Waukon City Council hears public comment on Freedom Rock, discusses City dog ordinance and a variety of items regarding housing and downtown Plaza project

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in a delayed regular session due to postponement of the regular session scheduled for Monday, June 15, with attendance via Zoom web-conferencing and at the City Hall Council Chambers Tuesday, June 16. That regular session was postponed due to a majority quorum of council members not being able to meet that traditional meeting night due to various scheduling conflicts.

During Public Comment, Harvey Estebo of Waukon discussed concerns relating to the proposed placement of a Freedom Rock, a veterans memorial rock painted by Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II, in the Waukon City Park, indicating that there is support from the local American Legion and VFW posts for an alternate location. Estebo suggested that the cement area formerly occupied by an army tank in front of the Vet’s Club on Allamakee Street in Waukon would be a preferable location for the Freedom Rock and would better serve as a location for this type of memorial with the Vet’s Club soon to be operated by the Allamakee County Historical Society as a military museum.

Estebo advised that 87 Iowa counties currently have Freedom Rocks painted by Sorensen with Waukon soon to be included in the Freedom Rock Tour, a statewide tourism attraction. Estebo expressed concerns relating to the role of Director Ardie Kuhse of Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in a county-wide project and the decision making process used in establishing the Waukon City Park as the location for the Freedom Rock.

City Attorney Jim Garrett thanked Kuhse and Estebo for their work on this project. Garrett advised that at a recent meeting of the Allamakee County Historical Society, by unanimous vote the Board of Directors voted to pledge $2,500 towards this project with no strings attached, with the board requesting that Garrett express their preference to have the Freedom Rock placed in front of the Vet’s Club. Mayor Pat Stone expressed his support of this project with either location being a good option.

Shiloh Green and Kolby Martin of Waukon discussed their request to keep a pit bull mix dog at their residence as an emotional support and service animal. Green provided details relating to the roles this dog serves for family members and the registration of the dog that has taken place. Garrett discussed the City’s ordinance that prohibits certain breeds of dog, including pit bulls, even if not purebred. Garrett advised that if the dog meets the Americans with Disabilities Act definition of a service animal, the City may need to make an exception to this ordinance. Garrett recommended meeting with this family by phone and that more information be obtained before providing a recommendation to the council.

Under Department Reports, Police Chief Paul Wagner advised that interviews will be scheduled to fill police officer vacancies. Wagner discussed a recommendation from Assistant Police Chief Luke Inglett to include public involvement in the interview process with members of the clergy and representatives of the school district being mentioned. Wagner indicated that he has received inquiries from the public relating to fingerprinting, with equipment being ordered and this service to be offered for a small fee. Wagner discussed that door hangers have arrived to notify property owners in violation of the City’s ordinance relating to maintaining lawns.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper provided an update relating to the Wastewater Treatment Plant project and that a water main on Eighth Avenue NW will be repaired later in the week. Street Superintendent Keith Burrett reported that a new street patcher has arrived and has been used on several street repairs around town.

Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub advised that Little League was scheduled to start this week with Adult Softball to begin the following week and that Music in the Park concerts were scheduled to begin Thursday, June 18 with a performance by Lil’ Dale and the Legends. He reported that Music in the Park concerts are being scheduled into August.

Strub said that the tennis courts have reopened following painting that took place over the weekend and that a few minor details remain before the tennis courts project is completely finished. Strub also advised that the use of the Wellness Center has increased with a majority of exercise classes resuming. He provided an update relating to the air conditioning system at the Wellness Center with a drive to be replaced later in the week. Strub also further discussed the decision to close the swimming pool for the summer.

City Clerk Lana Snitker read aloud a report from Director Cate St. Clair of Robey Memorial Library indicating that the library has been reaccredited as a Tier 3 library, a top accreditation level that indicates staff, policies and procedures meet the State Library of Iowa’s highest requirements. St. Clair’s report indicated that this accreditation is valid through February 2023 and that reopening the library to the public has gone well.

City Manager Gary Boden discussed meeting with representatives of the Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative and Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) to discuss the potential of bringing fiber optic service to Waukon. Boden discussed the benefits of fiber optic to economic development and the business community among other entities within the city.

Stone discussed being fortunate to live in a community like Waukon and that he supports local and county law enforcement while acknowledging the current stressful climate. Stone also discussed the funding of the Plaza project and sculpture, and he said that streets will be a topic to be discussed at the next public forum.

Council member Gayle Decker provided a progress update relating to the new Wastewater Treatment Plant indicating that contractors have adjusted the projected completion date from July 15, 2020 to late fall.

The Public Hearing for the proposed disposition of the real property interest by the City of Waukon – West Side Subdivision  - Lot 2 in Lot 1 was opened with Snitker indicating that no verbal or written comments have been received. The Public Hearing was closed. The council moved into the Resolution approving and directing conveyance of real property interest by the City of Waukon – West Side Subdivision  - Lot 2 in Lot, 1, which was then approved.

The council approved setting July 20 as the public hearing date on the designation of the expanded Southeast Urban Renewal Area and on the Urban Renewal Plan Amendment – McMillan Property. The Resolution authorizing the internal advance to tax increment subfund for payment of additional administrative costs incurred during May, 2020 was approved.

Katie Nolte, Housing Department Head, of Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) shared information relating to housing programs and changes to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The Urban Revitalization Program application for property tax exemption for Dennis and Sherri Lyons was approved to be sent to the Allamakee County Courthouse for finalizing.

The council reviewed the Change Order #2 for the Plaza Project in the amount of $1,129.73. Boden indicated the additional expense is due to directions provided to contractors to elevate the sculpture in the Plaza an additional two cement blocks in height. The council approved Change Order #2.

The Pay Application #2 in the amount of $42,276.82 - Skyline Construction, Inc. for the Plaza Improvements Project was reviewed and approved by the council.

Boden briefly addressed the next agenda item relating to the next steps for the Plaza Improvements Project indicating that more information will be presented to council members prior to the July 6 council meeting. Boden said that he has received some specifications related to benches and tables for the Plaza.

The council approved to release the waiver of disconnect fees on City utilities and continue disconnect procedures. Boden said that this change will take effect at the beginning of July.

Wagner discussed the police department car camera agenda item indicating that a portion of the STEP program’s grant of $4,200 was used to purchase two portable breath tests (PBT) at $800 with the remaining balance of $3,400 available for equipment reimbursement. Wagner advised that equipment is required to be ordered prior to the end of July to use the remaining grant funds. He provided an overview of car camera costs and options with the council approving this purchase in an amount not to exceed $4,820 with a STEP program reimbursement of $3,400, requiring a City contribution of $1,420.

Boden addressed the next agenda item relating to direction on holding a City workshop. Boden advised this workshop will be an opportunity to develop plans relating to capital development, selecting streets for street improvement projects, among other matters. The council agreed to hold a special session July 27 at 6 p.m. at the Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) Waukon Center/Wellness Center.

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