Waukon Mayor Pat Stone resigns in the middle of Monday’s regular session; Citywide Spring Clean-Up is this Saturday

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, May 1 to address a full agenda of matters including a Presentation by FEH Design relating to the Street Department/Park and Recreation Garage, a Partial Pay Request relating to the 9 and 11 Allamakee Street Clean-Up Project and the Annual Insurance Renewal for the City of Waukon. Mayor Pat Stone called the meeting to order with approval of the meeting agenda.

The meeting moved into Department Reports with Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper noting the work performed over the weekend by Water and Sewer Department employees in repairing a water main break in his absence. He added that his crew worked a late evening in making this repair with their efforts being greatly appreciated. Cooper also reported that only 27 water meters are left for replacement as part of the city-wide commercial and residential water meter upgrade.

City Manager Gary Boden and the council discussed potential surcharges per bi-monthly water meter reads and other options available relating to the remaining property owners who have thus far refused to allow the Water and Sewer Department to replace their water meter as part of this necessary upgrade. Cooper also provided an update relating to the Wastewater Treatment Plant and funds that have been held back for final payment to contractors relating to the satisfactory completion of the project and repairs yet to be completed.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett discussed ongoing street repairs with patching being addressed currently and crack filling to be addressed next. He made note of the street repair to be done as a result of the digging necessary for the recent water main repair.

Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub provided a recap of the first week of youth soccer which he noted involved 350 kids. Strub discussed work being done in preparing the swimming pool for the summer season with the pumps being tested this week and water being added next week. Strub added that a good group of lifeguards will be in place for this season with classroom training taking place this week and physical testing taking place later in the month. He also noted that 30-35 trees will be available to citizens on a first-come, first-serve basis with an announcement and details to be provided soon.

City Clerk Sarah Snitker noted that this Saturday is the City-Wide Clean-Up Day with items to be picked up needing to be by the curb by 6 a.m. Snitker advised that an advertisement will be in The Standard and that questions relating to what will be accepted should be directed to City Hall.

City Attorney Jeff Swartz made note of questions relating to the Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) Postville Clinic abstract bill which he noted is not the responsibility of the City of Waukon but is instead the responsibility of VMH. Swartz reported that Attorney Hattie Frana has joined the Swartz Law Firm, and he recommended that the council consider adding Frana as an Assistant City Attorney with his recommendation to add this matter to the next city council agenda. Swartz also discussed viewing sites with the City Engineer where temporary construction easements are still needed.

Boden provided the City Manager Report noting a recent meeting with Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED), Snitker, representatives of the Waukon Chamber of Commerce, in addition to representatives of KCRG-TV9 relating to their “Our Town” segments dedicated to Waukon that will be airing July 31-August 4 of this year. Boden added that KCRG-TV9 will be in Waukon during late spring and early summer to film these segments, which he noted will be a great promotional opportunity for Waukon.

Engineer Sam Ertl with Fehr Graham Engineering provided an update relating to several projects. Ertl made note of his visit to 4th Street NW that afternoon with some temporary easements yet to be obtained, which he added would not be an issue if only a few are not received. Ertl also discussed the storm sewer project with the lead time necessary to receive a box culvert potentially being an issue. He updated the council about  several matters relating to the Pladsen Subdivision before discussing the City Parking Lot and alley behind Hartig Drug. Ertl noted that he hopes to have preliminary plans for the City Parking lot for council review soon with an anticipated letting date at the end of July, if not sooner.

Council member Arvid Hatlan advised that a meeting with representatives of the Allamakee County ATV/UTV Club will take place later in the week for discussion of Waukon’s ATV/UTV Ordinance. Swartz said either he or Assistant City Attorney Kevin Stinn would be in attendance.

In his report, Mayor Pat Stone noted that he has voiced concerns relating to several issues over the last few months. He further noted that as a business owner and in serving as Mayor, he has strived to make Waukon a better place. Stone said that from a business standpoint, he feels the council is not doing a good job with City finances and various projects not being handled well. He also discussed concerns relating to Boden’s role in the budget process.

Stone read aloud a prepared statement: “I, Mayor Pat Stone, resign from my position as Mayor of Waukon on May 1, 2023. I have tried to resolve my concerns regarding the direction the City is heading with the council. My concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Our council has voted to remove themselves from the budgeting process. It has not corrected mistakes or insubordination concerning our City Manager. To my surprise, they encourage him to continue along this path. I care about our community and I cannot in good faith finish my term knowing we are heading in the wrong direction. Thank you for almost six years that I have been Mayor. We have wonderful employees, good Department Heads, and the ladies in City Hall keep the town running. I can’t put into words or express the disappointment that I feel for our current council. Our City Manager runs the council along with the town.

