Waukon City Council hears recommendation that City Swimming Pool will not open this summer, discusses other COVID-19 matters and hears project and other updates

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, May 18 via Zoom web-conference to address a variety of matters including a property acquisition, discussion of closing the City Swimming Pool for the summer season and the City’s response to COVID-19 relating to City Hall and City Council meetings.

Under Department Reports, Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub advised that the Park and Rec Wellness Board will be meeting later this week to discuss the reopening of the Wellness Center with Tuesday, May 26 being a possible reopening date. Strub reported that Park and Recreation softball and baseball are still scheduled to take place at this time but possibly having shortened seasons. Strub briefly mentioned that Music in the Park is still a possibility for mid-June or July this summer if COVID-19 related guidance from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds changes to allow larger public gatherings.

Council member Gayle Decker questioned Strub about attendance levels at the Wellness Center under COVID-19 guidelines with Strub indicating that this will be discussed at the next Park and Rec Wellness Board meeting. Strub also responded to a question about baseball and softball from council member John Ellingson by indicating that skilled practices would be utilized locally with limited away games for older kids.

Director Cate St. Clair of Robey Memorial Library discussed that the Library Board met last week and is planning to meet again later this month to go over procedures and guidelines for reopening the library to the public. St. Clair provided an overview of the shelf-read process involving the inspection and testing of over 23,000 library materials including books and movies with Library Aide Chris Kerndt taking the lead in this project.

St. Clair discussed COVID-19 measures under consideration for reopening the library to the public including disposable masks and gloves, the use of baskets and three or more free standing hand sanitizer units. Curbside pick-up was discussed by St. Clair as being a successful service which has seen an increase during recent COVID-19 restrictions. St. Clair indicated that the metrics based upon the square footage of the library will allow a large number of individuals to be present with the use of social distancing when reopening to the public, although that actual reopening date is still being determined.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett indicated that his department has been busy and provided an update relating to sidewalk maintenance.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper discussed some maintenance that has taken place on a digester lid. Cooper reported that a contractor has made paint repairs to the bottom rung of the water tower with four coats of paint now being in place. Cooper discussed tank maintenance and indicated that a fire hydrant near the former Shopko building will be replaced this week following damage caused by a vehicle hit.

Police Chief Paul Wagner reported that Kelly Concrete has completed the approach and driveway at the Police Department building and that employment applications continue to be received for two officer vacancies. Wagner advised that the Allamakee County Sheriff’s Department has upgraded its radios to a digital system with a similar upgrade for Waukon Police Department squad cars being advisable. Wagner advised that handheld digital radios are being used in squad cars to allow communication with the Sheriff’s Department. Wagner discussed costs associated in replacing radios in three squad cars, with the analog radios possibly being used by the Street Department or resold.

City Manager Gary Boden suggested that the police radio replacements could be paid for in the next fiscal-year. Boden also provided an update relating to proposed video and audio improvements for the City Council chambers. Boden indicated that RCTech of Cedar Rapids has evaluated the council chambers space live streaming video and an audio system installation with estimates to be provided next week. Boden also discussed a variety of matters including a tree removal and his recommendation to install a plexiglass shield on the counter in the reception area of City Hall.

Boden and the council discussed having a firm provide a potential design or concept for the redevelopment of the former Spring Avenue Pub and former Tierney building area. Boden also reported that a change order for the new wastewater treatment plant project is necessary due to the excavation of debris from a trench and that things are progressing on the McMillan property across from the Police Station with two individuals expressing interest in the duplex project.

Mayor Pat Stone discussed that the Police Department driveway project has been completed well with water now draining properly. Stone also discussed the scheduling of various meetings.

Decker provided an update for the council, reporting that the three remaining city manager performance evaluations can be turned into Boden. The amendment of the July 1, 2018-June 30, 2021 Police Union Contract was approved.

The Public Hearing was opened for the proposal to participate in the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program and to obtain a forgivable loan for the benefit of Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH). City Clerk Lana Snitker indicated that no written or verbal objections have been received. The Public Hearing was then closed.

The Public Hearing was opened for the City Budget Amendment #2 for Fiscal-Year Ending 2020 with Snitker indicating that no written or verbal objections have been received. The Public Hearing was then closed.

The council moved into the review of several resolutions with the Resolution to Institute Proceedings for a Hospital Loan Agreement being approved. The Resolution approving the City Budget Amendment and Certification for Fiscal-Year 2020 Amendment #2 was also approved.

The Resolution agreeing to transfer from the General Fund to the Plaza/Tierney Redevelopment Fund $100,000 for Plaza Project costs was approved. Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering answered questions relating to a $1,500 change order for this project. TeKippe indicated that additional cement was poured to the height of the basement windows in the former Tierney building following the removal of wooden window sills. TeKippe explained that this was a necessary addition to support cement blocks being utilized in the Plaza project. The Change Order #1 for the increase of $1,500.00 Pay Application #1 for Skyline Construction, Inc. – Plaza Project was approved.

Other resolutions reviewed and approved included the Resolution agreeing to transfer from the TIF Fund to the Debt Service Fund for principal and interest due June 1, 2020 - $67,432.25 (General Obligation Bonds) and the Resolution agreeing to transfer from the TIF Fund to Debt Service Fund for principal and interest due June 1, 2020 - $8,140.62 (Fire Station Loan).

Boden addressed the next agenda item relating to the remnant property located in the 400 Block of Second Street SW. Boden indicated that there was only one bid received at $200 by Pat Stone. The council approved to accept the offer for the remnant property.

The council moved into discussion of the property acquisition at 7 Spring Avenue, the Spring Avenue Pub location. Ellingson motioned to purchase the property at the price in the purchase agreement. Following a roll call vote, the measure did not pass.

Strub discussed the next agenda item relating to the swimming pool and COVID-19. Strub advised that the Park and Rec Wellness Board met last week to address this matter by going through Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requirements including social distancing and face masks, with the board ultimately deciding to close the pool for the summer due to the challenges of meeting the CDC requirements for the upcoming season.

Strub reported that he has received feedback from other communities in the area that are likely to close their swimming pools for this summer season as well. He indicated that several large cities in Iowa and Wisconsin have made the decision to close their swimming pools with smaller communities likely to follow their lead. Ellingson added that the pool closure decision is being made in response to regulatory standards set by the State of Iowa. The request from the Park and Rec Department to close the swimming pool for the summer was approved.

Council member John Lydon discussed maintenance of the swimming pool’s water pump and recommended that it not sit without being operated for a year. Strub indicated that he will be meeting with a pool maintenance contractor to discuss this and other matters, including the possibility of covering the pool shell if need be.

The council discussed the City’s COVID-19 response with Boden providing options relating to council meetings including whether to continue online web-conferencing only or to go back to meetings in the Council Chambers with social distancing. Reopening City Hall to the public for general matters including water bills and building permits was discussed in addition to cleaning and sanitizing precautions that will be necessary. The council was in agreement to open the City Council Chambers to the public for the June 1 council meeting with Zoom web-conferencing to remain available to the public, City employees and council members who do not wish to be in attendance at City Hall due to COVID-19 concerns. The council discussed that further guidance from the State will likely be in place for discussion at the June 1 meeting.

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