Waukon City Council postpones decision on property tax levy due to pending State of Iowa legislation, approves facade improvement grant for Town Theater

Iowa Economic Development Authority tours AJ Steakhouse ... Downtown Economic Development Specialist Jim Thompson (far right in above photo) of Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) in Des Moines toured AJ Steakhouse at 12 West Main Street in Waukon Thursday, February 2 as the final step in the Community Catalyst (CAT) Building Remediation Grant Program that provided some of the funding for the renovation of that former JCPenney/Tierney’s building into the new dining facility. Thompson and Waukon City Clerk Sarah Snitker (at left) were provided a tour of the building by owner Arturo Barreda (second from right) and Alvina Velarde (third from right) of AJ Steakhouse. During the tour, Thompson noted that the AJ Steakhouse building renovation is one of 200 building restoration projects across the state of Iowa that received funding through the CAT Grant Program thus far over the program’s five-year history. Thompson noted that the AJ Steakhouse building is a “great project” while adding, “This is an example that we want every town to have. For this to be catalytic, other people and communities need to see this and say that we can do this too.” Standard photo by Assistant Editor Joe Moses.

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, February 6 to address a full agenda of matters including the Public Hearing on Proposed Property Tax Dollars for the 2023-2024 Fiscal Year, review of a Waukon Facade Improvement Program application and the approval of plans and specifications relating to the storm sewer project along 1st Avenue and 1st Street NW.

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Pat Stone. There was no Public Comment with the meeting then moving into Department Reports with Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper providing an update. Cooper advised that the water meter replacement project is 68 percent complete. He noted that homeowners should compare their new water bill to their previous water bills for usage comparison, adding that as water meters age they tend to go bad in the customer’s favor by not registering all of the water used. Cooper advised that customers may see an increase in water used with the new meters being more accurate. He also discussed options available relating to a property that has a shared sewer line with Aveka Nutra Processing.

Police Chief Paul Wagner reported that a police officer position has been posted online with this position to also be advertised in the newspaper. Wagner advised that the first testing date for applicants will be March 17 and that if an uncertified officer is hired, May 1 would be their start date for academy training.

Waukon Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub noted that January was a busy month for the Wellness Center and that youth basketball has one or two weeks remaining. Strub advised that a meeting with MSA Professional Services will be taking place later this month relating to the ongoing public survey. MSA Professional Services is the company contracted by the City of Waukon to provide services relating to planning, engineering and market research regarding park and recreation comprehensive planning.

City Clerk Sarah Snitker noted that Downtown Economic Development Special Jim Thompson of Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) toured AJ Steakhouse Thursday, February 2 as the final step in the Community Catalyst (CAT) Building Remediation Grant Program relating to the renovation of the former JCPenney/Tierney’s building. Snitker noted that this project is one of 200 projects funded across Iowa since the program’s start in 2018. She added that photos at AJ Steakhouse will be taken during business hours for IEDA to use in their marketing materials.

Snitker also advised that water bills will not be changed from quarterly to bi-monthly until all water meters have been replaced. She added that water bills will show a reading date based upon the installation date of new water meters, which may appear confusing.

Assistant City Attorney Kevin Stinn recommended that options discussed earlier in the meeting by Cooper relating to a property with a shared sewer line with Aveka could be included in a future consent agenda for approval. City Manager Gary Boden did not have anything new to report.

Engineer Sam Ertl of Fehr Graham Engineering noted that Mediacom will be doing some work at 4th Street NW. Relating to the Pladsen Subdivision, Ertl noted that he is still waiting to hear back from Alliant Energy and a supplier relating to options and costs regarding metal light poles. Ertl advised that property owners are being contacted relating to easements on 7th Avenue SE regarding a storm sewer project.

For the Mayor and City Council Report, Stone discussed recent conversations with business owners relating to snow removal in the downtown area and the potential use of a snow emergency procedure. Stone and the council discussed options including piling up snow in the middle of the street for later removal and potentially utilizing a couple of parking spots temporarily for snow as needed.

