Waukon City Council holds regular Monday session

by Bob Beach

During public comment time at the regular meeting of the Waukon City Council Monday, April 20, local car dealership owners Bruce Torkelson and Steve Pladsen expressed their disappointment that the City had decided to purchase two new vehicles from Brown's Sales and Service in Elkader rather than at one of the local car dealerships. They said that neither was given a fair chance to quote a price for comparable vehicles and Pladsen said that the City should be aware of the number of people employed by the local car dealerships and the amount of tax revenue they generate. Mayor Loren Beneke said that the Council had not done much study before approving the purchase but had acted on the recommendation of Police Chief Phil Young, who was not present at the meeting.
Also during public comment time, former Councilman Joe Cunningham alerted the Council that the deadline is quickly approaching to submit a grant for up to $1.5 million to fund flood mitigation projects in the City. He said that he would be willing to work with the grant writer from Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) and City officials to ensure that the grant application is completed at least two weeks prior to the June 1 deadline to allow time for changes and corrections to the grant application. Councilman Trent Mitchell, Water and Sewer Superintendent Bob Campbell, Street Superintendent Randy Murphy and City Clerk Diane Sweeney agreed to meet with Cunningham and a representative from UERPC this Thursday to begin compiling the necessary information for the grant application.
During department reports, Water and Sewer Superintendent Campbell reported that the breach in the sanitary sewer line revealed at the last regular Council meeting has not yet been located, but he will continue to work with City Engineer Lyle TeKippe to locate and repair the breach. Zoning Administrator Al Lyon said that he would be publishing a notice to property owners regarding tall weeds and grass for the upcoming mowing season. Park and Recreation/Wellness Center Director Jeremy Strub reported that sign-up for summer recreation programs will be held soon and that the pool will be opened May 20.
The Council held two public hearings, neither of which drew any public comment. The topic of the first was the tax increment debt obligation of up to $180,000 to sign a loan guarantee for Aveka to fund improvements to reduce the smell that results from some processes at the facility; the second hearing concerned the City's capital improvements plan. Both of those items were handled quickly during regular business, as the Council passed a resolution to allow the debt obligation for Aveka and also approved the City's capital improvement plan without discussion.
A review of the City's comprehensive plan was also on the agenda for the Council's approval, but City Attorney Jim Garrett pointed out that the plan does not include a map or description of future land uses. The Council agreed to table consideration of the plan until a future land use map could be added.
Garrett also presented the Council with a draft of an ordinance to establish a new Park and Recreation/Wellness Commission, which he said is intended only as a starting point for establishing the new board. He added that the Council has some time to consider changes as the current Park and Recreation and Wellness Boards can't be formally dissolved until May. In a related matter, the Council reappointed Ann Blocker and Joe Griffith to the Park and Recreation Commission.
Garrett also reported that he has learned that for some time, Waste Management has been "erroneously and illegally" charging its customers local option sales tax for both the City and the County. He said that the company will attempt to determine the total amount overcharged in order to issue appropriate refunds to its customers, including the City of Waukon.
The Council also met with Jane Regan of Leschensky Insurance, who reviewed the City's various insurance policies.
In other business, the Council set Monday, May 18 as the date for a public hearing on an amendment to the City's budget for fiscal year 2015. The Council approved of a 5k run/walk sponsored by the Waukon High School Cross Country and Food and Fitness programs scheduled for Saturday, May 2. The Council also approved the use of the City sidewalk on Main Street from 3-7 p.m. Monday, May 18  and Monday, June 1 during the Dairy Parade on Spring Avenue by the Allamakee County Cattlemen's Association.