Waukon City Council meets in special session to discuss water rates, personnel matters and the proposed City Manager position

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in a special session Monday, March 13 to address several matters, including a review of water rates, discussion of the proposed City Manager position and the review of Street Department applications. Mayor Duane DeWalle called the meeting to order.

The Council began discussion of the 11 applications received for the Street Department vacancy. For confidentiality, the applications were numbered 1 through 11 and referred to only by number and not name. Street Superintendent Keith Burrett provided his recommendations and Councilman Dwight Jones led the discussion and evaluation of the candidates, with the Council agreeing upon contacting four of those applicants for interviews.

The Council moved on to the Water Department Employee wage review agenda item. Water and Sewer Superintendent Bob Campbell advised that the employee being discussed was hired at the Union contract minimum of $11 per hour, which will be raised to $11.70 per hour at his six month work anniversary. That employee has expressed concerns about the wage difference between himself and a Street Department employee hired shortly after at a pay rate of $13 per hour. Campbell explained that the Water and Sewer Department employee has requested a raise to the $13 per hour level. The Council discussed the matter, opting to leave the employee’s pay rate as is.

The Council also discussed the review of water rates, with City Clerk Al Lyon providing background information on the matter including a hand-out showing Waukon water rates dating back to 2008, illustrating a two percent increase yearly to help fund repairs and maintenance for that department. Lyon also provided several examples of different cities and their water rates and associated fees.

The Council discussed that two percent is not keeping up with expenses, with the $85,000 well repair and maintenance cost as one recent example. An infrastructure fee and the advantages of moving to monthly billing were discussed by the Council. Campbell advised that the City has 1,728 meters that need to be read within 15 days for billing, which presents challenges with a move from quarterly to monthly, and detailed a need for a meter replacement program in the next five years that could take advantage of new technologies, eliminating the time-intensive reading of meters individually by Water and Sewer Department personnel.

The Council further discussed the importance of being equitable and keeping in mind the elderly with fixed incomes in setting any infrastructure fee. Joe Cunningham, a former Councilman, was in attendance and provided feedback on the two percent increase not keeping up with expenses during his time on the Council and provided some analysis of the figures being discussed currently. Lyon will continue to research and work with the analysis of the percentages and financial figures.

The proposed City Manager position was discussed, with Cunningham also providing feedback on the matter. Cunningham explained that he has addressed the issue with Council members and the Mayor individually and that a full-time City Manager may not be realistic for budgetary reasons. In discussing with the Iowa League of Cities, Cunningham explored the concept of a part-time City Manager position that may appeal to an experienced candidate and require a more conservative salary while providing scheduling flexibility and vacation time that would appeal to a seasoned professional with the ability to accomplish more in less time. Lyon outlined funding sources in the budget that could potentially cover the cost of the part-time position. Cunningham agreed to research the best options for advertising this position and presented a job description to the Council for approval, which was accepted with the Council agreeing to move forward.

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