“I hope in our next election cycle we can have competent individuals run that are willing to put in the time and effort to make educated decisions on our tax dollars. The very first meeting our City Manager attended he said we are basically broke. Later he corrected that statement, but I believe he has made that come true now. The citizens hire the council and the mayor. The council hires the City Manager. I plan to hold our council accountable as a citizen and I encourage others to direct the council in the right direction. If they are not competent for the position, they should step down.”

Stone briefly discussed the City’s organizational chart and that in his role as Mayor, he has not been able to voice his opinion on matters to the extent he would like to, in addition to his unwillingness to continue arguing with the council relating to the City budget. Stone left his key to City Hall on the dais, the ergonomic desktop used by the council, advising that he would be keeping his gavel before exiting the meeting. Mayor Pro-Tem Kevin Johnson assumed leadership of the meeting following Stone’s exit from the meeting.

Via Zoom web-conferencing, Police Chief Paul Wagner provided his Department Report noting that an increase in accidental 911 calls has been on the rise. Wagner added that many law enforcement agencies have attributed this to an Android phone update with four or five presses of the power button resulting in an automatic 911 dial. Wagner advised that the public should be aware of this and look at their phone settings to help decrease the number of accidental 911 calls.

Wagner also noted that Officer Brent Parker has returned from Des Moines following completion of his firearms instructor recertification and that Assistant Police Chief Mason Kwilinski recently completed a sexual assault training program which Wagner advised was highly recommended by the Allamakee County Attorney’s office. Wagner noted that the storm siren near the Waukon Airport has been repaired and that a recent short-burst test confirmed this. Wagner further advised that through a partnership with the National Child Safety Council and local business support, a McGruff the Crime Dog suit has been awarded to the Waukon Police Department.

There was no Public Comment that followed the Department Head reports.

The meeting moved into the next agenda item relating to a Presentation from FEH relating to the Street/Park & Rec Garage Plans. Vice President/Architect Kevin Eipperle of FEH Design provided an overview of two different design options. Eipperle noted that a space-needs assessment was performed prior to the development of these preliminary designs with RSMeans construction cost estimating software providing projected costs. Eipperle discussed the 18,000-plus square feet structure at an estimated cost of $2.6 million, with the second design, approximately half this size, estimated at $1.3 million. Boden and the council discussed that a closed session would be appropriate for discussion of potential locations.

Jim Bieber of Bieber Insurance provided an overview of the City’s Annual Insurance Renewal. Bieber discussed coverage, deductibles and premiums relating to property, inland marine, worker’s compensation, general liability, among other specifics. Bieber noted inflationary factors relating to property values, among other areas, that have increased premiums. Following discussion, the council approved the cost increase associated with the City’s insurance renewal.

The meeting moved into the Update and Partial Pay Request relating to the 9 & 11 Allamakee Street Clean-Up Project relating to the asbestos removal and debris clean-up of two buildings on Allamakee Street that were destroyed in a February 2022 fire. Snitker noted the $38,000 partial pay request for work completed thus far with the project contracted at a total cost of $134,900. The council approved the partial pay request.

The council also reviewed and approved the payment of $16,536.75 for Engineering Fees relating to the Pladsen Addition.

Ertl addressed the next matter relating to the 4th Street NW and 8th Avenue NW Improvements Project and costs associated with the relocation of bushes per the request of a property owner. Following Ertl’s discussion and estimate, the council chose to take no action with the matter to be addressed at a future meeting.

Ertl discussed options relating to the City Parking Lot and Alley Project - Street Lights agenda item. Specifics relating to the placement of a panoramic security camera or multiple security cameras in the City Parking Lot were discussed. Hatlan provided a recommendation to include an aluminum light pole with conduit to be installed prior to the resurfacing of the parking lot. No action was taken with Ertl to research options and camera placement.

The meeting moved into discussion of Storm Sewer Issues near 116 and 202 1st Street NE (on 2nd Avenue) and 19 1st Avenue NE. Burrett noted that two portions of storm sewer in this area are of concern. Cooper agreed to use the sewer camera to further evaluate the condition of these portions of sewer.

Boden addressed the next matter relating to the Review of the Lot Proposal to Market Housing Development in the Pladsen Addition and Bresnahan Area. He discussed the information packet provided by Reinke which was distributed to the council listing promotional options relating to advertising online and in print publications. The council provided direction to move forward in marketing these areas for commercial housing development.

The Resolution Approving the Contract and Performance and Payment Bonds for 4th Street NW (Street) and 8th Avenue NW (Sidewalk) Improvements Project was approved. The Resolution Authorizing Addendum to Development Agreement - Pladsen Addition was next discussed. Swartz and Hatlan discussed the drafting of this addendum as a result of additional storm sewer and water main work beyond the Pladsen Addition. The Addendum to the Development Agreement was approved. The council also approved the consent agenda, and there was no Public Comment during this portion of the meeting.

Prior to adjournment, council member John Lydon noted that Stone’s resignation earlier in the meeting came as a shock. Lydon further noted the council’s appreciation of Stone’s efforts and work as Mayor and that he wishes Stone the best in the future.