Waukon City Council approves second reading of ordinance increasing wastewater utility charges, discusses broadband internet and downtown plaza redesign among many items

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, April 15 to address a full agenda of items including the proclamation of April 2019 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Second Reading of the Ordinance increasing wastewater utility service charges and discussion of the City’s involvement with a survey to determine the feasibility of broadband internet service in Waukon.

There was no Public Comment and the meeting moved into Departmental Reports with Police Chief Phil Young providing an update on vacancies in the Waukon Police Department, with candidate testing results determined and April 27 set as the date for interviews. Street Superintendent Keith Burrett indicated that his department has moved to a four ten-hour day schedule as of this week and briefly discussed core-outs that began earlier that day.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper discussed an upcoming DNR inspection and that either this week or next, ground will be broken for the new wastewater treatment facility. Cooper indicated that Bruening has completed digs to assist with some infrastructure projects ahead of areas that will be part of the 2019 DOT Street and Sidewalk Project and provided a brief update on a consumer confidence report which will be published in the newspaper.

Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub reported that youth soccer will be starting soon and that City Park employees have started work again with water having been turned on in the park. Strub provided an update on the tennis court project with a bid received being higher than the original project estimate. Strub discussed options to allow the project to move forward at a cost closer to the original estimate, mentioning lighting as an area to change or remove.

City Manager Dean Hilgerson provided an update on the Walk-On Waukon sidewalk project indicating that he anticipates plans for the group’s initial sidewalk project to be ready with a public hearing date to be set soon. Hilgerson discussed upcoming meetings and provided an update on matters relating to the 2019 Street and Sidewalk Project.

The council moved into Regular Business with the review and approval of several resolutions. The Resolution agreeing to transfer $14,769.66 from the General Fund (proceeds from storm water utility fees) to the Storm Sewer Improvements Fund for project improvements was approved. The Resolution establishing the Sewer Revenue Bond Sinking Fund, the Resolution establishing the Sewer Revenue Bond Surplus Fund and the Resolution agreeing to transfer from the Sewer Revenue Fund to the Sewer Revenue Bond Sinking Fund for interest payment/servicing fees on the State Revolving Fund (SRF) Planning and Design Loan were individually reviewed and approved.

The Resolution authorizing the Mayor to sign, execute and submit an application for and provide matching funds for an Airport State Funding Application through the Iowa Department of Transportation was also approved. City Clerk Lana Snitker provided an overview of the grant funding involved in this resolution and the breakdown of matching funds required of the City to receive this grant for various airport maintenance and improvement projects.

The Second Reading of the Ordinance increasing wastewater utility charges was approved with Council members Arvid Hatlan and John Ellingson voting against the measure which involves a ten percent service charge increase and a slightly lower increase for the second year, due to increased revenue necessary to service debt associated with the new wastewater treatment facility.

City Attorney Jim Garrett provided an overview of the purchase agreement process involved in the potential sale of the former Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) Monona Clinic building with the council in agreement that an asking price of $125,500 would be used.

The council moved into the Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) proclamation with Bilingual Sexual Assault Advocate Lupita Solis of the Riverview Center, a provider of sexual assault services in a 14-county region in northeast Iowa, reading aloud the proclamation declaring April 2019 Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Waukon. Mayor Pat Stone signed the proclamation with support of the council.

Daneela McKee, a former resident of Waukon, discussed a utility billing and penalties that have taken place following her move to the Decorah area. McKee explained that her former landlord recently informed her about the billing and penalty charges through a phone call. McKee indicated that she never received the billing following changes relating to her physical address and mailing address but expressed her willingness to pay the utility bill without penalties. The council discussed the matter and approved to have McKee pay the utility bill without penalties.

Jane Regan with Upper Iowa Insurance Services provided an overview of the City’s insurance renewal. Regan discussed that building limits and critical infrastructure needs account for much of the increase in premium and further discussed general liability, law enforcement liability, crime coverage, workers compensation, umbrella policy and inland marine coverage.

Garrett provided an overview of the City’s commercial tax rebate program, discussing the benefits of rebates and abatements in promoting commercial expansions and construction.

Council member Ben Rausch provided an update on the Broadband Committee, a potential broadband survey and the request for City involvement. Rausch indicated that a recent meeting with a broadband internet provider went well and that the next step involves determining whether or not it is feasible for this company to offer high-speed broadband internet in Waukon. Rausch discussed the Broadband Committee’s request for the City of Waukon to be involved in the survey at an estimated cost of $3,100 which will be the only cost absorbed by the City in this process. Rausch discussed the benefits of broadband service for business and residential customers including faster internet speeds with broadband service being an additional factor that would attract individuals and families to relocate to Waukon. The council approved the City’s involvement in the survey process.

Regan addressed the next agenda item involving the Plaza project redesign, discussing the Plaza art project and LED sign. Regan indicated that the Plaza Committee is in agreement that the LED sign be moved due to restrictions from the DOT relating to the sign’s content exclusively being City-sponsored events, excluding event information from non-profits and churches. The council decided that additional information is requested from Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) before moving forward with the Plaza project redesign and moving the LED sign from the Plaza, in an effort to honor previous agreements and understandings between all entities involved.

The council discussed the potential purchase and benefits of iPad Pro tablets in expediting the dissemination of information while eliminating paper waste for the council. After some discussion, the council approved the purchase of six iPad Pro tablets with 12.9 inch screens ($999 per iPad Pro) with otter box cases ($89.95 per case) through JaDecc’S as a Fiscal-Year 2019 purchase.

The council discussed options relating to consulting fees for former City employees. Cooper indicated that former Water and Sewer Superintendent Bob Campbell has taken phone calls and answered questions from various contractors relating to matters involving the wastewater treatment facility. Cooper advised that experts like Campbell can provide historical data and information that is beneficial. Cooper and the council discussed options to compensate former employees that assist the City in a consultant capacity.

The council, Harold Pronga and Dr. Ken Olson representing the Trees Forever organization discussed the Trees and Vegetation Ordinance. Pronga and Olson discussed concerns relating to the removal of trees from boulevards and the benefits and aesthetic effect of trees within Waukon. Following discussion, Ellingson requested that Pronga and Olson review the current ordinance and develop a draft for the council to review and discuss.

The council discussed the proposed Nuisance Abatement Officer position and feedback received thus far. The council was in agreement about the role of law enforcement in serving notice in nuisance abatement situations. Ellingson advised that by addressing small issues, including nuisance abatement, communities benefit and see less crime and fewer major issues as a result.

Prior to adjournment, Burrett and Hilgerson discussed the Street Maintenance Program. Hilgerson recommended that a two-year plan be developed consisting of small street projects, which will aid in developing future projects and a five-year plan. Burrett discussed two options for potential street projects.

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