Waukon City Council approves moving forward with CAT grant application regarding Town Theater, agreement for improvements to City parking lot

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, November 7 to address a full agenda of matters including discussion of changing City Council meeting dates, discussion of the Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant and the Town Theater, and parking lot and alley improvements at 1st Avenue NW.

During Public Comment, via Zoom web-conferencing, Veterans Memorial Hospital CEO Michael Coyle thanked Mayor Pat Stone, the council and City staff for their support of the public measure relating to the City to County conversion of the hospital. Coyle noted that the public’s attendance at forums relating to the City to County conversion was less than originally anticipated but that communication relating to this conversion has taken place by other means, including the newspaper, with Coyle also noting that over the last two weeks the hospital has been flooded with phone calls from the public. Coyle added that he enjoyed having those conversations with the public.

Coyle discussed that VMH is conducting a fourth phone bank with residents in the Lansing area being contacted that same Monday evening of the council meeting. He noted the positive feedback he has received from several Lansing residents during this phone campaign and recent positive comments received from patients and families relating to downtown Waukon. Stone briefly discussed questions he has received from the public relating to the City to County conversion of VMH, noting that he personally is in favor of the City to County conversion of the hospital.

Under Department Reports, Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper noted that a recent Department of Natural Resources (DNR) inspection of the Wastewater Treatment Plant went well.

Waukon Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub advised that the City Park has been winterized for the season and that the DNR is scheduled to view several stormwater run-off measures, and he briefly discussed that next step in vegetation planting around those run-off control locations taking place in the spring. Strub also noted that winter sports are starting with 17 teams involved in the Park & Rec volleyball leagues and that the adult basketball league will be playing Wednesday nights. Strub and the council also discussed wood chips used for the surface under playground equipment in the City Park, with Strub noting that large wood chips are purchased to meet requirements rather than using mulch produced by tree removal within the city.

Police Chief Paul Wagner discussed safety feedback from a parent relating to the crosswalk at 5th Street and West Main Street near the former Gus and Tony’s restaurant location. Wagner provided pedestrian counts and advised that this crossing will continue to be monitored. He also further discussed pedestrian counts at crosswalks downtown.

Wagner advised that he recently signed a letter with the National Child Safety Council, an organization he noted that the Waukon Police Department has worked with for over 20 years. He added that the National Child Safety Council is the only organization that the Waukon Police Department has partnered with in soliciting funds.

Wagner noted that applications are being accepted through November 20 relating to an officer vacancy in the police department. He also reported that Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer has requested that the Waukon Police Department visit polling locations throughout the day during the November 8 General Election. Wagner also advised that the school vulnerability assessment has been bumped forward to November and that the department will be working closely with the school district and State relating to that matter.

City Clerk Sarah Snitker noted that the community housing survey is still available for anyone who has not yet completed the survey and is accessible on the City of Waukon website at https://www.cityofwaukon.com/news-notices/community-survey-on-housing-needs. She advised that letters relating to water meter replacements have been sent out to commercial properties and half of the south side residential customers. Snitker said that City Hall has received some phone calls relating to questions regarding this process and that Cooper is the contact for these questions.

Assistant City Attorney Kevin Stinn noted that he did not have anything to report. City Manager Gary Boden noted that Waukon City Hall will be closed Friday, November 11 in observance of Veterans Day.

Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering informed the council of his decision to retire as of December 9 of this year. TeKippe noted that he has enjoyed working with the City of Waukon over the last two decades and provided an overview of the work to be completed during his remaining time in this role. TeKippe also discussed Fehr Graham Engineering’s relationship with Waukon and ongoing work to be performed by his colleagues Engineer Paige Pierce, Senior Project Engineer Lucas Elsbernd and Engineer Sam Ertl. Council member Arvid Hatlan noted TeKippe’s years of service to the City and that he will be missed.

Mayor Stone reiterated that the City to County conversion of VMH will be a positive for the community. He noted the level of activity in downtown Waukon Wednesday evening with increased foot traffic and few open parking spots being positive indicators. Stone advised that the demolition and clean-up of the two buildings on Allamakee Street destroyed in the February 13 fire will likely take place in late November or early December.

For the council report, Hatlan and council member Kevin Johnson each discussed positive trends downtown with both noting the level of activity and full parking Wednesday evening.

The meeting moved into the Paint Creek Car Wash Water/Sewer Bill discussion. Stone noted that the owner of this business had questions relating to the water and sewer charges for this location. Stone further noted that the business owner was not present in person or via Zoom web-conferencing to address this matter during the meeting. No action was taken by the council.

Snitker addressed the next matter relating to the Community Catalyst Building Remediation (CAT) Grant through the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). Snitker and the council discussed finalization and inspection matters relating to the grant funding awarded for the rehabilitation of the former Tierney/JCPenney building at 12 West Main Street, the current location of AJ Steakhouse downtown.

Snitker also talked about recent discussions between Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) and John Earp, owner of the Town Theater at 38 West Main Street, relating to potential restoration and improvement of that building through CAT Grant funding. Earp noted that the Town Theater building could be utilized more in the community and discussed potential improvements to the building’s facade including restoration of the marquee, window replacement and tuck pointing, in addition to other structural improvements.

Earp discussed other potential uses of the building beyond theatrical movies, including live music and comedians, which can also utilize the theater’s sound system. He discussed the potential addition of vintage arcade games and pinball machines noting the opportunity for youth-related activities in the afternoon. Following discussion, the council approved to move forward with the grant application relating to this project.

Engineer Sam Ertl of Fehr Graham Engineering provided an overview of the proposed parking lot and alley improvements at 1st Avenue NW, behind Hartig Drug. Ertl discussed an estimate of $265,000 to include driveway, curb, sidewalk and 55 feet of retaining wall replacement with the complete reconstruction of the parking lot including eight inches of rock and three inches of asphalt. The council approved to move forward with the agreement.

The meeting moved into the discussion of changing the regular city council meeting dates. Boden noted a schedule conflict with the first council meeting in 2023 due to Monday, January 2 being a scheduled holiday for City employees due to New Years Day taking place Sunday, January 1, 2023. Boden advised that the council meeting dates for January 2023 could be changed to the second and fourth Monday of that month, rather than the traditional first and third Monday.

Boden further discussed the option of permanently changing the council meeting schedule to the second and fourth Monday of each month. He suggested that alternative schedule would be beneficial for consultants who may be attending other council and public meetings typically scheduled for the first and third Monday. Hatlan recommended that a 6 p.m. start time for meetings should be considered. The council was in agreement to table this matter for further consideration and discussion at a later time.

Snitker addressed the next matter relating to Water Meter, Water Rates and Sewer User Charge Ordinance Changes by providing an overview of Ordinance language updates relating to the new water meters that will be installed in Waukon. The council and Stinn discussed potential options relating to financial penalties in situations where residents refuse to allow City or vendor access to property for water meter upgrades. The council approved to move forward with Ordinance changes.

Strub provided an overview of the quotes received for replacement and repair work associated with water pumps at the Waukon Aquatic Center. He provided a recommendation to move forward with a quote of $23,152 for this project including parts and labor with the council approving that recommendation.

The council next approved several matters relating to the Storm Water Quality Improvement Project, Contract A including Change Order #3, Pay Estimate Final - Aaron Crane Construction and the Resolution Accepting Work. The council also approved several matters relating to the 2022 Street Improvement Project including Change Order #3, Pay Estimate #5, Pay Estimate Final and the Resolution Accepting Work.

Prior to adjournment, the council moved 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.