Waukon City Council discusses West Side Development changes, new concerns with Aveka facility

The West Side Development Project and Aveka were the topics of greatest discussion during the regular meeting of the Waukon City Council Monday, November 17. Each was discussed at a couple different points within the meeting agenda.

Discussion of the West Side Development Project first involved an inquiry and presentation by Waukon High School Principal Dan Diercks in regard to a pair of signs the school district would like to place within the project area to identify the housing construction project being completed by the Waukon High School Construction Class within the development. The signs are being designed by Steve Oden and will list the three main players in the overall project, those being the Allamakee Community School District, the City of Waukon and Waukon Economic Development Corporation, along with the project's strategic partners who have offered their services and expertise in a significant way at either no charge to the project originators or deferring compensation for their services until after the house being constructed is sold.

Principal Diercks says one sign would be located along 13th Street NW adjacent to the project, with the other being further back in the cul de sac where the new home is currently being built. He received approval from the Council to place the signs and was directed to work with City Streets Superintendent Randy Murphy to identify the best possible location for each sign.

Documents concerning the infrastructure improvements needed within the West Side Development were then brought in front of the Council for approval. A point of discussion within the contract for those improvements was the changing of the completion date for the sanitary sewer and water main portion of the project for Lot 4 of the development from December 15 of this year to January 30, 2015. That change had simply been made and initialed by representatives of the project contractor, Skyline Construction, without any prior notice to the Council or any other involved entity.

Councilman Trent Mitchell expressed his frustration with the change, further explaining what he sees as a continuing trend with Skyline "not getting jobs done on time, or pushing them off at their own will." "We have these agreements in our contracts that we can charge them for delays, and we haven't done anything about it as a City," he said. "We need to start doing something about it, but that's just me talking."

Councilman Don Steffens agreed with Mitchell's sentiments, but the Council as a whole agreed that this particular project has been delayed long enough by project costs coming in too high and the resulting change of removing the stone base and curb and gutter improvements portion of the West Side Development project for the time being, and ultimately approved the project contract with Skyline. The change order for the removal of the stone base and curb and gutter work in an effort to reduce the project's initial cost was also approved by the Council, as were the contract and performance and payment bonds.

Initial discussion in regard to Aveka came under Departmental Reports, where Police Chief Phil Young and Streets Superintendent Murphy explained a recent situation with the processing plant pumping water into the intersection of Eighth Avenue NW and Allamakee Street, resulting in ice covering the streets during the recent cold weather snap and Murphy's street crews having to sand the area. It was explained that the water was being pumped out as part of maintenance work being done on a cistern and will come to an end once that project is completed. Chief Young reported that there had not been any further issues in more recent days, speculating that the cistern maintenance project may have been completed, but said he would continue to look into the matter.

Later on the meeting agenda, another water issue with Aveka was brought to the Council table, as reports of discolored wastewater being pumped from the facility were cause for initial concern. City Water Superintendent Robert Campbell said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was involved in the initial discussion, but was told by the EPA that water quality issues are determined on a state-by-state basis, leading Campbell to contact the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and ultimately be referred to the DNR's state headquarters in Des Moines.

City Attorney Jim Garrett explained the State standard for such an issue uses the words "of an objectionable color" as its guideline, leaving the City short in its quest to have something more measurable to proceed with. "We wanted a standard to go by, but apparently there isn't any," Waukon Mayor Loren Beneke explained.

Further discussion with Aveka authorities revealed that the discoloration is a vegetable dye involved in the drying down of certain food products. "It is not a harmful agent, but it does have color in it," Beneke shared. Campbell said that even though the water may not contain harmful agents, another concern would be that the color would block out sunlight and cause possible harm to the aquatic life within the stream the wastewater is released into.

The process that produces the discolored water does not happen on a daily basis, and Beneke said that, instead of releasing all the wastewater at once during the process, the Aveka facility has agreed to retain it and slowly release it over a period of time to see if that will remedy the situation. If not, an alternative would be for Aveka to haul the wastewater to a different location for a more favorable disposal.