Waukon City Council gives its approval to five-year 100% tax abatement for construction of new homes, hears update on broadband internet survey

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, March 4 to address a full agenda of items, including discussion of the City’s sponsorship of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Urban Revitalization Plan and a broadband internet survey. The Public Hearing on the Fiscal-Year 2020 Budget was opened and closed with City Clerk Lana Snitker indicating that no written or verbal comments were received. There was no Public Comment.

The council moved into Departmental Reports with Police Chief Phil Young indicating that a new squad car has arrived and would be fitted this week. Young discussed that several applications have been received and will continue to be accepted with interviews to be set up in the coming weeks for open officer positions.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett indicated that an aluminum light pole near the high school had been lost during a windstorm and has been turned in to the insurance provider with a replacement to take place in a few months. Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper advised that things are going well for his department.

Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub discussed that the tree removal process at Waukon City Park was behind schedule due to weather conditions. Strub provided an update on the tennis court grant with the final draft to be submitted this week and construction planned for this summer. Strub indicated that the Park and Rec Board will be hiring summer employees during March with applications continuing to come in.

Under Regular Business, the Resolution approving the annual budget for the City of Waukon for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 was approved. The Resolution approving the annual budget for Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 was also approved.

The council moved into the consideration of bids and award regarding the sale of a 2002 ambulance with two bids received including $889.88 from Emergency Remarketing of Willoughby, OH and $876.55 from Iron Mine, LLC of Waukon. The council approved to accept the high bid to purchase the ambulance.

The City sponsorship of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was discussed by the council with City Attorney Jim Garrett advising that the City’s insurance cost would be minimal to extend liability coverage for the event. The council approved to assume sponsorship of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Following the council’s decision, Joe Sweeney briefly discussed the history of the parade and the Sweeney family’s involvement, which will continue in planning and organizing the event as it becomes more of a community effort with the City’s sponsorship.

Brooke Troendle of Waukon discussed the Walk-On Waukon group’s funding for sidewalk projects and engineering costs. Troendle indicated that deadlines are approaching for grant funding with decisions to be made regarding locations and plans for sidewalks. Mayor Pat Stone recommended that two council members meet with Troendle to work on specifics related to the location of the sidewalk project and meeting grant requirements. Council members Arvid Hatlan and Ben Rausch agreed to meet with Troendle as representatives of the council.

The council moved into discussion of the request from Homebuyers Incorporated to receive payment of a utility account credit balance. Snitker clarified that this matter involves a double payment that took place with a utility bill through the City and payment again through a Sheriff’s sale. The council approved the credit balance reimbursement to Homebuyers Incorporated.

The non-Union employee police department wage increase was discussed with the council approving to use the wage scale with increases of 5.5% effective April 1 and 2.5% effective July 1.

The Urban Revitalization Plan tax abatement program was discussed with the council reviewing similar programs and incentives used in other communities. Stone indicated that he has no doubt that a five-year 100% tax abatement would provide further incentive for building in Waukon. Council members discussed the long-term benefit of increased new home construction to the community and school district. The council approved a five-year tax abatement program for new residential construction with commercial construction to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Coordinator Ardie Kuhse of Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and council member Rausch provided an overview of work completed thus far regarding a broadband internet survey. Kuhse indicated that the Broadband Committee, under Rausch’s leadership, has researched broadband options and is narrowing its focus to provide a recommendation of a service provider. Kuhse provided the council an early draft of the survey. Rausch provided details about the survey which will involve proposed rate structures, internet usage, bandwidth and customer service levels. The council discussed utilizing an online survey with advertisements and postcards directing internet users to complete a survey on the City’s website. The council approved to sponsor the broadband survey.

Burrett provided an overview of the bids received for a skid-steer loader for the Street Department and Water and Sewer Department. The council approved the low bid received from Reiser Implement for an S770 Bobcat at $59,605.

The council discussed position recruitment and economic development for Veterans Memorial Hospital. Council member John Ellingson indicated that there are challenges in recruiting family physicians to rural Iowa. The council discussed the possibility of including a house as part of a physician compensation package with a five- to seven-year commitment. Ellingson recommended adding this subject to a future agenda for additional discussion.

There was no further discussion by the council under Other Matters. The council then adjourned.

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