Waukon City Council sets salary for new Police Chief, discusses ordinance for dead tree removal on private property

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, November 4 to address a full agenda of items including the removal of dead trees from private property, the contract for the computer system network project and appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

During Public Comment, Maintenance Supervisor Matt Pladsen with Aveka Nutra Processing provided an update relating to the company’s Waukon facility including a product for Anheuser-Busch and the placement of a new silo, among other matters.

Under Department Reports, Police Chief Paul Wagner advised that Assistant Police Chief Luke Inglett is participating in a field officer training program which will be beneficial in training new officers. Street Superintendent Keith Burrett provided an update on winter preparations involving various equipment including plows and sanders.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper provided an overview of the winter preparations relating to the wastewater treatment facility and lift stations and said that a new camera has been used to view sewer lines. Cooper also provided an update on the new wastewater treatment facility construction project with that work to continue during the winter months.

Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub reported that the City Park has been winterized as of last week. Strub indicated that lines will not be painted on the tennis courts this fall and will need to be painted in the spring and that the tennis courts lights have been installed. Strub also advised that Wellness Center use has picked up with the cold weather and that sealed bids for a pick-up truck will be added to the next council meeting agenda.

City Manager Gary Boden provided an update on the airport hangar driveway project, indicating that additional rock would be needed, increasing the cost of the project to the level of earlier estimates that included the cost of rock. Boden provided an update on the City’s bond issue commitment which has been pushed back two weeks. Boden also discussed roof maintenance and repair for  City Hall and that the first step in reorganizing the council chamber has been made with the ordering of three connected tables and will also involve a change from seven rows of chairs to three rows for public seating. Boden discussed ongoing work relating to the salary survey for City employees and the use of tax rates and statistics in comparing cities.

Mayor Pat Stone discussed a recent tour of several buildings and sites utilizing solar energy and addressed a recent issue with Robey Memorial Library’s fire alarm system with Wagner providing additional feedback on the matter. Stone also discussed snow removal options available for Robey Memorial Library.

Council member Gayle Decker provided a report on behalf of the City Council and further discussed the recent tour of buildings and sites utilizing solar energy touched on by Mayor Stone. Decker discussed that solar energy may be an option for the new wastewater treatment facility in the future with council members Ben Rausch and John Ellingson providing feedback on this concept.

The council moved into the discussion of the Resolution agreeing to the annual salary and effective date for the Police Chief. The council discussed police chief salaries in communities comparable to Waukon and approved to set the police chief salary at $65,705.92 with an effective date of October 21, 2019.

The Assistant Police Chief pay rate and start date was discussed, with Ellingson advising that the position be given managerial authority with a pay rate based upon a percentage of the Police Chief’s salary. Boden discussed adding this matter to the research currently taking place with the City employee salary survey.

Boden addressed the next agenda item relating to City employee health insurance, reporting that Ranae Warren with Group Services was unable to attend the council meeting and will make a presentation at a later time. Boden spoke of a 24% premium increase through the City’s insurance provider and that a 40% increase could be a possibility in the future if a mandated change to a plan through the Affordable Care Act were to take place.

Wagner addressed the next agenda item relating to the Police Department’s portable radios. Wagner indicated that an upgrade to dual band radios will be necessary for communication with the Allamakee County Sheriff’s Department and Iowa State Patrol at the start of the new year. Wagner discussed some cost-saving options relating to keeping a couple of the dual band radios programmed for a single band until needed, with the dual band programming representing an additional cost. Boden and the council discussed budget options for this expense with the council approving the expense of $33,177.60 for dual band radios.

The council discussed leases for the City’s agricultural properties with City Attorney Jim Garrett providing an overview of the matter. The council approved the lease agreement with Steve Stortz. The contract with Skyline Construction for the Plaza Project in the amount of $95,785.20 was discussed and approved by the council.

The council moved into discussion of dead trees on private property with Garrett providing an overview of State Code which allows the City to remove dead trees without authorization of the property owner with that expense assessed to property taxes. Boden added that this is a common ordinance relating to public health and safety and questioned whether or not tree stump removal should be included. Stone indicated that requiring tree stump removal may create issues for property owners that have recently removed a tree or have existing tree stumps on their property. The council was in agreement to keep tree stump removal optional. Boden advised that dead trees be cut down flush with the ground to eliminate tree stumps and the associated cost of stump grinding. The council approved to have the City Attorney prepare an ordinance to address nuisance trees for public safety.

Garrett also provided an update on the status of the Maury Regan property erosion control and street damage. Garrett indicated that Regan will be appearing before a magistrate and that if the City’s requested relief exceeds $5,000, the additional relief could be determined in District Court. Garrett advised that a closed session may be needed for discussion of this matter if the move to District Court takes place.

The council moved into discussion of the contract for the computer system network project. Boden indicated that computers have been ordered directly from Dell, rather than having contractor Wright Way Computers of Decorah place the order. The council approved the contract with Wright Way Computers in the amount of $10,335.83 for server and hardware set-up.

Boden discussed a tentative schedule for the budget process with meetings taking place the same day as city council meetings and other Mondays being an option as well. The council approved the appointments of John Hitner and Harvey Estebo to the Planning and Zoning Commission with terms expiring September 21, 2023.

Prior to adjournment, Boden reminded those in attendance that Waukon City Hall will be closed Monday, November 11 in observance of Veterans Day.

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