Waukon City Council discusses upcoming city council vacancy, capital improvement planning; Loan agreement approved for wastewater plant

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, July 19. The council addressed a full agenda of items including a Public Hearing relating to a sewer revenue loan and disbursement agreement, approval of an amendment relating to notifications for the removal of junk vehicles on private property and discussion of capital improvement planning.

There was no Public Comment and the meeting moved into Department Reports with Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub discussing the repair of the large air conditioning unit at the Waukon Wellness Center  which took place in the last week. Strub said that Wellness Center attendance and memberships are at normal levels for the summer season and that the early summer recreation programs are finishing for the season, with archery and tennis taking place the next few weeks before starting flag football and volleyball.

Strub added that Music in the Park will not be taking place this week due to the Allamakee County Fair and that two more weeks of performances are scheduled. The circus was discussed by Strub, which he indicated is scheduled for August 12 and 13 in Waukon, with tickets to be available for purchase after the Allamakee County Fair has finished at locations including FreedomBank, Waukon State Bank and Fareway.

Strub noted that the swimming pool has been busy with a revised schedule being announced on a week-by-week basis due to lifeguard staffing, which he explained is due to a reduced number of lifeguards in comparison to previous years and some lifeguards leaving for college or having commitments related to high school sports. Strub added that a closing date for the swimming pool has yet to be determined.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper provided an update, noting that demolition at the old wastewater treatment plant is going well with restoration work ongoing relating to the old tanks being revamped as digesters for the new plant. Cooper estimated that work relating to the old plant will be completed by September and that the move to the new plant, including office and lab work, will soon be complete. Cooper advised that a water line had been shared with neighboring Croell Redi-Mix, noting that a valve was recently installed allowing the wastewater treatment plant to be isolated, if needed.

Cooper further reported that an employee would be leaving the Water and Sewer Department after accepting a position with the Street Department. He said that a recommendation will be made at the next council meeting relating to a candidate to fill this vacancy.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett discussed ongoing maintenance projects including street patching. He said that Bacon Concrete has begun work on Second Street SW as of last week with curb, gutter, sidewalks and approaches being poured.

Police Chief Paul Wagner advised that a rebate request is being submitted through Alliant Energy relating to lighting and fixtures that were installed in the Police Station during the remodeling project. Wagner said that a grant had been approved for the lighted pedestrian crosswalk signage to be placed at Ninth Street NW and Third Avenue NW with the purchase of that equipment to be added to the next meeting agenda for approval. Wagner also noted that two automated external defibrillators (AED) have arrived with two more expected to arrive soon as the result of a statewide grant benefiting law enforcement agencies.

Wagner also provided an update relating to a grant designated to cover 35 percent of a patrol vehicle purchase and that a check will be arriving soon as payment for the Dodge Durango that was recently sold to another law enforcement agency, with a Chevrolet Tahoe being purchased as a replacement.

Wagner provided an update and recommendation relating to the disposal of an old patrol vehicle with mechanical issues and that the vehicle’s tires were swapped out with approximately only 5,000 miles of use.

Assistant City Attorney Kevin Stinn advised there was nothing to report from the City Attorney, with City Manager Gary Boden then providing the City Manager Report. Boden discussed a potential Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grant, noting that the criteria would likely not match the clean-up and asbestos removal costs proposed for the buildings adjacent to the former Gus & Tony’s location.

Boden also provided an update relating to fiber optic installation, noting that the grant process has been expanded with a map being developed following some changes relating to the administration of this project. Boden advised that Iowa Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg will be visiting Allamakee Clayton Rural Electric Cooperative (REC) later in the week relating to fiber optic plans for Allamakee County.

Boden also provided an update relating to the Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant and the former JCPenney/Tierney building on Main Street. He advised that legal staff have provided recommendations relating to architecture plans, the formal bidding process and State law requirements relating to the grant and matching funds for this project. Boden said that these changes to the process may delay the project two to four weeks.

Boden also discussed ongoing work by Dr. Ed Askew relating to operating agreements with local industries, and that a response from the DNR relating to air quality concerns will be forthcoming. Boden updated the council relating to changes at the State level concerning emergency medical services (EMS) now being considered essential services. He talked about ambulance services and funding options available as a result of this change.

For the Mayor’s Report, Mayor Pat Stone discussed encouraging residents to consider running for city council. He suggested that compensation for council members could be increased to offset childcare costs or other expenses as a result of attending council meetings.

As part of the City Council Report, discussion continued relating to recruiting individuals interested in serving on the city council with council member John Ellingson’s resignation soon to leave a vacancy on the council. Ellingson’s resignation is due to his change of residency outside of Waukon city limits. Ellingson and the council discussed City Code relating to his impending vacancy, with council member Arvid Hatlan clarifying that an appointment is necessary within 60 days or a special election would be necessary.

Boden suggested that in fulfilling the City’s ordinance, Ellingson delay his resignation and attend the first meeting in September, allowing his council seat to remain vacant until the municipal election in November. Ellingson encouraged previous council members to consider returning to the council for a few meetings, taking his place on the council following his resignation, with Ellingson agreeing to remain on the council until the first meeting in September.

The Public Hearing relating to a proposal to enter into a Sewer Revenue Loan and Disbursement Agreement was opened and closed. City Clerk Sarah Snitker reported that no written or verbal comments have been received.

Boden discussed the next matter relating to the Resolution taking additional action on a proposal to enter into a Sewer Revenue Loan and Disbursement Agreement. He explained that this matter relates to the final debt service associated with the new Wastewater Treatment Facility. The council approved the resolution and also approved August 16 as the Public Hearing date for amending the current budget for the City of Waukon for the Fiscal-Year-Ending (FYE) June 30, 2022.

The council approved to amend the existing ordinance to allow direct personal notifications relating to junk vehicles on private property. The council waived the second and third readings and approved adoption of this amendment to the ordinance.

Boden and the council discussed capital improvement planning with a variety of needs, projects and options being discussed. Boden discussed planning for ambulance and fire emergency vehicles with those expenses projected at over $1 million over the next decade. The council approved setting aside $50,000-75,000 in a reserve fund per year from local option sales tax (LOST) for emergency vehicles.

Boden and the council discussed street projects and funding options available. The council provided direction and approved that Boden look into a $2.5 million bond issue as funding for street projects. Sidewalk projects and Walk-on Waukon’s recommendations were discussed for sidewalk along the street on the east side of the golf course. The council provided direction and approved to have Boden move forward in seeking updated estimates to aid in grant opportunities relating to sidewalks. A new Street Department/Park and Recreation garage was also discussed as a need, with the council supportive of procuring specifications and estimates relating to this potential project.

Prior to adjournment, the council discussed a request by Waukon Dental to have a dumpster on the street or near its building on First Avenue NW to aid in renovations. The council was supportive in potentially allowing a dumpster to be placed in the municipal parking lot next to the building instead of placement on the street. It was agreed that more information be provided by the contractor relating to duration of the project and dumpster size used.