Waukon City Council discusses property tax rebate program, West Side Development project during holiday-delayed session

by Bob Beach

The Waukon City Council held its regular meeting Tuesday, February 17 due to the Presidents' Day holiday Monday, February 16. During public comment time, Councilman Don Steffens read a letter to the Council written by Mary Schulte of Waukon listing various complaints regarding the Caledonia Haulers facility that abuts her property. Councilman Trent Mitchell pointed out that the City was not involved in the sale of the property to Caledonia Haulers and Zoning Administrator Al Lyon told the Council that the property was zoned for manufacturing and that all setback requirements had been met.
During departmental reports, Water and Sewer Superintendent Bob Campbell told the Council that the City's agreement with Aveka regarding water treatment should be modified. He said that under the current agreement, Aveka is required to notify the City of any changes at the Aveka facility that might effect the types and amounts of pollutants entering the City's water treatment system, but Aveka has not been doing so. The Council gave Campbell permission to work with City Attorney Jim Garrett to give the agreement "more teeth."
Turning to regular business, the Council discussed the reinstatement of a property tax rebate program for residential properties. City Clerk Diane Sweeney said that the program had been discontinued previously because property owners were receiving rebates for renovations that they would have completed without any tax incentive. Mayor Loren Beneke said that the program could be reinstated with different requirements. After some discussion, the Council agreed to direct the City Attorney to draft a policy that would provide property tax rebates for new home construction over three years - 100% the first year, 75% the second year and 50% the third year.
Mayor Beneke informed Police Chief Phil Young that the City's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year includes funding for the purchase of two police vehicles as Young had requested. Young said that two new all-wheel-drive vehicles would be purchased for approximately $30,000 each.
City Clerk Diane Sweeney told the Council that assessment payments for the 2013 Street Improvement Project were due February 6 and that she had received a request from a property owner to waive interest charges if the full balance is paid before July 1. She said that the same policy was approved by the Council for previous assessment for street improvements. The Council authorized Sweeney to grant no-interest extensions to property owners who agree to pay the full balance of their assessments prior to July 1, 2015.
The Council also met with Joe Cunningham, representing Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), regarding the installation of electric, gas, phone and internet services in the West Development project area. With regard to electricity, Cunningham said that Alliant Energy would charge the City approximately $17,000 to extend services to the area, but the City would receive a rebate of $3,000 to $4,000 for each electric meter installed.
He said that Black Hills Energy will be providing a temporary natural gas connection to the house being constructed by the school district's home construction program and had waived the deposit on that installation; final gas services to the area will not be installed until the street is brought up to grade. Cunningham said that the installation of telephone and internet services would be more problematic as both Centurylink and Mediacom have been frustrating to work with, despite the fact that both companies have franchise agreements with the City. He suggested that the City consider meeting with AcenTek (formerly Ace Communications).
After some discussion of other details regarding restrictive covenants, development agreements and easements, the Council went into closed session to discuss the prices of the lots available on the west side of the development area. Returning to open session, the Council agreed to set $60,000 as the price for each of the two larger lots and $25,000 for the remaining smaller lot.
In other business, the Council set Saturday, April 25 as Spring Clean-Up Day. The Council also passed several resolutions for the closing of streets for the St. Patrick's Day Parade March 15, the Memorial Day Parade May 25, the Corn Days Parade August 14, the Corn Days Street Fair August 16 and the Holiday Parade November 23.