Waukon City Council addresses variety of issues in regular session

by Bob Beach

During the regular meeting of the Waukon City Council Monday, June 15, Dennis Lyons and members of the Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Board asked the Council to consider funding repairs to the roof of the building known as the "Tierney building" downtown at the corner of Spring Avenue and Main Street. Lyons told the Council that the building is worth preserving and that WEDC’s eventual goal is to get a business into the building and the first step in that direction would have to be repairs to the roof at an estimated cost of $50,000. Lyons suggested that the Council invest in the project either through an economic development grant or through the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds.
Councilman Trent Mitchell said that funding the project using TIF funds could open the door to other downtown businesses to request TIF funds for building repairs. He also questioned whether investment in the building would be the best use of TIF money, suggesting that he would rather help a business that is already up and running.
Councilman Steve Wiedner said that he has heard many comments from the public asking why the Council hasn’t done more to fix up the downtown district. He said that he believes that investment in the building would be “a very worthwhile investment in the community,” adding, “I don’t think we can afford not to do it.”
Wiedner then made a motion to fund the roof repair project using TIF funds, which passed by a 3-2 vote with Dave Sanderson and Don Steffens voting no. Sanderson said that his concern is that the Council was never consulted or questioned about the building when it was gifted to WEDC at the beginning of the year. Steffens echoed that sentiment later in the meeting saying, “WEDC backed us into a corner.” City Attorney Jim Garrett said that he would prepare a specific proposal for the Council’s consideration at its next regular meeting.
The Council also met with Police Chief Phil Young and Veterans Memorial Hospital Administrator Mike Myers to discussing parking issues around the hospital. Young said that the hospital and clinics are experiencing “growing pains” and that parking for patients and employees has become an issue.
Myers said that while he is unsure how many complaints have been received about the congested streets around the hospital, he is certain that creating new no-parking areas on the streets would generate more complaints from people who would have to walk farther to get to work. He added that no matter where no-parking areas were established, the same issues would arise in another areas. “I don’t know what the answer is,” he said, but agreed to work with Young on possible solutions.
The Council then approved the first reading of an ordinance to establish a no-parking area on Second Street SE between Second Avenue SE and Third Avenue SE.
Park and Recreation/Wellness Center Director Jeremy Strub presented the Council with bids for materials for repairing the five bridges and valley trail in the City Park. He said that FEMA had approved as much as $10,000 for the materials for the project and asked for the Council’s permission to accept other project bids on the Council’s behalf as long as they are less than the FEMA-approved estimates. The Council accepted the low bid for the materials from Waukon West Side Lumber of $8,122 and authorized the Park Board to accept and award bids for other aspects of the project if they are within the FEMA-approved amounts.
The Council also met with Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering regarding the 2016 Street Improvements Project. TeKippe gave the Council an overview of the project, which will be a concrete overlay of Third Avenue SW from West Street to Ninth Avenue SW. He said that he would be open to any suggestions from the Council or public as he begins the preliminary planning for the project. The Council approved a professional services agreement with Fehr Grahm Engineering for the project.
The Council also approved three-year contracts with the unions representing both police and public works employees with an average annual salary increase of approximately three percent. The Council also approved a two percent wage increase for non-union employees with the exception of Assistant Police Chief Paul Wagner, who will receive an additional raise of $1.25 per hour.
In other business, the Council passed a resolution approving the sale of a vacated alley segment near the County Fairgrounds  to adjoining property owners Christine and Dave Enyart for $400. The Council passed the second reading of an ordinance to combine the Park and Recreation and Wellness Center Boards (Mitchell voted no). The Council also approved of a service agreement with Allamakee Economic Development and Waukon Economic Development and a five-year agreement with Westrum Leak Detection.

CORRECTION: It was inaccurately reported that the Waukon City Council voted unanimously during its last regular meeting to approve the purchase of two vehicles for the Police Department from Brown’s Sales and Service in Elkader. Councilman Steve Wiedner voted no on that motion.