Waukon City Council hears of improvement plans for State Highways through town, discusses Aveka issues with company CEO and approves July 1 water rate increase
by Joe Moses
The Waukon City Council met in both a special session, Tuesday, April 11, and its regular bi-monthly session, Monday, April 17. Coverage of both meetings appears below.
APRIL 11 SPECIAL SESSION
The Waukon City Council met for a special session Tuesday, April 11 to discuss several items, including street repairs and sidewalks, the review of water rates and the review of Water Department employment applications. In Mayor Duane DeWalle's absence, Mayor Pro-Tem Dwight Jones called the meeting to order.
Street Superintendent Keith Burrett provided a brief overview of a recent meeting with the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) and preliminary plans that were discussed for repaving or resurfacing State Highways 9 and 76 within Waukon city limits in 2019, a project that would also require that sidewalks need to done to Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Burrett, Water and Sewer Superintendent Bob Campbell and the Council discussed temporary repair options for streets and sidewalks with the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride (RAGBRAI®) this summer and the 2019 Highways 9 and 76 resurfacing as considerations.
That discussion led into further discussion by Jones about the need for a long-term street program and planning beyond immediate and short-term repairs. Waukon City Clerk Allen Lyon suggested that an updated inventory of streets will need to be compiled grading streets based upon condition, with previous inventories being outdated. Councilman Ben Rausch discussed the economic upside that improved streets create for communities with less wear and tear on vehicles and City equipment not having to travel over potholes and cracks, which are benefits beyond visual appearance and perception, which would also improve.
Funding options were discussed including Tax Increment Funding (TIF), Local Option and debt levy as possible sources for such a long-term project. The Council agreed to further discuss a street program at the April 17 meeting.
Lyon then provided an overview of expenditures, revenues and water rates and provided multiple possible scenarios including percentage increases and flat fees or a combination of the two options to better meet the City's obligations for repairs and improvements. After some discussion, the Council agreed to review rate increase options at the April 17 City Council meeting.
The Council reviewed four Water Department employment applications that have been received for a vacancy. The applications were numbered one through four to keep the identities of applicants confidential. After discussion, Campbell recommended re-advertising the position and also advertising the summer part-time position listed next on the agenda, with the Council approving.
APRIL 17 REGULAR SESSION
The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, April 17 to discuss a variety of issues, including the Aveka noise, smell and spill, RAGBRAI® and water rates. The Public Hearing for the Amendment to the “R-3” Zoning District to add “Quilt Shops” as a Conditional Use Permit was opened and closed without any written or verbal comments.
Under Departmental Reports, Police Chief Phil Young discussed the budget that he and Paul Wagner have developed for RAGBRAI’s stop in Waukon. Street Department Superintendent Keith Burrett advised that the street patcher is up and running and, weather permitting, will be running four days per week. Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub discussed that Youth Soccer is ongoing right now and the Summer Rec sign-up is Wednesday, April 26 at the Wellness Center. Strub discussed that a grant has been received from the Allamakee Community Foundation for $7,500 to remodel the restrooms at the complex and repair the fields.
Under Regular Business, Executive Director Val Reinke with Allamakee County Economic Development discussed the county-wide housing study and the need for the City to provide confirmation of its financial support in the meeting minutes, which in turn will allow Black Hills Energy to move forward with its contribution. The Council approved a $950 contribution to the housing study.
Willie Hendricksen, CEO/Founder of the Aveka Group which operates the manufacturing facility in northern Waukon, discussed the next agenda item involving issues with noise, smell and a spill relating to the company. Mayor Duane DeWalle elaborated on the concerns that have been brought to the Council’s attention including the ongoing issues with noise and the smell generated by the Aveka facility. Hendricksen indicated that he and the company have not been made aware of any recent complaints and that it is important that information is provided to them.
Councilman Dwight Jones discussed that the issues with yeast smell have been ongoing and cited the Easter holiday as a time that it was noticeable outside of his home and that it is likely residents are not complaining due to it being an ongoing, longtime issue. Hendricksen advised that there are three options for reducing the odor coming from the manufacturing facility: 1) Stop drying the product, which will ultimately close the facility; 2) Install a water scrubber which will reduce some of the odor at a cost of $200,000, which is a similar expense to the bag house which was built to help control fan noise; and 3) Install an ozinator at an expense of $200,000 which utilizes a highly active form of oxygen with no guarantee that process will work to control the smell.
