City Council approves FY17 Budget, discusses street improvements during special session

The Waukon City Council met in a special session Monday, March 14 with just two items listed on the meeting agenda. The first of those was a public hearing for the Fiscal Year 2017 City Budget, with no comments being heard or read from the general public before the hearing was closed and the Council approved the budget for submission to the State of Iowa.
Discussion then turned to the second agenda item, simply labeled “Streets,” and that discussion took nearly two hours as a number of different subjects were discussed with the purpose of brainstorming and not necessarily making decisions on overall policy or project approval. Prior to getting into specifics of the actual street discussion, Waukon City Clerk Al Lyon presented the Council with a quote from Visu-Sewer for televising sewer lines in order to determine the condition of such lines, including the main line as well as up to 60 feet laterally from the main line.
It was suggested that such a service would be well worth the price tag of $12,400 for up to 40 service connections and $7,400 to televise the main line, especially when considering larger projects, such as the recently proposed Third Avenue SW project. It was also suggested that the televising service be done a year in advance of beginning any project in an effort to determine what underlying issues might be faced when digging into a street improvement or other major project. Discussion then expanded to how long such a televised assessment could be relied on for dependability, and just how far within the street the City should be responsible for with potential repairs or replacements. In the event of major street replacement projects, a suggestion was made that the City take responsibility for repairs or replacements as far up as the property line of each parcel so that the proper repairs or replacements could be made and a new street project would not have to be dug up several years down the road to make a repair that a property owner may have decided against making at the time of the street project.
Lyon also advised the Council that the four traffic counters approved for purchase at last Monday’s regular council meeting have been received and were put in place over the weekend for a test run. Lyon said a number of reports are available through the counters, and that it now should be determined where those counters should be placed and for what timeframe. One already pinpointed use will be to determine the traffic count for Second Street NE and the new Third Street NE in order to compare current numbers with the numbers recorded prior to Third Street NE being completed. Councilman Ben Rausch said it will be nice to be able to use the counters to help establish the information the City needs to determine street project priorities and methods of paying for such projects. “Data drives these decisions that need to be made, and right now we don’t have that data,” Rausch said of the City’s current situation.
xFrom talk of street improvements the conversation switched to street maintenance for a spell, with the topic of seal coating taking center stage in an effort to protect and preserve streets for a greater period of time. The advantage and specifics of chip seal coating were discussed at length, with City Engineer Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering suggesting that the Council take a look at other communities who already use the process on their streets before making any decisions. “It’s not a 20-year fix,” TeKippe said. “But the greatest advantage is the sealing of the joints to prevent moisture from causing further damage.”
TeKippe also provided the Council with a map he had compiled from information obtained through a recent Iowa Department of Transportation study that rated the streets within Waukon. The Council expressed its appreciation for the map, stating how nice it will be to not have to “start from scratch” in assessing street priorities.
Discussion then reverted back to Third Avenue SW, with Councilman Don Steffens asking if patching the worst areas of the street would be a feasible plan until a more long-term project could be figured out. That initial inquiry led to a lengthier discussion that eventually centered around improving the worst intersections along Third Avenue SW with infrastructure and concrete replacement since it seems that the intersection areas are truly the worst parts of the street. That suggested plan would be at the City’s cost, with options for the remaining stretches of the street being further discussed. It was ultimately agreed that a cost estimate for fixing the five worst intersections along Third Avenue SW would be compiled by Engineer TeKippe before the Council’s next regular meeting, Monday, March 21.
Further discussion took place in regard to how to pay for future street improvement projects. With it being determined that additional available funding sources, such as road use and the new gas tax, local options sales tax, and even capital improvement levies, not meeting the current needs to put the Waukon community on a better path of street improvements and maintenance, all agreed that, although it may not be the most popular action, assessing property owners for street improvements is simply a necessity in order to meet current and immediate future needs in that area of City priorities. Figuring out how such assessments should be determined is one of the next major tasks in front of the Council.
In addition to street improvements and maintenance, discussion also took place in regard to the local personnel responsible for those tasks, especially in light of the recent retirement of Street Superintendent Randy Murphy. It was decided that any decisions in regard to that matter would need to be addressed at the next regular Council meeting, as such decisions could not be made without the mayor in attendance, and Mayor Duane DeWalle was unable to attend Monday’s special session.