Waukon City Council hears updates on police station renovation and water treatment plant projects, holds public hearing on CDB grant to address housing needs

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, November 16 to address an agenda of items including a Public Hearing relating to the CDBG Housing Grant, discussion of group health insurance options for City employees and updates from various City departments.

With no Public Comment, the council moved into Department Reports with Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub providing an update relating to the Waukon Wellness Center. Strub advised that the Center’s heating system is operating well following recent maintenance and that membership at the Wellness Center has increased as people are getting back into fall and winter routines. Strub also discussed the recent COVID-19 related proclamation by Governor Kim Reynolds which has temporarily banned group exercise until December 10, and will also impact Adult Volleyball and Youth Basketball which are now also postponed until December 10.

Strub reported that Senior Project Engineer Lucas Elsbernd of Fehr Graham Engineering has proposed plans for storm water run-off improvements at the City Park and that those plans will be presented to the Park and Recreation Board at its meeting scheduled later in the week. Council member Gayle Decker questioned Strub about whether the Governor’s recent proclamation will limit the number of people allowed in the Wellness Center at one time. Strub replied that the maximum number of individuals allowed in the Wellness Center is not impacted by this proclamation due to being in the fitness center category, which is exempt from that restriction. Council member

Ben Rausch and Strub discussed air exchange, the process of bringing fresh air into the Wellness Center periodically throughout the day.

Police Chief Paul Wagner provided an update relating to the Police Station renovation project by noting that drywall installation is nearing completion. Wagner said that progress photos can be found on the Waukon Police Department website at www.waukonpolice.com/progress-photos.

Wagner also discussed a recent meeting he and council member John Ellingson had with a contractor relating to the potential installation of security cameras in the downtown area and that an estimate will be provided. Wagner added that another contractor has checked the storm siren at City Hall and that new officer Chris Doeppke has been on the Police Academy waiting list and will be enrolled January 4.

Director Cate St. Clair of Robey Memorial Library discussed the Governor’s recent proclamation which she indicated will not impact the library’s current operations with staff members wearing face masks and large groups not being an issue with programming and activities not scheduled in response to the pandemic. St. Clair further discussed that the library remains open to the public and that curbside pick-up continues to be an available option. St. Clair mentioned the library’s extensive selection of movies, television series and audio books that are available to be checked out two weeks at a time. St. Clair recommended that the public should consider this free entertainment option, describing it as the best movie collection in town.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper updated the council about sewer jetting, which is an ongoing maintenance program performed in a different section of town each year with the northeast section currently done. Cooper indicated that interior floors are being painted at well houses and that three pours will take place this week at the new wastewater treatment plant with most of the concrete work likely to be finished by late December with equipment then to be added. Cooper provided an update relating to the lift station near the Waukon Mobile Home Community with a new pump likely being needed.

City Manager Gary Boden added to Cooper’s wastewater treatment plant update by indicating that the City has just crossed over the 70 percent point in expenditures and that the project is likely to be completed within the original estimate. Boden discussed the Governor’s proclamation and comments relating to some hospitals in Iowa being at capacity due to COVID-19 patients. Boden also reported on practices in place at City Hall with the vestibule being used in conducting business with the public.

Boden advised that the house on the former McMillan property in the initial block of First Street NW has been torn down with the basement being filled in. Boden also discussed the installation of a water main on First Street NW and options available including completing a portion or the entire length of that street.

The Public Hearing for the Proposed Activities and Community Needs Assessment for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Housing Grant was opened. Executive Director Rachelle Howe with Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) provided an overview of the community needs addressed by this project including the decrease of substandard units with the city, assisting in the rehabilitation of homes, eliminating future deterioration of housing, providing for energy efficiency, support of the Northeast Iowa Housing Trust Fund which benefits first-time home buyers, providing housing opportunities and job creation, continuing infrastructure improvements and new construction and subdivisions, eliminating blighted buildings, continuing to promote tourism in community, among other needs.

The public hearing was closed without further comment. The Resolution Authorizing Approval of the CDBG Administration Plan to IEDA for CDBG Exterior Sustainable Program was then approved.

City Treasurer/Finance Director Lana Snitker indicated that $484,900 has been certified for tax increment financing (TIF) debt. The council approved the Resolution relating to that certification. The council also approved the Annual Urban TIF Report.

Renae Warren with Group Services provided an overview of health insurance options available for the group health insurance renewal for calendar year 2021. Following a lengthy discussion, the council approved to move forward with an alternate Wellmark group health insurance plan.

The council moved into closed session per Iowa Code Section 21.5 (1)(c) to discuss strategy with counsel in matters that are presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent where its disclosure would be likely to prejudice or disadvantage the position of the governmental body in that litigation.

Prior to adjournment, the council entered into closed session per Iowa Code Chapter 21.5 (1)(j) to discuss the purchase or sale of particular real estate only where premature disclosure could be reasonably expected to increase the price the governmental body would have to pay for that property or reduce the price the governmental body would receive for that property.

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