Waukon City Council approves City Facade Program, water billing change from quarterly to bi-monthly as water meters are changed out

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, November 21 to address a full agenda of matters including discussion of the City Facade Grant Program, discussion of a date change relating to council meetings and consideration of quote relating to the replacement of the airport’s rotating beacon. Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Johnson called the meeting to order during the scheduled absence of Mayor Pat Stone.

There was no Public Comment and the meeting moved into Department Reports with Library Director Cate St. Clair of Robey Memorial Library providing an update. St. Clair discussed the upcoming Winter Book Sale to be held Friday, December 2 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, December 3 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This special event is in addition to the monthly book sale that takes place the third Thursday of the month from 2-6 p.m. benefiting the Robey Memorial Library (RML) Foundation which supports programming at the library.

Waukon Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub advised that a meeting with MSA Professional Services is scheduled for next week relating to City Park planning. Strub noted that City Manager Gary Boden and four Park and Rec Board members will be participating in this meeting with city council members also being welcome to attend. MSA is the company contracted by the City of Waukon to provide services relating to planning, engineering and market research relating to park and recreation comprehensive planning.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper noted that the new water meter installation process has begun for commercial customers. He noted that the last water main connecting the Pladsen Subdivision is in place and will be tested with that property being ready for development. Cooper provided an update relating to the Wastewater Treatment Plant noting a water flow change approved by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Waukon Police Chief Paul Wagner noted that Holly Benda, wife of fallen Iowa State Trooper Ted Benda, has made a donation of $500 to the Waukon Police Department in honor of her husband. Wagner will be discussing with the council how that donation will be used.

City Clerk Sarah Snitker updated the council about billing changes to take place relating to the water meter replacement project. Snitker noted that some customers may see their next billing sooner than expected as part of the switch from quarterly to bi-monthly billing. She also noted that Housing Rehabilitation Program walk-throughs are scheduled for next week. Snitker advised that Street Superintendent Keith Burrett provided a report noting that the Billy Goat brand piece of equipment has worked well and is saving wear and tear on the street sweeper.

Assistant City Attorney Kevin Stinn noted that he did not have anything to report but would be available for questions and to address matters later in the agenda.

City Manager Gary Boden reported that he and Stinn participated in a Zoom web-conferencing meeting recently relating to the Veterans Memorial Hospital conversion from being City-owned to County-owned. Boden noted that a 28E agreement will be updated as part of this conversion and that discussion is taking place relating to the number of members to be on the VMH Board of Trustees, with that board to have five or seven members. Boden noted that four existing members are likely to be recommended by the County Board of Supervisors with the fifth current member no longer eligible due to the updated bylaws having a restriction relating to a spouse’s employment at VMH, leaving three more appointments likely to be made.

Council member Arvid Hatlan noted that he has received questions from residents relating to whether as a County-owned hospital, will VMH and the County will be responsible for the hospital’s water bill expense. Boden noted that this matter will be added to the next city council meeting agenda. Stinn added that there are several collateral matters to be addressed as part of the hospital’s ownership conversion. He noted that it has been a few decades since any similar hospitals within a proximity have undergone this type of ownership conversion, with VMH essentially creating its own template for this process without having other hospitals as a resource for these questions.

For the City Council Report, Hatlan discussed work taking place at the north City Hall entrance relating to the porte cochere, sidewalk and interior and exterior door replacements. Hatlan noted that Brian Sweeney has advised that some paint work remains due to some delivery delays with that project otherwise close to completion with another week being anticipated.

The meeting moved into the Public Hearing on Proposed Amendment to the Southeast Urban Renewal Area. The Public Hearing was opened with Snitker advising that no written or verbal comments have been received. The Public Hearing was then closed.

The Resolution to approve the Urban Renewal Plan Amendment for the Southeast Urban Renewal Area was next addressed. Boden noted that this matter relates to the certification of tax increment financing (TIF) work relating to the Pladsen properties with this amendment allowing receipt of funds to offset costs already incurred. Boden advised that this funding, per recommendation by the City’s auditors, will be used for interest payments for June 2022, December 2022 and June 2023 in addition to principal payments for December 2022 and June 2023.

