Waukon City Council advised of part-time Waukon Wellness Center employee testing positive for COVID-19, approves expense reimbursement request through CARES Act

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Tuesday, September 8 following the observance of the Labor Day holiday and closure of City Hall on the council’s usual meeting day Monday, September 7. The council addressed a full agenda of items including a request for reimbursement from the Iowa COVID-19 Government Relief Fund, consideration of Waukon Wellness Center HVAC repairs and City Code amendments based on State Code changes.

There was no Public Comment and the council moved into Department Reports with Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper providing an update relating to lead and copper testing. Cooper advised that this testing involves the same 20 sample houses every three years with good test results coming back. Cooper also reported that two water valves have been replaced within the last two weeks and that a power outage on the southeast side of town is being repaired in two phases with residential service having returned and power to the lift station in that area yet to be addressed. Cooper said that an electrician has hardwired the lift station, which is again operational as a result, with an underground cable breakage likely being the cause for this outage.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett updated the council on street maintenance projects including crack filling and emulsion. He also discussed preparations to be made prior to the winter season.

Police Chief Paul Wagner discussed that a new Dodge Durango police vehicle has arrived and has been sent to Ankeny for new equipment to be installed. Wagner advised that as of September 8, the Police Department is operating out of both the Waukon Police Station and the City Hall basement office area on a 50/50 basis as furniture and equipment are moved to the City Hall location in preparation for the Police Station remodeling project. Wagner added that a pre-construction meeting with the contractor was scheduled for the day after Tuesday’s council meeting, Wednesday. Wagner further advised that Officer Dustin Harrington started his second week of police academy training as of that meeting date.

In the absence of Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub, City Manager Gary Boden provided an update relating to a part-time Wellness Center employee who has tested positive for COVID-19, with that part-time employee having last worked the morning shift a week earlier than the date of Tuesday’s council meeting. Boden said that the Allamakee County Board of Public Health has been consulted on this matter with the Wellness Center continuing operation due to the employee’s minimal contact with the public while at work at the front desk. Boden reported that a sign has been posted at the Wellness Center indicating that this event has occurred. He advised that the situation is being monitored but there is no expectation that anyone else had exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Boden also provided his City Manager’s Report and discussed that cost estimates have been provided by Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering for several street projects. Boden said that he would formulate a financial plan providing options to allow some or all of these projects to be accomplished through existing funds available with that information to be provided to council members in advance of the September 21 council meeting.

Mayor Pat Stone provided the Mayor’s Report and advised that Ken Kerr has agreed to another term on the Planning and Zoning Commission with Matt Teslow agreeing to an appointment to fill the remainder of John Hitner’s term. Stone also discussed that he recently met with the party interested in the former Tierney building and that he would like to schedule a presentation September 21 at 6 p.m. from this party pertaining to a proposed restaurant at this location prior to the council meeting scheduled for later that evening.

Council members Ben Rausch and John Ellingson briefly discussed setting a date for leaf collection with that date yet to be determined later in the fall.

The council moved into the Resolution requesting reimbursement up to $86,153.80 from the Iowa COVID-19 Government Relief Fund. Boden advised that the City’s relationship with Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) allows for the reimbursement of COVID-19 related expenses through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act with this request being primarily made on behalf of VMH. The council approved the resolution.

Boden also addressed the next matter relating to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) at the Wellness Center and the recommendation provided by the Wellness Center Board of Directors, which is to move forward with a repair that will get three to five more years out of the current HVAC system instead of replacement. Boden indicated that the repair is estimated at $60,000 with a complete replacement estimated at $500,000.

Boden further discussed the Wellness Center Board’s proposal with the City of Waukon to fund half of the repair cost, with the school district and Wellness Center Board to each fund 25% of the remaining cost. Boden agreed that this would be a reasonable approach in the short-term and discussed feedback received from council member Arvid Hatlan indicating that improvements to air distribution through duct work and additional openings may extend the life of the current HVAC system. The council approved to move forward with the estimated $60,000 repair with the City of Waukon funding $30,000 and requesting $15,000 from the Allamakee Community School District, and the Wellness Center Board Capital Fund also contributing $15,000 to the project.

The council moved into the consideration of City Code amendments based upon State Code changes. The council approved to order City Code amendments based upon Senate File (SF) 457 increasing the minimum fine for City Code violations to $105, with that minimum fine currently set at $65; SF 2268 raising the minimum age for possession or use of any tobacco product to 21 years of age, with that current minimum age set at 18 years of age; and House File (HF) 760 relating to additional exemptions from the hotel/motel tax. The council tabled City Code changes based upon HF 737 relating to animal regulations and HF 2502 relating to firearms and weapons. City

Attorney Kevin Stinn indicated that he would research HF 737 and HF 2502 and provide a recommendation to the council.

Prior to adjournment, the council moved into closed session per Iowa Code Section 21.5,(1)(i) to evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring, performance or discharge is being considered when necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to that individual’s reputation and that individual requests a closed session.

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