Hendricksen discussed the noise concerns citing the complaints about an idling truck that was due to a customer, which was a one-time situation, and the fan noise, which he will need some guidance regarding what noise levels are acceptable. Hendricksen discussed that other vehicle noise may be caused by unauthorized vehicles parking on the Aveka property, which is an issue he will be looking into, and further discussed the costs individually at $200,000 or collectively in the $400,000 to $600,000 range for some noise and smell reduction with no guarantee that these methods will improve or work at all.
Water and Sewer Superintendent Bob Campbell discussed the efforts that Aveka has made in controlling the PH levels of water discharged from the facility using a method or trade secret process, with information being collected and feedback being provided by the City. Hendricksen advised that the spill mentioned in the agenda item was the result of an employee error and plans are being put in place to prevent this from happening again. Campbell indicated that the sewer plant was overloaded due to the spill with Hendricksen indicating that a new building with tanks will help control PH levels and an emergency control valve and equipment will better prevent and monitor the problem.
Reinke discussed the positive economic impact that Aveka has for the City and County with 43 good paying jobs at the facility. Jones further commented that he is very pro-Aveka and does not want the facility to close, but it does need to be a good neighbor and described today’s conversation as an informational meeting. City Clerk Al Lyon will be using some sound monitoring equipment to provide feedback on decibel levels produced at the facility and the Council will provide an acceptable decibel level, as this is not currently listed in the City’s existing noise or nuisance ordinance.
The Amendment presented in the public hearing to open the meeting was approved for the “R-3” Zoning District to add “Quilt Shops” as a Conditional Use Permit with the second and third readings being waived. Coordinator Ardie Kuhse with Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) provided an update on RAGBRAI planning. Kuhse indicated that the committees are meeting frequently and that their efforts are greatly appreciated. Kuhse reminded the Council about the RAGBRAI meeting Tuesday, April 18 at Iron Ridge Church which will be an opportunity for the public to ask questions and that the announcements that will be made should generate some excitement and move the community forward.
Kuhse advised that campsites have been set and approved but additional housing needs and yard space should be considered. Kuhse commented on the hard work done by the Budget Committee and that there is a need to raise $40,000 to make this event a success with different giving levels and sponsorships to be announced. Kuhse discussed putting the final touches on the RAGBRAI ordinance for Waukon with City Attorney Jim Garrett and that routes for support staff are being worked on as well. She said that the official Waukon RAGBRAI website can be found at www.ragbraiwaukon.com.
Howard Van Ruler provided feedback concerning waste pick-up in the alley by Howard’s Home Furnishings. With Town and Country’s new One Pass system for garbage and recyclables collection, Van Ruler was informed that he would need to have recyclables and garbage containers moved to the street for collection, rather than being left in the alley. With multiple apartments, residents and containers as a result, Van Ruler discussed the issues with putting garbage and recyclables street-side with the alley being a better option. Jones or another Council member will be contacting Town and Country Sanitation to further discuss options.
Street Bonds and Water/Sewer taps were discussed by the Council with Campbell recommending that Water/Sewer taps be raised to $200. The Council agreed there is a need to raise Street Bonds to $750. Both matters were approved with an effective date of July 1, 2017. The Allamakee County Cattlemen’s request to use the Main Street sidewalk in front of KNEI Radio to serve steak sandwiches May 22 was approved with the fee being waived as a non-profit.
Water Rates were discussed by the Council with a $2 monthly flat fee for infrastructure and a 6% increase for next year effective July 1 being approved. Moving forward, water rates will be evaluated and established on a yearly basis. The Reel-Core franchise rebate for January, February and March at $3,334.83 was approved.
Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe with Fehr-Graham Engineering provided an update on the Concrete Foundations 2016 street corrections. TeKippe described the work accomplished to repair drainage issues on several streets. As a routine accounting measure, the transfer of $2,303.46 from the General Fund (proceeds from Storm Water Utility Fees) to the Storm Sewer Improvement Fund for project improvements was approved.
The Street program and repairs were discussed by the Council. A change order for work to be done on the alley near City Hall was approved. The Council also approved work to be started on core-outs not to exceed $100,000.
Under Other Matters, alternate side parking was discussed on specific streets seen as being difficult to travel due to parking on both sides. Police Chief Young discussed the timeline for removing the house on the Fifth Street SW property for the proposed police station. Contracts for internet service and franchise fees were also discussed.