Waukon City Council hears update on Alliant utility boxes; Residents of Waukon will receive letter on options

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, February 6 to discuss a full agenda of items including a Housing Study request, the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI®) and the Review of Budget Requests with Department Supervisors.

There were no Public Comments and the meeting moved into Departmental Reports with Water/Sewer Superintendent Bob Campbell providing an update on Well 3. Waukon Police Chief Phil Young discussed the Official Launch Ceremony for the Effigy Mounds Quarter taking place February 7 at the Waukon High School. Young indicated that extra precautions have been made with security being ramped up and planning for the additional traffic anticipated for the ceremony. Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub discussed that things are picking up with usage of the Wellness Center over the winter months and, on the Parks and Recreation side, the basketball programs are ongoing.

Under Regular Business, Dave Wadsworth discussed the City Hall windows that have been identified as needing replacement. Wadsworth indicated that the nine upper floor windows could be refurbished to a level of energy efficiency comparable to any replacement window with an outer storm window while retaining the appearance of the arch top of the historic window architecture. Wadsworth presented information on other projects his company has completed and will be working on an estimate for the City Hall project. No action was taken at this time.

Representatives from Alliant Energy were present to discuss the Street Right of Way Work Requests agenda item. Alliant Energy has proposed to install green utility boxes/transformers in street boulevards to improve service reliability at no cost to customers. An additional option is available and Alliant Energy will be sending out letters detailing the cost per foot for the option of installation of underground cables in place of the green utility boxes. This option would be at the customer’s expense, but is an option for those not wanting a green utility box in the boulevard near their home. Alliant Energy has indicated that the move of the utility boxes to the boulevard or underground will make service more reliable by eliminating problems with tree limbs and animals.

Allamakee County Economic Development Executive Director Val Reinke discussed the proposed countywide Housing Study with the Council. Reinke indicated that the housing study will benefit the County with the data necessary to qualify for grants and low-interest loans to benefit housing rehabilitation and to promote industry. To help cover the cost of the study, Reinke is requesting funding from each county community that equates to 25 cents per resident. Reinke advised that the Housing Study will likely take one year to complete. City Clerk Al Lyon advised that a line item can be added to next year’s budget for this expense.

Waukon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stephanie Dugan and Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Coordinator Ardie Kuhse were present to update the Council on RAGBRAI preparations. Dugan discussed the Advisory Board that has been established and the Executive Committee and 19 sub-committees that will be involved in the event planning.

Kuhse mentioned that several City Council members will be involved in some of those committees and that RAGBRAI staff will be visiting every two weeks until the event takes place in late July of this year. Kuhse indicated that RAGBRAI has provided information that can be used as a checklist in the planning process and drew comparisons to the planning for the Tractorcade event last year. Kuhse recommended that a temporary RAGBRAI Ordinance will need to be approved by the Council for the collection of vendor fees and for establishing a single outdoor area for the sale of alcoholic beverages.

The Chamber of Commerce requests to close several streets in Waukon this year for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 19, the Memorial Day Parade May 29, the Dairy Days Parade June 5 and the Holiday Parade December 4. All of those requests were approved.

Police Chief Young discussed the Police Department vacancy and provided a hiring recommendation of Devon Baumgartner of Strawberry Point at the union contract starting wage, which was approved by the Council. Baumgartner will be finishing his coursework online with Hawkeye Community College and will be starting February 12 with the Waukon Police Department.

The Police Department Facility was also discussed by Young, who recommended that the shed and house currently on the property could either be torn down or someone may be interested in relocating the buildings to a new location. Young will be reaching out to architects to begin the planning process for the facility construction. The Council approved receiving estimates on tearing the structures down, receiving estimates on a new building and offering the structures for removal.

City Attorney Jim Garrett discussed the Storm Water Utility Ordinance and clarification on the definition of user. Garrett advised that simplifying the definition of user would benefit the City and be fair to property owners. The first reading of the ordinance was approved and the second and third readings were waived. The Review of Budget Requests with Department Supervisors was also discussed with the Council.

Strub advised that removal of 29 ash trees will be necessary for safety reasons in the Waukon City Park. He believes some of the trees may generate income from logging but likely not enough to offset the entire cost to remove them all. Strub also discussed the condition of the park's existing lawn mower and the need for a replacement and that a used van may be beneficial in transporting Luster Heights work release individuals and could add to the number of workers on projects.

Campbell discussed a sewer jet replacement. Street Superintendent Keith Burrett discussed the street sweeper and snow blower which will need replacement. Young discussed squad cars, budgeting and scheduling of trade-ins.