Waukon City Council further discusses police vehicle purchase

by Bob Beach

During the regular meeting of the Waukon City Council Monday, May 4, Waukon Police Chief Phil Young stood by his initial recommendation to purchase two new vehicles from Brown's Sales and Service in Elkader rather than from one of the local car dealerships. Young said that while he would prefer to purchase the vehicles locally, the local dealerships don’t offer a vehicle comparable to the Ford Police Interceptor utility vehicle specifically designed for use by law enforcement.
Young presented the Council with a written response to recent complaints from the owners of the two local dealerships in which he detailed the specifications of the Ford, which he described as a mid-sized SUV with all-wheel drive, a V-6 engine for fuel economy, wider seats to allow for law enforcement officers’ duty belts, heavy duty suspension, brakes and other equipment, and more features that are included as standard equipment. He added that the Ford vehicle he recommends is used by law enforcement agencies throughout the country and locally by the Allamakee County Sheriff’s Department, Decorah Police Department and Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Department. In comparing other vehicles of similar size and utility, Young described the Chevrolet Tahoe as a “big gas guzzler” when considering patrol and other police department usage of such a vehicle and the current model of the Dodge Durango as a “minivan” that would need to be modified to be used as a police vehicle, all at an additional cost.
Young told the Council that Brown's Sales and Service’s response to a request to put the vehicle purchase on hold while the Council reconsidered its decision was to cancel the sale rather than risk being stuck with two special-order vehicles. Young said that as a result, the 2015 price for the 2016 vehicles is now off the table so the price of the vehicles will likely increase. The Council then voted to rescind its motion to purchase the vehicles from Brown's.
Assistant Police Chief Paul Wagner said that he had provided the vehicle specifications to R.W. Pladsen and Torkelson’s so that they could present proposals for comparable vehicles for the Council’s consideration.

The Council also discussed the draft ordinance prepared by City Attorney Jim Garrett to establish the Waukon Wellness Center and Park and Recreation Boards as a single entity. The Council agreed to two minor changes, reducing the Board members appointed by the school district from two to one and to give the Council the authority to approve hiring and firing of full-time employees of the new department.
Waukon Economic Development Corporation member and former Waukon City Councilman Joe Cunningham informed the Council that the time has come to involve Alliant Energy in the West Side Development Project for the installation of electrical service. Cunningham said that the cost to wire all eight building lots would be $15,807.68 while wiring only half of the lots would incur a cost of $7,359.94. The Council gave Cunningham the go-ahead to proceed with wiring all of the lots and Cunningham said that he would bring a contract to the next Council meeting for approval.

In other business, the Council approved the use of the same future land use map from the City’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan in the updated version of the plan. The Council also approved of a roadway maintenance agreement with the Iowa Department of Transportation and Allamakee County for snow removal, repair cost of $27,532 for well number 3 (some of which will be covered by insurance), the purchase of a John Deere lawn mower for the Water and Sewer Department for $4,800 and the purchase of a new Ricoh copier for the City Clerk’s office for $2,811.

Prior to its regular meeting Monday, the Council met in special session to discuss a grant application to the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to fund flood mitigation projects, the budget of the Park and Recreation Department and repair of the bridges and trails in the Waukon City Park.
Casey Mai of Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission told the Council that to qualify for the grant, the proposed hazard mitigation projects would need to rate above 1.0 on a Benefit Cost Analysis scale, which takes into account damages caused by flooding in recent years. The Council authorized Upper Explorerland to move forward with the application and Mai said that he would continue to work with City of Waukon Zoning Administrator Al Lyon to gather information for the application.
Park and Recreation and Wellness Center Director Jeremy Strub told the Council that the Park and Recreation Department will likely face a budget shortfall of approximately $22,000 based on expenditures in May and June in previous years. Councilman Trent Mitchell said that he felt that the Council’s decision to cut the Park and Recreation budget for the current fiscal year by approximately $18,000 had been ignored and that the department’s revenues “don’t make sense.”
Former Park and Recreation Director Jeff Snitker, who is now the Assistant Director following the realignment of the Park and Recreation and Waukon Wellness Center entities, responded that the Council had directed cuts in the department’s budget without specifying which programs should be cut. He also pointed out that concession sales are dependent upon the weather but that concession workers are on duty rain or shine.
The Council agreed to authorize continued expenditures by the Park and Recreation Department up to a maximum of the previous fiscal year’s budget, effectively granting a budget increase of up to $18,240 for this fiscal year. The Council also approved of the purchase of a new lawn mower for the Park and Recreation Department for $8,900, to be paid for with hotel/motel tax revenue.
The Council also directed Snitker to get the specifications for the trails damaged by flooding during the past couple years in order to seek bids for FEMA-funded repairs.