Residents ask questions about Third Avenue SW project at Waukon City Council meeting

by Jason Meyer

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday night, December 7 with all members present, including newly-elected Councilor Ben Rausch.
The Council opened the meeting first to departmental reports, and Police Chief Phil Young said that the Dodge Durango listed for sale has received a single sealed bid since first advertised two weeks ago. He also noted the deadline is December 8, and the Council reserves the right to reject any and all bids.
Jeremy Strub, Director of Parks, Recreation and Wellness, reported that he will be meeting with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) soon to discuss plans by the IDNR to restock the Indian Springs Pond in the Waukon City Park to create fish habitats in the pond. He noted the first year the IDNR will supply bluegill, and the second year bass.
Moving on to regular business, Sarah Snitker from the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) addressed the Council regarding the pending sale of a property subject to the Waukon Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Program with funds remaining on the lien. In releasing the owner from the mortgage lien, which was approved unanimously, the City will be reimbursed $12,756 that must be used within one year in another housing program for low- to moderate-income families.
Snitker recommended the funds be reapplied to the Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund, also administered by the UERPC, which has aided 26 homes in the city of Waukon since 2010. The Council made no decision on where to expend the refunded monies.
City Engineer Lyle TeKippe of the Fehr Graham Environmental and Engineering firm was in attendance to present information on the 2016 Street Project on Third Avenue SW to the Council.
He noted that a number of driveways along the project route were at a considerably steep angle, and to implement an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant sidewalk on certain blocks would be nearly impossible. TeKippe posed the question of installing sidewalks where feasible and abandoning them where not, noting that there will be a sidewalk on at least one side of the street for the entire project; also asking the Council and City Attorney James Garrett to consider the legal implications, if any, in regards to ADA compliance.
Strictly informational, the Council had no action to take on TeKippe’s presentation; however, Mayor Loren Beneke opened the floor to public input, prompting such questions from those in attendance as:
“Why do we have to worry about sidewalks now, what about just getting the streets fixed? I’ve lived on that street for 20-plus years, I’m not concerned about a sidewalk, and I don’t have a sidewalk.”
“When will the property owners find out what they’ll be assessed, and what’s the percentage?”
“Don’t you think the whole project should be concrete instead of blacktop?”
In regards to the question of sidewalks, Councilor Trent Mitchell explained that with current street projects, sidewalks accompany the streets to keep in compliance with a City Ordinance, and to a further extent, as Councilor Don Steffens noted, it’s an issue of public safety in keeping pedestrians from using the roadway as a walkway.
Concerning property owner assessments, TeKippe noted that the project’s specifications are not complete yet, and the proposed expense for the project has not been calculated, two items necessary for making an assessment estimate. As for the owner’s percentage, with other projects the City is opting for a 40/60 split, with 40% assessed to the property owners, not to include all aspects of the project.
Addressing the question of concrete versus blacktop, TeKippe briefly explained the proposed process of micro-fracturing and using the existing six-inch concrete roadway as the base for a three-inch asphalt overlay, versus tearing out and hauling away the concrete and rebuilding the road. In his explanation, TeKippe noted there are a number of budgetary concerns that need to be taken into consideration in the decision of the overlay versus new construction.
Clearly a point of public concern, TeKippe and the Council reassured those in attendance that there will be more information released as the project moves forward, including Public Hearings where additional concerns can be voiced.
Continuing with the meeting, the Council approved the purchase of a portable wastewater sampler at a cost of $4,374.50. In moving forward with their application for a new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, the City will need to collect new samples and better monitor the wastewater system. This will also be important as the City continues work with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in updating Waukon’s wastewater treatment facilities.
In other business, the Council:
• approved a service agreement with the Fehr Graham Environmental and Engineering firm for the wastewater treatment facility project.
• approved a $500,000 general obligation loan agreement for the purchase of land for the proposed Northwest Retention Basin and the FEMA Park Projects.
• approved a variance for Dave Stilwell to construct a 30’x99’ addition to West Side Waukon Lumber at 1105 West Main Street.

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