Pair of Waukon City Council meetings involve discussion of Pladsen Subdivision

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met twice within a week including a special session Wednesday, February 15 and regular session Monday, February 20. Coverage of both meetings follows.

The February 15 special meeting of the Waukon City Council was called to order by Mayor Pat Stone with council member Steve Wiedner attending in person and council members Arvid Hatlan, Andy Sires and John Lydon attending through Zoom web-conferencing or by phone. City Manager Gary Boden and City Clerk Sarah Snitker were present in person for this meeting taking place in the City Council Chambers within Waukon City Hall.

The meeting moved into the approval of payment to S&M Development for Pladsen Subdivision invoices. The council approved the payment of bills in the amount of $176,806 relating to the Pladsen Subdivision project.

Following that approval, Stone discussed concerns relating to this matter and the language within the Pladsen Addition Development and Purchase Agreement specifying that the developer will invoice the City for reimbursement with proof of payment for work performed. Stone noted he felt that this payment process was not being followed in accordance with the development agreement, but Boden said that he would go on record by disagreeing with that assertation, further advising that the concern being discussed is the result of a misinterpretation of the language within this portion of the agreement.

Boden further advised that the approval of payment is intended to expedite the reimbursement or payment process for work completed within 30 days for all involved to avoid interest charges. The special meeting was adjourned with Stone further discussing the need for greater clarification of expenses and accountability specific to the City’s responsibilities relating to this project.

The Monday, February 20 regular meeting of the Waukon City Council was called to order by Mayor Pat Stone. A moment of silence was observed in honor of Mark Benda, a Water and Sewer Department employee who passed away Thursday, February 9. Stone noted Benda’s service to the City of Waukon and that he will be greatly missed.

The meeting moved into Department Reports with Waukon Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub providing an update. Strub noted that the basketball programs are wrapping up and that MSA Professional Services will be meeting with the Park and Rec Board next Monday at the Waukon Wellness Center to go over survey results relating to programming, trail system and facilities comprehensive planning for the City of Waukon.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper noted the passing of Mark Benda, who he described as a valued employee, hard worker and team member that will be greatly missed.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett discussed a potential controlled burn at the City’s compost site next week, if weather permits, to deal with some tree stumps not ideal for composting due to rocks. Burrett noted that another community is interested in purchasing the old sander previously used with the truck that is now being used by the Water and Sewer Department.

Police Chief Paul Wagner noted a claim relating to an insurance deductible for body work on a patrol vehicle as the result of damage from a road hazard. He also discussed an open house event at the Waukon Police Department taking place March 2 from 4-7 p.m. with that event allowing the public to tour the remodeled facility. Wagner noted that the scheduled open house could also be an opportunity for potential officer applicants to tour the building and learn more about the Waukon Police Department.

City Clerk Sarah Snitker provided an update relating to the ordinance update process. She also discussed the fire-damaged structures on Allamakee Street with the asbestos certified contractor having communicated that they are waiting on a good work week with weather permitting to begin the removal of debris and portions of the structures still standing.

The council discussed the need for this clean-up process to move forward following delays.

Assistant City Attorney Luke Meinholz advised that an update has taken place relating to the City Attorney office’s communication process with Mayor Stone and the City Council, including confirmation of tasks assigned.

Engineer Sam Ertl of Fehr Graham Engineering provided an update relating to the formal agreement for West Street SW. Ertl also noted work by Alliant Energy and Mediacom at 4th Street NW and updated the council about the 1st Street and 1st Avenue storm sewer letting process.

For the City Council Report, council member Arvid Hatlan echoed similar comments about Mark Benda as mentioned by Cooper and Stone earlier in the meeting. Hatlan noted that he frequently saw first-hand that Benda was one of the hardest working Water and Sewer Department employees and further noted that Benda will be greatly missed.

For the Mayor’s Report, Stone discussed concerns relating to the City’s operation advising that there is room for improvement. Stone noted the transition from former City Manager Dean Helgerson to current City Manager Gary Boden with Boden working full-time hours in his role. He further noted that there have been many positives for the City as a result of the full-time city manager position, although he has had some concerns relating to budget transparency.

Stone specifically discussed the oversight of the Waukon Police Station remodeling project with architects signing off on the project but some aspects not finished to the council’s satisfaction. He also noted the clean-up of the fire damaged buildings on Allamakee Street is yet to be completed and that the City Manager and City Attorney have been directed to see that this process moves forward. In addition, Stone discussed a variety of other matters relating to budgeting, transparency and accountability while recommending improved oversight by the council.

The meeting moved into the Resolution Authorizing and Approving an amended Loan and Disbursement Agreement and providing for the issuance and securing the payment of $1,006,000 Sewer Revenue Improvement and Refunding Bonds, Series 2023. The matter was approved by the council.

Snitker addressed the next agenda item relating to discussion of a mobile food truck parking in the City Parking Lot on Allamakee Street. Snitker advised that there has been a request to allow this to take place potentially on multiple occasions during the lunch hour. The council discussed concerns about potential congestion in the parking lot if this were to be allowed and that another location would be advisable in the downtown area.

The council next addressed the Waukon Facade Improvement Grant Application for 3 West Main Street. Snitker noted that this application relates to a solar panel awning with that type of awning likely not being the original intent of the program but that this decision falls under the discretion of the council. The council discussed concerns relating to the weight and safety of this location for solar panels with the building’s roof being more preferable for solar panels. Following discussion, the council voted to deny this application.

Ertl provided an overview of the Storm Water Quality Improvements agenda item with the council approving Contract C – Change Order #2 and Contract B – Pay Estimate #3.

Burrett addressed the next agenda item relating to snow removal in the downtown business district and sidewalk snow removal. Burrett noted that the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) could allow snow to be pushed to the center of the street but that this would eliminate downtown parking, negatively impacting downtown businesses, due to street width and lane width requirements. Burrett and the council also discussed sidewalk snow removal enforcement and the need for clarification of standards to be used.

The meeting moved into discussion of S&M Development project invoices. Ertl discussed plans to meet with Steve Pladsen relating to invoices with weather potentially delaying that meeting this week. Ertl and the council also discussed the storm sewer and the street anticipated to be in place prior to the June 1 opening of Dollar Tree.

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 government body would have to pay for that property or reduce the price the governmental body would receive for that property.