Waukon City Council sets public hearing for wastewater treatment plant funding, discusses grant funding concerns raised by Walk-on Waukon

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Tuesday, July 6 following the closure of City Hall Monday, July 5 for the observance of the Independence Day holiday.

Mayor Pro-Tem Gayle Decker called the meeting to order in the absence of Mayor Pat Stone. The meeting moved into Public Comment with Director Ardie Kuhse of Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) briefly discussing the June 30 press release from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) relating to the $100,000 Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant award to benefit the former JCPenney/Tierney building renovation and transition into a steakhouse restaurant.

Under Department Reports, Waukon Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub indicated that June is a busy month with activities and use of the swimming pool. Strub added that the Music in the Park performances Thursday evenings have gone well with four scheduled performances remaining but no performance taking place the week of the Allamakee County Fair, July 21-25.

Strub advised that t-ball, baseball, softball, dance, Summer Fun Program and swim team will be finishing up in the coming weeks with the remainder of the summer to include tennis, archery and golf programs. He added that as part of the U.S. Tennis Association’s grant, youth tennis classes will be offered the last week of July through August.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper provided an update and discussed returning to work earlier that same day with his right arm and shoulder currently being in a sling. He said that he has been medically cleared for desk and computer work as tolerable.

Cooper provided an update relating to the Second Street SW project with a valve having been replaced near an intersection and similar installations and replacements being advisable on a two-per-year schedule to better allow maintenance, along with the replacement of fire hydrants. He discussed budgeting for valve installations and replacements in subsequent years and to create a testing schedule to ensure their continued operability. Cooper also updated the council about the new Wastewater Treatment Plant, noting that the biological processes are progressing well and that work relating to the move from the old facility is ongoing.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett reported that crosswalk painting and street patching are ongoing, among other maintenance projects.

Police Chief Paul Wagner advised that he will be submitting the department’s quarterly activity report at the next council meeting. Wagner said that a contractor has been informed about water at the back of the Police Station due to an air conditioning drainage issue, with that matter having been addressed and the repairs to be inspected soon along with the replacement of damaged ceiling tiles. He noted that there was also some water at the front of the building, likely the result of an old chimney not being removed. Wagner said that he is confident in the air conditioning drainage repairs and that the repairs at the front of the building will be addressed, with work associated with the remodeling project being under a one-year warranty.

Assistant City Attorney Kevin Stinn said that he did not have anything to report but would be available to provide feedback relating to matters later on the agenda.

City Manager Gary Boden advised that the Second Street SW project is currently on a three- to four-week hiatus with concrete work being delayed and engineering for the project experiencing a backlog. Boden said that an anticipated break in this project at the beginning of July looks like it will need to be extended, with work not to resume until early August and hopes of that delay not impacting the September 17 project completion date.

There was no Mayor Report or City Council Report, with the meeting then moving into the Resolution to fix a date for a public hearing on a proposal to enter into a Sewer Revenue Loan and Disbursement Agreement to borrow money thereunder in a principal amount not to exceed $750,000. Boden and City Finance Director Lana Snitker provided an overview of the financials associated with this matter.

Decker discussed concerns relating to the $165,000 increase and change order for bedrock removal around the new Wastewater Treatment Plant, a matter previously discussed at the Monday, June 21 council meeting. At that meeting in June, Senior Project Engineer Lucas Elsbernd of Fehr Graham Engineering had explained that 1,500 cubic yards of bedrock removal was in the original bid with the removal of 3,447 cubic yards being necessary, accounting for an increase of $165,000 beyond the original bid. Decker further discussed concerns relating to accountability for this miscalculation and recommended the matter be reviewed prior to making final payment for this work.

Council member Arvid Hatlan agreed with Decker’s earlier comments recommending that further clarification from the engineer and contractor be provided. The council approved July 19 as the Public Hearing date for the proposal to enter into a Sewer Revenue Loan and Disbursement Agreement and to borrow funds in a principal amount not to exceed $750,000.

Brooke Troendle with Walk-on Waukon provided an update relating to the group’s fundraising efforts, noting that $75,000 has been raised for sidewalks in Waukon. Troendle recognized the grant writing and assistance provided by Ashley Christensen of Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) in this process.

Troendle also discussed concerns relating to a letter of support from the City of Waukon not being drafted, a requirement for a $100,000 grant through Wellmark. Boden said that in a conversation earlier in the year with a representative of UERPC, he was told that a letter of support implied that the City of Waukon would be responsible for gap funding for the project, with details of that conversation shared by memo to the council, resulting in the letter of support not being drafted at that time. Troendle advised that this contradicts the information provided to her by UERPC relating to no financial responsibility being associated with a letter of support.

Troendle further shared that a $20,000 grant through the Allamakee County Community Foundation (ACCF) designated for sidewalk around the Waukon Golf Course was returned to that organization with the timeline for the project start having passed. She advised that returning these funds to ACCF may discourage that organization from supporting future grant applications from Walk-on Waukon.

The council discussed the need to review the results of a community survey conducted a few years ago relating to the proposed sidewalk project. Hatlan clarified that it is not the responsibility of Troendle or Walk-on Waukon to get cost estimates for this proposed project but rather the City’s responsibility to seek these estimates from contractors. The council was in agreement to review survey results, seek estimates and assist Walk-on Waukon relating to grant opportunities.

Kuhse addressed the next agenda item relating to Waukon Crazy Days and sidewalk sale items. She discussed the history of Crazy Days and planning that is taking place relating to the return of this event to take place August 4-5 of this year. Kuhse said that there will not be a request to close streets and that businesses are planning sidewalk sales outside of their retail stores.

The council discussed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant sidewalks in Waukon with there being a slope in portions of sidewalk next to the curb, possibly creating some accessibility issues with the placement of tables on the level portions of sidewalk directly next to buildings. The council was in agreement to research ADA requirements relating to the use of portions of sidewalk.

Blocking the use of on-street parking spots during the event to make the event more pedestrian friendly was discussed. The council approved to waive the requirement for transient merchant permits during the August 4-5 event and to allow use of the downtown Plaza and Waukon Chamber of Commerce parking lot for vendors with Kuhse to be in charge of vendors wishing to set up in these locations.

Prior to adjournment, City Clerk Sarah Snitker addressed the next agenda item relating to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Housing Rehabilitation Program. Snitker advised that a letter from UERPC was received indicating that with some changes in staffing, the organization would be terminating its contract with the City relating to the administration of the Housing Rehabilitation Program. Snitker and the council discussed that six households are enrolled in the program benefiting low to moderate income individuals with exterior repairs, hazard reduction, windows, siding, roof, foundation repairs, among other repairs.

Decker recommended that the City continue the program with the services and administration being provided by another entity, if possible. Snitker advised that she has had some communication with another such entity that has expressed some initial interest, with it yet to be determined whether they can provide these services within this jurisdiction or territory. The council approved to procure administration and technical services and to move forward with the housing rehab program.