Elma is a small Howard County town with big opportunities. It is a great place to visit, and even better place to live! It has a lot to offer, such as a dentist, a nursing home, convenience stores, parks with playground equipment and a nice baseball diamond with a covered grandstand. It also provides beautiful scenery and is located about 15 miles from Riceville and 7 miles from Highway 63. It has small town friendliness with the convenience of filling all of your daily needs, plus access to bigger towns, when needed. Recently, Elma created the Elma Area Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Waterloo/Cedar Falls and Northeast Iowa.
History of Elma
Elma is yet another example of a Howard County town that maintained its livelihood in association with the railroad. Elma has its origins in Howard, a town which was located one mile north of Elma's present location. Travelers through the area in the early 1860's would often lodge at the well-known hotel in Howard operated by W. Pettibone. On April 11, 1860 a post office was established under the town's new name, Busti. The change of names came about due to increased confusion regarding the namesake of the county.
Over the next several years the railroad became an ever-important source of transportation and commerce. In 1886, the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad extended service from New Hampton and Minnesota. The rails were constructed one mile south of Busti. As a result, the railroad brought about the relocation of Busti and its residents to this prosperous new area. The exodus from Busti coupled with the prosperity of the railroad resulted in the formation of a new town name after Lemuel Potter's youngest daughter, Elma. Subsequently, Elma was platted in 1886 on the farms of August Fallgatter, Truman Robinson, and Lemuel Potter. The first elected Mayor was F.W. Church.
Technological growth resulted out of rapid population growth. Numerous buildings were constructed including a baker, three meat markets, several restaurants, two hotels, three blacksmiths, an insurance agency, and a well digger.
Elma came to be marked as a town of many fires. The biggest fires of Elma came in 1900, 1901, and 1954, which burned several buildings and caused damage amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars to the town. Another devastating natural act was that of tornadoes. On May 15, 1968 a tornado struck Elma at about 5:25 p.m. causing damage of nearly $1.5 million.
Although the railroad originally brought prosperity to Elma, it ironically hindered Elma in the end. The fast growth of rail service expanded the Chicago Great Western Railroad which has main terminals in Kansas City, Chicago, and St. Paul. This growth decentralized Elma when it came time for the railroad company to choose a site for its repair facility. To Elma's dismay, Oelwein was the site chosen for the repair terminal because of its central location to the three previously mentioned cities. As a result, in 1896 the roundhouse located in Elma and some 300 families moved on with their jobs. The once vital stop along the Chicago Great Western Railroad is forever a memory to be preserved by people reminiscing about the good old days.
Field Stone Stacking
Visitors to the Elma area can experience a rare form of art: Field Stone Stacking. The concept was started near Iowa by a farmer looking to do something with the rocks in his field. The structures can now be seen on many farms around the Elma area.
Utilities & City Services
Garbage pickup is done curbside on Monday of each week. City bags must be used for garbage and can be purchased at the following locations: City Hall, Peachey's Family Market, Andy's Mini Mart, Riceville True Value and Casey's. The cost is $1.00 for a 33 gallon size and $.50 for a 15 gallon size. Garbage rate is $29.95 per quarter. This charge will appear on your quarterly bill. Garbage fee is charged as long as the water service is turned on, regardless if any garbage is set out. Please keep the weight of garbage bags under 35#. Appliances such as refrigerators, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, stoves, air conditioners, console and portable TVs, etc. may be left curbside, but a pickup fee must be paid in advance. Please call city hall to arrange for pickup. Notice: needles CANNOT be placed in garbage. Bio-hazard containers are available at City hall.
Riceville has an active recycling program to help with waste reduction in compliance with state standards. Recycling is picked up curbside on Wednesday of each week. The recycling material does NOT need to be sorted. You can use paper bags, cardboard boxes, a reusable plastic container, etc. to set your recyclables in. You do not have to use a city bag. If any items are not picked up, it means they are not in an acceptable container or not acceptable for recycling and should be disposed of in your garbage. A list is attached showing what is and is not recyclable and the proper preparation for each item. Please use discretion when setting out your recyclables. If it's very windy, either anchor down your containers or wait until the next week.
Yard waste will be picked up the last Thursday of the month, April through November. Branches should not be bigger than 4" in diameter and no longer than 48". Please bundle branches together for ease of handling. Yard waste may also be burned, but keep your neighbor's comfort and weather conditions in mind when doing so. Also, please don't burn in the streets. Yard waste may also be deposited at the city tree dump located south of town on the West Side of the highway. Leaves cannot be left in plastic bags at this dump.
Water and sewer is provided by the city. Please notify city hall for water hookup and/or shut off. Water and sewer is billed quarterly.
- First 2,000 gallons $21.10(minimum), $2.10 per 1,000 gallons thereafter. Sewer is calculated at 100% of the water bill.
- There is a $30 late fee assessed on all past due accounts.
- Renters are required to pay a $130 deposit. When a renter's final bill is paid, the deposit will be refunded upon request.
Shut off date for delinquent bills are the 15th of the month following billing. Please set up a monthly budget payment at city hall if quarterly payments will not work for you. Automatic withdrawal from your checking or savings account is also available. To find out more or to sign up for this option, stop at city hall. There is no charge for this service.
Electricity is provided by Alliant Utilities. Their number is 1-800-255-4268.
Omnitel provides telephone and cable service. Their number is 749-2531 (local call from Riceville)
City ordinance requires the clearing of snow and ice from sidewalks abutting your property 24 hours after cessation of a snowfall. No person shall park, abandon, or leave unattended any vehicle on any public street, alley, or city off-street parking area during snow removal unless the snow has been removed or plowed from said street and snowfall has ceased.