Waukon City Council discusses variety of matters in special session followed by regular session

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in a special session prior to a regular session Monday, October 1 to address a variety of matters and agenda items. Mayor Pat Stone called the special session to order at 6 p.m., which began with discussion of the 28E agreement between the City of Waukon and the Allamakee Community School District.

Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub discussed short-term and long-term maintenance at the Wellness Center with the boiler and rooftop units being issues in the next 10-15 years which he recommended be planned and budgeted for as future expenses. Strub discussed the school district’s maintenance agreement with Winona Controls which he recommended would be advisable for the Wellness Center as well and that budget planning for 2019 should include ongoing maintenance and a separate fund for future capital expenses.

Strub and Dennis DeBuhr further talked about the City and school district roles and relationship within the 28E agreement. The council and Strub discussed budgeting related to the Wellness Center employee payroll and possible advantages of reclassifying these employees as City employees. City Clerk Lana Snitker will consult with auditors regarding that matter.

The council moved into the next agenda item involving trees in the Waukon City Park with Park, Rec and Wellness Board member Jesse Delaney indicating that the removal of dying ash trees would be advisable. Delaney and the council discussed ash tree removal options and the development of a tree maintenance plan.

The council approved to receive bids for ash tree removal in the City Park.

The council adjourned the special session and the regular session was called to order. During Public Comment, Iowa State Director for Marsy’s Law for All Eric Baker addressed the council regarding his organization’s efforts involving victims’ rights. Baker discussed that Iowa is one of 15 states that does not require notification to victims of a perpetrator’s release from prison in cases of stalking or violence and that over 8,000 names are currently part of a petition to change this state policy.

Several property owners, including Julie Snitker and Tatum Iverson, questioned the council about a past street project requiring assessments and the current First Avenue NW street project being classified as a maintenance project not requiring assessments. City Manager Dean Hilgerson indicated that the sub-base testing of First Avenue NW warranted maintenance, extending the life of the existing street with grinding and repaving rather than a complete replacement. Several property owners voiced their opinions on the unfairness of past assessments in light of those owning property on First Avenue NW not financially contributing to that project through assessments.

Resident Clete Mathis expressed his thoughts on the retention basin as being effective, but that he feels the City needs to mow grass and weeds there more often.

Under Department Head Updates, Police Chief Phil Young indicated that the recent auction of miscellaneous items including unclaimed bicycles and a generator brought in $830. Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper discussed Department of Transportation (DOT) permitting and provided updates on several projects, including water leak repairs.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett discussed that the Street Department has moved to a five-day work schedule and that the street near the Huba Huba Convenience Store has been cored out. Burrett indicated that some exploratory digging will begin involving a section of collapsed storm sewer.

Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub provided an update on the winterization process for the swimming pool and City Park, and discussed fall activities that are ongoing. Hilgerson advised that the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) was not awarded to Waukon but other grant opportunities exist. Hilgerson indicated that Town and Country Sanitation will make a second recycle toter available to residents by request if they contact the Waukon City office.

Under Regular Business, Mayor Stone discussed the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Buddy Poppies Proclamation and read the proclamation aloud. Stone encouraged residents to support this cause through donations in honor of the sacrifices of the men and women who have risked their lives in the defense of our freedoms. The council approved the VFW Buddy Poppies Proclamation.

The Resolution agreeing to transfer $960 from the TIF Fund to the Debt Service Fund for the annual premium of the Letter of Credit was approved by the council. The Resolution to close West Main Street from Main Street to First Avenue SW for the “Trunk or Treat” event October 31 from 12-9 p.m. was also approved.

The council discussed the Ordinance amending City code to permit additional non-residents of the city to serve on City boards and commissions. Stone discussed this policy change as an opportunity to allow Waukon business owners that do not reside within city limits to be involved in boards and commissions with appointment by the mayor and approval by the council as two forms of vetting. Council member John Ellingson indicated that long-term sovereignty, confidentiality and loyalty to the city are concerns to be considered. Council member Gayle Decker recommended reducing the number of board and commission members from seven to five. Council member Ben Rausch recommended that more time is needed to research this matter. The motion died for lack of a second.

Regional Tourism and Economic Development Coordinator Mallory Hanson with Northeast Iowa RC&D provided an update on the Plaza Art Project, which she indicated is fully funded with artist Cara Briggs-Farmer ready to begin the fabrication process. Hanson indicated that Briggs-Farmer will have her portion of the project completed prior to April 2019 with storage of the sculpture necessary until the installation following the Plaza redesign. The council approved the amendment to the existing contract between the artist and the City regarding the public art project.

Hilgerson and City Clerk Lana Snitker discussed the hiring of Hacker, Nelson and Co. to complete the Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal-Year Ending 6-30-2018. As the new City Clerk, Snitker recommended this hiring to assist in completing this report accurately and as a learning experience. Hilgerson indicated that the TIF report is an additional report on the horizon and recommended the assistance of Hacker, Nelson and Co. for the Annual Financial Report, with the council approving the hiring.

Cooper discussed the trade-in and purchase of a Toolcat for the Water and Sewer Department, which the council approved. Brooke Troendle with the Walk-On Waukon group provided an update and discussed deadlines involved with grant funding related to proposed sidewalk projects.

District Design Engineer Nick Humpal with the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) provided an update on the 2019 DOT street and sidewalk project, street lights and road diet. Humpal discussed various options including lane reduction, bike lanes and sidewalk extensions. The council approved to extend  the sidewalk to reach the entrance of the City Park and to proceed with a 16-foot turn lane and striped buffer lane.

Project Engineer Lucas Elsbernd with Fehr Graham Engineering presented plans for the Waste Water Treatment Plant and provided an overview of the new facility’s processes, equipment and structures. A representative of American Marketing discussed the company’s communication services including text notifications for emergencies and events.

The council discussed delinquent utility accounts and the review of utility deposits. City Attorney Jim Garrett discussed court filings involved with delinquent utility accounts and debt collection. The council discussed writing off delinquent utility accounts five or more years overdue. The council initially approved to write off a list of delinquent utility accounts five or more years overdue but after some discussion, that vote was rescinded to allow further discussion and research regarding collection options.

The council discussed the disposal of the old street lights and light poles, with the council deciding that the contractor will need to haul the light poles away to be auctioned for repurposing or scrap metal.

Young recommended the hiring of Cory Downs of Monona as a new police officer for the Waukon Police Department. Young indicated that Downs is a certified police officer and would start at $17.98 per hour with October 15 as a start date. The council discussed the possibility of training cost reimbursement with a four-year contract due to the candidate having completed training at his own expense prior to being hired. The council approved the hiring of Downs.

The council discussed the recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding chickens within city limits. Council member Arvid Hatlan indicated that chickens may cause odor concerns. The recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission involves a permit requirement for allowing the presence of up to five chickens on a property. The council approved to add this matter to the next meeting agenda.

The council reviewed a front yard variance request for Randy J. Stahl at 206 Third Street NW to build an attached garage, which was then approved. The council discussed the TW Grinding agreement to include a four-percent increase, which was then approved.

Under Other Matters, a potential fall clean-up day was discussed with the council opting to not pursue the matter further at this time.

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