West Side Development and new electronic sign among the issues addressed by Waukon City Council

by Bob Beach

The Waukon City Council's plans for the West Side Development Project were presented with another challenge to overcome Monday night, November 3 as project engineer Lyle TeKippe informed the Council at its regular meeting that Skyline Construction is unwilling to accept the extensive change order to reduce the immediate scope of the project. After the bids for the project significantly exceeded the estimated cost, TeKippe had proposed eliminating all but the services required for the school district to complete its home construction project within the development, decreasing the project cost by nearly half to around $130,000.
TeKippe told the Council that Skyline Construction, the low bidder for the project, rejected that proposal, claiming that it would not be "economically feasible" to undertake the reduced project. Instead, Skyline proposed two options: Skyline would allow the City to pay a portion of the full project cost in the current fiscal year and the remainder in the following fiscal year if the City would proceed with the project as it was originally bid; or eliminate only the stone base and curb and gutter installation from the project, reducing the project cost to a maximum of $215,000.
City Clerk Diane Sweeney said that the first option wouldn't solve the Council's original problem with the project as it was originally bid, which was that the low bid exceeded the engineer's estimate by approximately $61,000. She noted that even if the Council were to accept Skyline's proposed second option, some other projects may need to reconsidered and re-prioritized.
Councilman Trent Mitchell said that he believes investment in the project may be a "wrong step" for the City since no other lots in the project area have yet been sold. He said that while he supports the school district's home construction program, the City's investment in that program shouldn't be prioritized ahead of other projects.
City Attorney Jim Garrett noted that the Council had already agreed to have water and sewer services installed by December 15 under the terms of the development agreement with the school district and Waukon Economic Development Corporation.
Councilman Steve Wiedner said that the City is "pretty well committed to this" and Mayor Loren Beneke noted that no promises had been made with regard to other projects, such as helping Aveka with the cost of reducing the smell produced by its facility, or the renovation or demolition of the Fruechte building downtown.
After some further discussion, the Council voted unanimously to accept Skyline's second option, reducing the project cost to a maximum of $215,000. TeKippe said that he would have the revised change order prepared for the Council's approval at its next regular meeting November 17.
Turning to the subject of flood mitigation, Mayor Beneke said that the Council had met with the Planning and Zoning Board and determined that it would be necessary to institute a storm water utility fee to fund future flood mitigation projects. Zoning Administrator Al Lyon said that he had determined that for the utility fee to generate $100,000 in annual revenue, the new utility fee would need be set at $3.50 per month for residential meters and $15.00 per month for commercial meters. The Council agreed to direct City Attorney Garrett to work with Lyon to develop an ordinance to that effect for the Council's approval.
In another zoning matter, Lyon told the Council that the Welsh family had requested a lifting of the zoning restrictions on its Ninth Street property in order to allow all uses under the business district designation (B-2). Lyon said that the Planning and Zoning Board recommended leaving the current restrictions in place, noting that the area is now mostly residential. A representative of the Welsh family said that the family plans to sell the land and that lifting the current restrictions may make the land more salable. The Council voted to deny the request to lift the restrictions, but said that the City would be willing to work with prospective buyers if their proposed use would not be allowed under the current restrictions.
In other business, City Attorney Garrett told the Council that he would need to begin work on producing discovery documents for the Bresnahan trial regarding the property condemned for a flood mitigation project, work that he had delayed in anticipation of a possible settlement of the case. Councilman Dave Sanderson said that he would continue discussions with the Bresnahan family to try and arrive at a settlement.
Street Superintendent Randy Murphy told the Council that he had received an estimate of $700 to $800 for concrete work necessary to connect electricity for the new electronic sign in the downtown plaza to the street lights. Ken Kerr of Ken Kerr Electric told the Council that the connection would not be simple or quick, since the electricity would need to be connected to the line currently used to power Christmas lights downtown, which is provided by Alliant Energy free of charge for one month during the holidays. He said that an additional meter would need to be added and that other changes may need to be made to bring the wiring up to current state codes. Councilman Mitchell said that the connection would have to be done properly, as the current arrangement to get power for the sign from the Tierney building is only temporary. The Council directed Murphy to get a firm estimate for the work required.
The Council approved the second reading, waived the third reading and adopted several ordinances prepared by Iowa Codification: an ordinance to regulate the sale of alternative nicotine products such as e-cigarettes to minors; ordinances dealing with the filling of vacancies for elected offices and city elections and for filing nomination petitions for elective offices; and an ordinance regarding the regulation of liquor wine and beer and prohibiting "social hosting" for minors.
The Council also approved the renewal of its employee health insurance policy with Welmark at a 5.26% increase over the previous year's premium and approved Whitetail Landscaping's bid of $40 per hour for snow removal at the Wellness Center.