Boden noted that a meeting is scheduled for next week to review expenditures and progress for this project with a report relating to expenditures to be provided at the December 5 city council meeting. Boden further advised that the total TIF requested for this year is $1,183,980. The council approved the Resolution relating to the Urban Renewal Plan Amendment for the Southeast Urban Renewal Area. The Resolution Authorizing Internal Advance for Funding of Urban Renewal Project and the Resolution Certifying Amount of Available TIF Increment Tax Requested for the 2024 Fiscal Year were also approved.

The meeting moved into the Ordinance: Amending the Code of Ordinances by Changing User Charges. Boden noted that this agenda item and the next agenda item relate to how water billing is collected, not the amount collected. Boden further explained that billing will be moved from a quarterly (three months) to bi-monthly (two months) billing cycle which will go in effect as water meters are switched out. The council approved the First Reading of the Ordinance and to waive the Second and Third Readings with Adoption. Hatlan noted that residents should be aware that their water bill is not increasing or decreasing with this Ordinance change.

The Ordinance Amending the Code of Ordinances by Changing Rates for Service and Billing for Water Service was next addressed. The council approved the First Reading of the Ordinance and to waive the Second and Third Readings with Adoption.

The ISE Grant Program and Quote Replacing Airport Rotating Beacon agenda item was next addressed with Boden providing an overview of the matter. He noted that the beacon replacement would cost $10,193.34 with a little over $7,000 in grant funding being available with an additional $3,115 being necessary. The council approved the use of grant funding with the $3,115 expenditure.

The meeting moved into discussion of the City Facade Grant Program. Snitker provided an overview of a draft of the City Facade Grant Program which she advised would be open to recipients of the Allamakee County Facade Grant Program. Snitker noted that the same requirements used by the County program would be in place for the City program. Stinn suggested that it may be advisable for the council to approve applications rather than having this done administratively.

Boden noted that the City program would piggyback on top of the County program. He added that the Allamakee County Facade Grant Program provides up to a $5,000 match with the proposed Waukon Facade Grant Program to provide up to a $10,000 match with the two programs combined allowing for a total up to $15,000 of matching funds for facade improvement projects of $30,000 or more. Following discussion, the council approved to move forward with the City Facade Grant Program.

Boden also addressed the next matter relating to discussion of a City Council Meeting Day Change. He advised that the council has previously discussed a potential change of meeting dates moving from the first and third Mondays of each month to the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Boden noted that he is recommending that the council not make this change. As previously discussed, it was thought that a move to the second and fourth Monday would be beneficial for meeting with consultants, vendors and officials who often are involved in other public meetings scheduled for those same first and third Mondays.

Boden noted that with the retirement of Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe of Fehr Graham Engineering, Engineer Sam Ertl of Fehr Graham Engineering would be serving as City Engineer and that Ertl works with two other cities with city council meetings scheduled for the second and fourth Monday of each month. Following discussion, the council approved to leave the city council meeting dates as the first and third Monday of each month but change the meeting start time from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m., effective January 1, 2023. The council also approved to change the January 2023 meetings to the second and fourth Monday to avoid a conflict with the scheduled observance of the New Years Day holiday.

Discussion of the Water Meter Replacement Charge was removed from the agenda with no action taking place.

The council moved into discussion on Chapter 122 and the Addition of Mobile Food Units. Snitker noted that the City’s Ordinance currently includes peddlers, solicitors and transient merchants and that mobile food units are currently not included. Snitker noted that food trucks are becoming more common within Waukon with language relating to this type of merchant needing to be added. She provided an overview of specifics including license fees for mobile food units to include 1-day $25, 1-week $50, 1-month $100 and 1-year $250 with a time restriction for operation from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Snitker noted that mobile food units cannot operate on public property or on private property without the consent of property owners. Snitker advised that this information will be provided to Simmering-Cory Iowa Codification (SCIC), the private firm assisting Waukon in making City Code updates. The council approved to move forward with this City Code update.

Snitker also addressed the next matter relating to discussion on changes to Chapter 107 Recycling. She noted that the existing City Code reflects the City’s handling of recycling which is currently under contract with Town & Country Sanitation. Snitker discussed a recommendation from Simmering-Cory to add recycling to Chapter 105 Solid Waste Control to include details relating to the vendor performing collection and specifics relating to recyclable materials. The council approved to make this change.

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.