Waukon City Council addresses variety of oddities during holiday-delayed session

by Bob Beach

The Waukon City Council’s regular meeting - held Tuesday, September 8 due to the Labor Day holiday on the Council's usual Monday meeting day - got off to an unusual start as Councilman Steve Wiedner voted against a motion to approve the consent agenda, which typically includes only routine business such as the agenda for the evening, minutes of the previous meeting and payment of claims. Wiedner explained after the meeting that he voted against the motion in protest of the Council’s decision to purchase two vehicles for the police department from Brown’s Sales in Elkader rather than comparable vehicles from a local dealership (payment to Brown’s for the two vehicles was included in the list of claims to be approved).
The Council held two public hearings, neither of which drew any public comment but both regarding general obligation loans for the purpose of refinancing a portion of the City’s debt and purchasing some new equipment and improvements for the street and police departments. City Clerk Al Lyon said that the principal amount, not to exceed $2,710,000, includes the previous loan balance plus $225,000 for current expenses. Councilman Trent Mitchell noted that refinancing the debt will save the City approximately $100,000. During regular business, the Council approved a resolution expressing intent to enter into the loan agreement.
Stacie Cooper of Sweeney Real Estate and former Third Street NW property owner Denise Mauss were present to ask the Council to waive $231 in interest on the special assessment for the Mauss property from the City's 2013 Street Improvement Project on Third Street NW. Mauss said that after her house was sold, she made an effort to pay the full assessment amount due, nearly $6,000, but the interest had not been included in the amount she had been told by the Allamakee County Treasurer’s Office, adding that after paying such a large amount, it came as a surprise to get a letter notifying her that an additional $231 was due.
City Attorney Jim Garrett said that the remaining amount due would place a lien on the property and it would need to be paid to remove the lien and complete the sale of the property. He said that if the Council agreed to forgive the interest, it would still need to be paid to the County Treasurer and then reimbursed by the City.
Councilman Mitchell said that he was concerned about setting a precedent for forgiving interest on special assessments and Mayor Loren Beneke said that if anything was done wrong in this case, it was the County’s error, not the City’s. The Council then voted unanimously to deny the request.
The Council then approved without discussion a revenue statement for a franchise agreement with Alliant Energy that includes a three-percent franchise fee that will be passed on to Alliant customers within the city.
The Council also approved the purchase of a used street patcher/paving machine for the City's street department for $37,500 from Star Equipment of Cedar Rapids. The Council also approved the payment of $13,579 to Fehr Graham Engineering out of the Hotel/Motel Tax Fund for engineering work on the flood repairs of trails and bridges in the Waukon City Park.
Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering addressed the Council regarding the replacement of Green Valley Road Bridge, which he said the City and the County share responsibility for. He said that the City would need to make a request to the Iowa Department of Transportation to be eligible for 80% funding of the project, with the remaining 20% split between the City and the County. The Council voted unanimously to file the request.
The Council then addressed the recent resignation of Darrold Brink from the Council. Mayor Beneke explained that the Council is required to fill the vacancy either by appointment or special election within 60 days, which is nine days prior to the general election in November, which would mean that if the Council chose to fill the vacancy by appointment, that person would then need to run for election during the general election. The Council voted unanimously to fill the vacancy by appointment and to publish a notice to that effect. The Council will determine who to appoint to fill the vacancy during its next regular meeting.
Mayor Beneke also addressed the Council regarding two vacancies on the Board of Adjustment, saying that efforts to attract volunteers have so far been unsuccessful. At least one of the two vacancies would need to be filled by a female to satisfy gender equity laws and members of the Board can’t be in the real estate business. Anyone interested in serving on the Board of Adjustment may contact the City Clerk’s office for more information.