City Council postpones Third Avenue SW project for this year; May 6 is spring clean-up date

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday evening, March 7, hosting a full council room for yet another session consisting mainly of residents along Third Avenue SW, as four different scheduled agenda items dealt with that proposed street project. Those residents ultimately listened to the Council make a decision to not pursue the project for this year, citing a need to further research the project and all the factors it entails.
Prior to that decision on the Third Avenue SW project, a public hearing originally scheduled to take place at the meeting in regard to the Fiscal Year 2017 City Budget had to be rescheduled to Monday, March 14 due to corrections needing to be made in the original published budget and timeframe requirements with publication of such a document. The Council later officially set that public hearing date for next Monday.
With no public comments being made, departmental reports opened with Water Superintendent Robert Campbell advising that commercial water meters that the City previously had made an effort to certify over the past several years now no longer have parts available and will need to be replaced, with Campbell working on gathering pricing information to be shared at a future date. Keith Burrett from the Street Department advised the Council that the damaged stop light on the northeast corner of the intersection of Allamakee Street and Main Street has been replaced, but that the walk/don’t walk signal is on back order. Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub advised the Council of application deadlines for his department’s open Recreation Program Director position, this Friday, and for summer recreation positions, next Friday.
Third Avenue SW property owner Robert Schulze was on the meeting’s regular business agenda, addressing the Council with further concerns in regard to the proposed Third Avenue SW project. One of Schulze’s greatest concerns with the proposed cracking of the current road surface and three-inch asphalt overlay stems from drainage of rainwater and the new height of the street forcing water on to properties and into structures that did not have water issues previously.
Schulze said that he had taken his own laser measurements and done his own calculations based on his decades of construction experience, and he estimated the crown of the proposed street will be an inch higher than the floor of his basement-level garage, resulting in water ultimately finding its way into areas of his property it had never accessed before and causing damage Schulze questioned who would pay for. Schulze ultimately asked for the project to be postponed until all facets of the project could be thoroughly considered in order to make the best decision.
The Council ultimately granted that seemingly universal request during the next agenda item, with former Waukon mayor and current councilman Dewey Jones addressing the crowd in attendance. Jones first apologized for the Council not coming up with a quorum for an official meeting at the previous February 22 special session scheduled for the purpose of further discussing the Third Avenue SW project. He then explained the Council’s current position in regard to the project, ultimately suggesting that the Council “has a lot of homework to do" in regard to not only the Third Avenue SW project but the City’s entire street program.
He said that in light of all the concerns expressed by residents and others he would recommend that the project be put off for a year, but that meetings continue to be held by the Council to further discuss and iron out details of the Third Avenue SW and future street projects. “We may come back to you with bad news again,” Jones said in regard to addressing the project again in the near future, “but we’ll be much better prepared to explain the decisions we’re making.”
Other members of the Council unanimously agreed, ultimately approving a motion to postpone the project while conducting further research in order to be able to make a more informed decision. Part of that research was determining traffic levels on the street, and the Council unanimously approved the purchase of four traffic counters to be used in determining traffic flow for use in future street projects.
In further regard to future street improvement projects, resident Dean Sorenson questioned the Council in regard to consistency with the City’s sidewalk policy. City Attorney Jim Garrett advised that an ordinance is in place regarding sidewalks but has not been consistently enforced, to which Sorenson replied, “That’s what I’m saying.”
Moving beyond the street improvement project, the Council discussed an excessive water bill in the amount of $2,279.43 at the Countryside Apartment property owned by Lucy Lawson. After some discussion in regard to the situation that resulted from a long undiscovered water leak, the Council decided to offer Lawson a six-month timeframe to pay off the bill without any late penalty. Additional discussion ensued in regard to the City’s current policy, or lack thereof, in regard to excessive water usage.
The Council also accepted the resignation of long-time Street Superintendent Randy Murphy, effective as of March 4, 2016 and bringing to completion a 38-year career with the Waukon Street Department. Councilman Jones expressed the Council’s thanks to Murphy for his years of service to the City.
A Citywide Spring Clean-up date was set for May 6. Approval was also given to changing the City’s group health insurance plan through Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa from its current December renewal date to a renewal date of October 1 of this year, which would avoid the plan being moved to a required Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan and experiencing a premium increase of approximately 25%.
City Engineer Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering advised the Council that he had plans finalized in regard to the Northwest Detention Basin proposed in the northwest corner of the city. In light of interim funding measures in regard to this and other City projects coming due June 30 and being replaced by long-term bond funding, the Council voted to move forward with the project, setting a date of March 21 to approve final plans and specifications and requesting of bids, and a date of April 11 to have those bids due in order to be awarded at the Council’s April 18 meeting, at which a public hearing is also scheduled to be held. TeKippe indicated a project completion date of August of this year.
In regard to that Northwest Detention Basin location, the Council also approved a lease agreement to have the previous lessee  tenant continue to farm the remaining 13.5 acres surrounding the detention basin location. The Council approved a lease amount of $240 per acre.
City Attorney Garrett advised the Council of requests being made by Green Valley Getaway owner Brian Sweeney in regard to the proposed annexation of half of Green Valley Road in order to complete ownership requirements to receive 80% cost-share funding from the State of Iowa for replacement of the bridge on Green Valley Road. Sweeney was requesting that the flow underneath the new bridge be at least at its present capacity, and also requested that should the City decide to pave that road there be no special assessment to the adjacent property owners. The Council agreed to both conditions in this “special situation” in order to move forward with the annexation process.
The Council next addressed a request by Aveka to connect into the City’s storm sewer system along Eighth Avenue NW. A current underground drainage system that opens to a grassy area  near the intersection of Eighth Avenue NW and Allamakee Street/Highway 9 results in water from rainstorms or melted snow spilling over and pooling up along portions of that intersection, making for hazardous driving conditions at times, especially when that drainage freezes and creates an icy patch. Aveka officials hope that connecting that drainage system to the City’s storm sewer would remedy that situation. Council members agreed with the driving hazard created with the current situation but will have to look into how connecting with the City’s system should be handled. Keith Burrett of the City Street Department likened the connection to a homeowner wishing to connect their home's eave spouts into the storm sewer, which has been done at the homeowner's expense.
The Council waived its right to review a plat of survey for Kevin and Donna Schmidt. The Council also agreed to waive for a period of 12 months a regulation that does not allow an accessory building to be housed on a residential lot while property owners Mike and Janet Adam convert the current accessory building into a home. Approval was also given to a resolution approving the fiscal year 2017 budget for Veterans Memorial Hospital, as well as to the transfer of funds from the City's General Fund and Road Use Tax Fund into the T&A Self Insurance Partial Self Fund.