Street at 1 a.m. during spring break to sweep the debris into the streets for the city crews to clean up with street sweepers.

“We’re all in it together, and rather than work against one another pushing snow and salt around, we join forces at the same time,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said his department sees the project going into the future and called it a win-win situation.

Meanwhile, a partnership between Johnson County and Iowa City to clean up rural Johnson County has been a sleeper for some time, and the county is working to change that.

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said the program was started 15 years ago. The county Secondary Roads Department found trash being dumped on dirt roads in rural areas, he said, and they had to spend too much time and money cleaning it up.

“Iowa City is a wonderful partner, because they own and operate the landfill,” Sullivan said. “They have to do the bulk of the work.”

Funded by property tax levied on rural residential areas, the program gives rural residents 2,000 pounds of trash disposal at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center per year.

In an email to the DI, Iowa City Resource Management Superintendent Jennifer Jordan said the city’s role is to accept trash from qualifying residents using a database the county provides and then invoice the county for that trash every month.

“I think we have seen a positive impact from this,” Sullivan said. “We seem to have less trash being dumped in the rural areas. We hope that it stays that way; we hope that people take advantage of it.”

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Despite the positive effect, Sullivan said, the county wants to spread more awareness about the program through social-media campaigns and word of mouth so more rural residents can use it.

Assistant City Manager Ashley Monroe said the city has a lot of crossover with the UI and Johnson County that the public may not know about. Iowa City has the Senior Center and Animal Center that the county contributes funding toward and conducts a public-transportation study that the university participates in, among other initiatives.

Monroe said the city looks at the university campus as an extension of Iowa City and vice versa, and that they’re more intertwined compared with other college towns. She said the city sees that as an opportunity to present a positive image and have good cooperation among the city, county, and university.

“We share populations with both the county and with the student population,” Monroe said. “They’re all part of Iowa City one way or another in some cases.”