Waukon City Council discusses reorganization of Wellness Center and Park & Recreation Boards

by Bob Beach

The Waukon City Council began its regular meeting Monday night, March 16 by adopting an ordinance regarding the division of taxes in the newly expanded urban renewal area that includes the Aveka processing facility in north Waukon. City Attorney Jim Garrett reported that he had contacted Aveka and advised its representatives that the City is now in a position to co-sign on a loan to purchase equipment to reduce the smell produced by its Waukon facility and that Aveka should prepare to move forward by getting purchase orders and financing lined up. He said that he had hoped that Aveka would take those steps prior to the Council's March 16 meeting, but that he has received no response.
Garrett said that he had also contacted Aveka regarding modifications to its agreement with the City for sewer services, but that he had also received no reply on that matter. "The silence is deafening," Garrett said.
The Council also met with members of the Wellness Center and Park and Recreation Boards regarding the merger of the two departments. City Attorney Garrett said that some modifications would need to be made to the City Code to make the necessary changes. He recommended that the current boards be dissolved and a new board be created, adding that the 28E agreement with the school would need to be amended. He also asked for direction from the Council on the make-up of the new board and who would make nominations to that Board.
Councilman Trent Mitchell said that he thinks the Council should be more involved with the hiring and firing process, and the Mayor and other Council members agreed that the combined department should be treated like other major departments.
Wellness Board member Patty Nordheim said that it would make good sense to treat the new board like other departments and the new department head, Jeremy Strub, should be expected to attend Council meetings like other department heads. However, she suggested that the Wellness Center and Park and Recreation budgets be kept separate in order to ensure that the Wellness Center remains sustained by membership fees.
City Clerk Diane Sweeney said that there are more details that need to be ironed out, such as what funds the new director's salary will come from - part of it from the Wellness Fund and part from Park and Recreation, and in what amounts. She added that Park and Recreation Director Jeff Snitker would need to be re-hired under the new title of Assistant Director.
After some further discussion, the Council set April 6 as the date for a public hearing regarding the dissolution of the Wellness Center and Park and Recreation Boards. Garrett said that the Council could take action 30 days after that public hearing and that in the meantime he would work with both boards to draft an ordinance regarding the formation of the new combined board.
Zoning Administrator Al Lyon reported that the last three FEMA projects at Waukon City Park have been approved - the de-silting of the pond, the repair of trails and the replacement of bridges washed out in the flood of 2013. He said that the City's share of the project costs would be around $30,000 and asked for and received the Council's permission to work with Lyle TeKippe to get the appropriate permits and estimates to move forward with the projects.
In other business, City Attorney Garrett told the Council that before the Council's next meeting he would draft a new urban revitalization ordinance to establish three-year tax abatements for new home construction as previously discussed. The Council also reappointed Jim Wadsworth to the Airport Board, pending his approval and acceptance of the position.