Council member Arvid Hatlan further discussed the downtown snow removal matter and snow removal on residential sidewalks. He also briefly mentioned an upcoming ATV/UTV Committee meeting. Council member Steve Wiedner discussed positive feedback he has received relating to the Street Department’s work in removing snow in addition to questions from the public relating to the Park and Rec comprehensive planning survey currently ongoing.

The Public Hearing on Proposed Property Tax Dollars for the 2023-2024 Fiscal Year was opened with Snitker advising that no written or verbal comments have been received. Boden provided an overview of budget matters yet to be finalized as a result of pending legislation by the State of Iowa that could impact property tax levies. After the Public Hearing was closed, the meeting moved into the Resolution Setting Maximum Property Tax Dollars for the 2023-2024 Fiscal Year with the council approving to postpone this matter until its February 20 meeting due to the property tax legislation currently being considered in the State Legislature.

The council next addressed the agenda item relating to the Detailed Plans and Specifications, Notice of Hearing, Notice to Bidders and Form of Contract. Ertl provided an overview of the matter relating to the storm sewer project along 1st Avenue and 1st Street NW by Kurth Plumbing and Heating and McMillan Muffler and Repair. Ertl noted that a virtual letting will take place February 28 for this project estimated at just under $580,000 including a 10 percent contingency and engineering fees. Hatlan discussed some potential delays relating to box culverts which may delay this project beyond the September 30 completion date specified in the contract. The council approved this agenda item.

Stinn addressed the next matter relating to the Approval and Direction of the Conveyance of Interest in Real Property and the Fairgrounds Lease Agreement. Stinn noted that the original version of this matter was approved several months ago and that the change or update relates to the County Fair Board’s request to limit use or access to a section of road on the Fairgrounds property during certain events. Stinn added that this is essentially the same lease agreement the council approved several months ago. The council approved the matter.

Snitker discussed the next matter relating to the Waukon Facade Improvement Program application for the Town Theater at 38 West Main Street. Snitker noted that owner John Earp’s application lists a variety of facade improvements totaling $48,600 including painting of the marquee, tuckpointing limestone, installation of energy efficient windows, sealcoating the marquee, upgrading electrical for marquee lighting and signage. Snitker added that the Allamakee County Facade Improvement Grant Program has approved a $5,000 match to assist with a portion of this project. The council approved to move forward with a $10,000 match for this application with funds to be directed to marquee-related improvements.

The Facade Grant Application for 3 West Main Street was moved to the next city council meeting agenda for official action.

The council moved into the next agenda item relating to the 4th Street NW Project, Property Owner Questions, 8th Avenue NW Sidewalk Project and Driveway Replacement Discussion. Ertl discussed a request from a property owner on 8th Avenue NW relating to their interest in a driveway replacement as part of the sidewalk project. The council was in agreement that the property owner can work directly with the contractor for their driveway to be included at the property owner’s expense.

Ertl also discussed another request for a property on 4th Street NW relating to the moving of shrubbery and the placement of a retaining wall and its distance in relation to the curb. The council was in agreement to negotiate the placement of the retaining wall with the removal costs associated with the shrubbery to be applied to the cost of relocating the shrubbery. A drainage intake was discussed by Ertl to prevent water ponding with the property owner voicing concerns against that proposed installation. The council was in agreement to not install the intake, with any future requests relating to this matter not to be funded by the City.

Boden and the council discussed S&M Development Invoices relating to the Pladsen Subdivision. Boden noted the need for detailed invoices relating to the excavation and earth moving taking place at this subdivision. He and the council discussed the paving of the road allowing public access to the Dollar Tree retail store location with Steve Pladsen, owner of RW Pladsen, clarifying that Dollar Tree will be opening June 1 with paved street access being necessary prior to their grand opening. The council was in agreement that detailed invoices from S&M Development will be addressed at it first meeting in March.

Prior to adjournment, the meeting 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.