Waukon City Council holds first meeting of 2015

by Bob Beach

The Waukon City Council began its first meeting of 2015 Monday, January 5 by holding a public hearing regarding the sale of a building lot to Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to be used by the Allamakee Community School District. As the sale and use of the lot were discussed at length in the final months of 2014 without objection from the public and no new comments were presented, the public hearing was closed. The Council then passed a resolution approving the sale.
The Council then heard from representatives from the Park and Recreation Board, who first asked for the Council's approval of the creation of an endowment fund for trails and trail repair. If donations of $7,500 can be raised, the Community Foundation will contribute $2,500 to create a $10,000 endowment fund that would create tax benefits for future donors to the fund. The Council approved the creation of the endowment fund.
Dennis Lyons then addressed the Council on behalf of the Parks and Recreation Board and the Wellness Center Board. He told the Council that the resignation of Wellness Center Director Dani Bucknell, effective at the end of January, led both Boards to give consideration to combining the Park and Recreation and Wellness Center Departments, creating administrative and staffing efficiencies. Lyons noted that while the Wellness Center is busy during the winter months, the Park and Recreation Department is relatively inactive during those same months, and the Wellness Center is slowest during the summer months when the Park and Recreation Department is busiest during those months. Lyons said that combining the two departments would allow Wellness Center staff to assist Park and Recreation employees during the summer and Park and Rec staff to help out at the Wellness Center during the winter months. Lyons said that the change would require hiring a new director to head both departments and that a salary higher than that of the current Wellness Center Director would need to be offered to attract qualified candidates for the job. Additionally, the Park and Rec Board recommended wage increases for lifeguards at the pool in order to retain experienced staff. Lyons said that the suggested changes would require an increase in the Park and Rec budget of approximately $30,000, while the Wellness Center budget would be unaffected, as it is self-supporting through membership fees.
While the Council was generally receptive to the idea of combining the Park and Rec and Wellness Center Departments, several Council members voiced doubts that the City's budget could accommodate the requested increase. The Mayor and Council agreed consider the matter during its budget discussions, which are scheduled to begin this week.
Brief discussion was also held regarding the smell that is periodically produced by the Aveka facility. The Council had reviewed the company's financial information in connection with its request for City funding to install equipment to mitigate the smell. The Council agreed that the company could afford to install the equipment without the City's assistance. A polite letter will be sent to Aveka declining the company's request for City assistance but encouraging the company to install the equipment at its own expense to be a "good neighbor."
The Mayor and Council then turned to organizational matters for the new year, with the Mayor appointing Trent Mitchell as Mayor Pro-tem, Phil Young as Police Chief, Paul Wagner as Assistant Police Chief, along with patrol officers. The Council then made its appointments of City employees, with no changes over the previous year, and voted to keep its regular meeting times, official newspaper and bank depositories the same. The Council also approved the hiring of a new police officer, Jeremy Wicks, starting January 18 at $15.26 per hour.