COALVILLE – Ask the people of Coalville if they see a need to incorporate this town of 651 people southeast of Fort Dodge.
They will say no.
This would amount to setting up a municipal government with, at a minimum, a municipal council.
“We have all the services and amenities we want” said Webster County Supervisor Chairman Mark Campbell, who lives between Coalville and Otho. “And, we can easily run (at Fort Dodge) and yet come home and relax in a country setting.”
The absence of a municipal government did not diminish the interest in living in Coalville. The point is, some people in town say they think this is one of the reasons Coalville is going against other small towns in Iowa’s tendency to lose residents. IowaWatch spent four months investigating small towns that oppose downward trends in rural America. Instead, some communities thrive, find success on Main Street, and develop a sense of community belonging.
Coalville’s population of 651 at the 2020 census was up 6.7% from 610 in 2010, according to data released in August. Its population is counted as a census-designated locality, which is an unincorporated area with a significant concentration of residents.
Campbell said more people are welcome.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to come and discover, in a way, the hybrid countryside-urban life”, he said.
Coalville is a collection of well-maintained bourgeois houses a few miles southeast of Fort Dodge, past the gypsum and mineral factories that provide jobs and part of Fort Dodge’s identity. The town was named after the main industry when it was founded in the 1870s, coal mining.
The appeal of the city includes the proximity to jobs in Fort Dodge and near Webster City, being located on US Highway 20 with four lanes and having to pay county taxes but not municipal taxes. Coalville has a church, hydraulic repair company, hospitality barn and unofficial town center, Stop & Shop gas station and convenience store.
People can shop for groceries, lunch, and gas at the store, although you have to pay inside rather than at the pump.
Kris Stringer, owner of Stop & Shop, said she worked part-time at the store many years ago before buying it in 2011.
“I love the public and the people” she said.
The Webster County Sheriff’s Office, the Board of Supervisors and, important as the city grows, the County Planning and Zoning Commission, provide public safety, local government, and zoning decisions for Coalville.
The average household income in the city is $ 63,507, which is close to the state median of $ 60,523, and the median house is worth $ 131,000, slightly less than the median of $ 147,800 of state, according to data compiled by World Population Review and the US Census Bureau show.
The city’s median age is 33.8 years, younger than the 38.1 years for the state.
Area farmer and real estate developer Mike Pearson sees opportunity in Coalville. He has built seven houses there since 2017 on a property he operates.
Pearson’s decision to build in Coalville instead of Fort Dodge came down to one simple reason.
“I had the land” he said.
He also built in Eagle Grove and Fort Dodge and built three homes in Badger, a population of 522 and less than 561 in 2010.
People made quick offers on the houses, which are ranch-style in the price range of $ 220,000 to $ 350,000, he said.
“I found out that I could have built, probably, 20 more units and that they would have been sold,” he said. “I get calls all the time from people wanting to know if I have something open.”
Pearson continues to operate a farm in Coalville, but he and a brother would like to add a 44 unit development east of his farm, on the land where the brother lives.
Campbell, the chairman of the Webster County Supervisor, said a plaque sent to the county would place houses facing the Des Moines River.
Pearson said he had not asked the county to start the project and that construction was not planned, although he aims to start by the end of this year.
“We have to keep the people in these cities who have skilled workers, to keep our cities alive,” Pearson said. “You will still have your farming in your communities in Iowa, of course. But then you take the ag off and there’s a ton left.