Waukon City Council takes further steps with development of former JCPenney/Tierney building, makes decisions on two personnel items

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, October 4 to address a full agenda of items.

During Public Comment, former council member John Ellingson discussed the former McCabe property and the development agreement between Steve Pladsen and the City of Waukon as being a positive for the community from a residential and commercial perspective. Ellingson advised that planning related to the Bresnahan property continue with this being an excellent location for residential development.

Mayor Pat Stone read aloud the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Buddy Poppies Proclamation and encouraged all citizens to support this fundraising effort benefiting veterans in need and disabled veterans October 15, 2021. Stone encouraged residents to wear Buddy Poppies in honor of the men and women who have risked their lives in the defense of this nation’s freedoms.

Under Department Reports, Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub discussed the tree replacement program and noted that all 60 trees have been claimed for placement throughout Waukon. Strub provided an update relating to a replacement shelter in the Waukon City Park with work to be completed later this week. Strub also discussed plans for winterizing the City Park to begin later in the month.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper advised that he will be attending a continuing education class out of the area later this week. He discussed assistance recently provided to Decorah’s Water and Sewer Department relating to a sewer line repair with Decorah’s Water and Sewer Department providing assistance to Waukon in a similar matter a few years ago.

Cooper said that research continues relating to options available for a mixer for the chemical contact tank at the City’s new wastewater treatment plant. Cooper added that this piece of equipment is necessary to prevent the chemical contact tank from freezing during the winter months and that he will likely have more to report at the next city council meeting.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett advised that his department is back to working a five-day work week schedule.

Police Chief Paul Wagner updated the council that Officer Dusty Harrington has recently completed the field training officer (FTO) program in Des Moines. Wagner discussed that a warranty part and repair to the Police Station front door will soon be taken care of. He noted that a grant through the Arlin Falck Foundation has been applied for to purchase Attack Mats, ballistic floor mats for law enforcement vehicles that also serve as protective shields for officers.

City Attorney Jeff Swartz indicated that he did not have anything specific to report but would be providing feedback relating to several items on the agenda.

City Manager Gary Boden noted that the quote received for City employee health insurance for the upcoming calendar year has come in just slightly higher than originally anticipated but will require council approval. He said that a meeting with the insurance company representative will be taking place.

Boden advised that work with the Planning and Zoning Commission will be taking place relating to the Pladsen property, formerly known as the McCabe property. Boden also provided a recommendation that any new council members may pursue training through workshops offered by the Iowa League of Cities this year or early next year.

Mayor Stone advised that he did not have anything to report, with the meeting then moving into City Council Reports. Council member Arvid Hatlan requested that Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe with Fehr Graham Engineering provide an update during this time relating to the current street project. TeKippe advised that milling with the Second Street SW project is under way with asphalt application to take place later in the week. TeKippe and Hatlan discussed that the Street Committee will be meeting Thursday of this week to discuss progress and make decisions relating to several matters.

The Public Hearing Proposing Disposition of Interest in Real Property, 12 West Main Street was opened with City Clerk Sarah Snitker indicating that no written or verbal comments have been received. The Public Hearing was closed. The Resolution approving and directing the conveyance of Interest in Real Property, 12 West Main Street, the former JCPenney/Tierney building, was next addressed.

In that resolution discussion, Swartz provided an update relating to the agreement between the City of Waukon and Arturo Barreda and Jose Velarde, investors who are seeking to transition the former JCPenney/Tierney building into a steakhouse restaurant with funding from the Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant through the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) in addition to a contribution from the City, as well as Barreda and Velarde. Swartz discussed ongoing work with Attorney Bill Shafer, representing Barreda and Velarde, with Barreda and the associated LLC to be removed from the agreement and Velarde to be the sole owner. The Resolution with changes was approved by the council.

The council moved into the review and discussion of 30-Percent Sponsored Project Plans with Engineer Paige Pierce of Fehr Graham Engineering providing an overview of the matter. The 30-Percent Plans refer to the completion level or status of final bid documents which will be submitted at 30 percent, 60 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent by Pierce, who provided an overview of the Sponsored Project program through the State Revolving Fund (SRF), the funding source for the Wastewater Treatment Plant loan.

Pierce discussed six divisions or sponsored projects (water quality improvement projects) that could be pursued by the City of Waukon including a 2nd Street wetland area to be located east of Fareway at the corner of 2nd Street SW and 11th Avenue SW in addition to five potential projects within the City Park to include permeable paver parking lots, native plantings, among other options. Boden discussed the $8.5 million SRF loan for the Wastewater Treatment Plant with a maximum of $850,000 available for water quality improvement projects. Following discussion, the council approved to seek bids for the six potential water quality improvement projects.

Discussion took place relating to a Street Department position. Burrett indicated that a resignation in his department has been accepted with that employee moving on to a position with the Allamakee County Secondary Roads Department. The council discussed the half-time building maintenance position with hours spread throughout the Street Department. Burrett and the council discussed that street maintenance has been the priority since the half-time position was budgeted for and put in place in July.

Burrett said that the current Street Department staffing level is appropriate for the winter season. Council member Ben Rausch provided a recommendation to review the Street Department’s staffing needs again prior to summer. The council approved to not fill the vacancy at this time. The council discussed establishing a building maintenance schedule and the potential of having an outside contractor fulfill some of the responsibilities discussed for the half-time building maintenance position.

Boden and the council discussed the hiring of an additional police officer. Boden advised that with staffing at six officers, an absence or vacancy can become a burden for the department. He also noted that there has been some support from the council for the hiring of a seventh officer. Boden discussed budgeting for the additional officer and recommended waiting until next winter or spring to make that hire.

The advantages of hiring certified officers were discussed with immediate availability being a challenge. Ellingson recommended considering the hiring of non-certified officers to allow good candidates working in public service to transition into this role. Wagner said that adding an additional officer will increase employee retention. The council approved to hire for the additional position dependent upon finding the right candidate.

The council discussed a council vacancy appointment, with Andy Sires running unopposed for the council seat vacated by Ellingson’s move to a residence outside the city limits. The council was in agreement to advertise and accept applications for the council vacancy. In doing so, Sires may potentially be appointed prior to the November 2 election.

The council moved into discussion and approval of the development agreement for 12 West Main Street. Swartz discussed working with Attorney Bill Shafer, representing Velarde and Barreda, relating to the development agreement for the former JCPenney/Tierney building. The council approved the development agreement pending final administrative review.

The council also discussed the architecture agreement for the project at 12 West Main Street. Boden provided some updates relating to this agreement with Velarde to be listed as sole owner and a seven-month time frame for architecture services to be performed. The council approved the matter.

Prior to adjournment, the council moved into Closed Session: Strategy meeting regarding employee union contract negotiations - exempt from Iowa open meetings law by Iowa Code Chapter 20.17 (3) and 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.