Waukon City Council will appoint mayor at June 19 meeting after vacancy is advertised, approves first reading of amended ATV/UTV Ordinance

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, May 15 to address a full agenda of matters including a Public Hearing Amending the Current City Budget, discussion of the process to fill the mayor vacancy, and discussion of changing the July 2023 City Council meeting dates.

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Johnson called the meeting to order with approval of the meeting agenda to include the removal of one item relating to the Partial Pay Request of Retainage for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Project. Johnson noted this matter would be addressed at a later date.

The meeting moved into Department Reports with Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper providing an update. Cooper made note of quotes received for used water meters to be sold for scrap with only three water meters remaining for replacement as part of the water meter upgrade taking place throughout Waukon. Cooper also discussed maintenance that is taking place at Well 2 with sections of pipe to be viewed by camera in determining their condition.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett noted that sections of storm sewer were recently viewed by camera and further discussed potential next steps.

Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub reported that 35 trees were given to residents this past weekend. He also noted that the swimming pool is scheduled to open Tuesday, May 30, following Memorial Day, with the final lifeguard training sessions being completed that weekend prior to opening. Strub discussed other preparations for the opening of the swimming pool with water tentatively to be added later this week.

City Clerk Sarah Snitker advised that Utility Billing Clerk Rita Swenson has submitted her letter of retirement with July 7 being her last day of work at City Hall. She noted that Swenson will be greatly missed and will be retiring after almost 34 years with the City of Waukon. Snitker also updated the council about the clean-up at 9 and 11 Allamakee Street with walls being secured before backfilling is to resume and this foundation work potentially taking up to four weeks.

Snitker also discussed a request from Director Rachelle Howe of Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) relating to a letter of support from the City of Waukon regarding a business interested in the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) Rental Without Tax Credit Program. Snitker noted that this relates to a potential loan allowing for the development of the upper level of the Hartig Drug building at 1921 West Main for a total of seven apartment units, including five one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units. Snitker further noted that this request was made earlier in the same day as the meeting and as a result was not able to be included on the agenda for official action with the letter of support being requested by Wednesday this week.

Assistant City Attorney Kevin Stinn advised that he did not have anything to update but would be addressing matters later in the agenda.

Engineer Sam Ertl with Fehr Graham Engineering updated the council about a variety of ongoing projects including the 4th Street/8th Avenue NW sidewalk improvements, advising that a couple of temporary easements are yet to be received. He also noted the scheduled removal of trees marked with pink ribbons. Ertl updated the council about the storm sewer project and box culvert designs yet to be fabricated with mid to late summer being a likely timeline.

Ertl also discussed the replacement of unsuitable soil at the south side of 8th Avenue SE near the Dollar Tree location currently under construction which resulted in an approximate $6,000 added expense. He also updated the council about utility service work to the Dollar Tree property, among other matters.

City Manager Gary Boden reported that drone footage was recently shot over the former Bresnahan property and the Pladsen Addition with this footage to be used on the internet in marketing development opportunities in these areas. Boden advised that the City of Waukon and Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) are planning a housing summit to take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 11 at the Waukon Wellness Center. He noted the importance of this meeting which will provide information relating to Waukon and the larger regional area.

As part of the council report, council member Arvid Hatlan discussed a recent meeting with the Allamakee County ATV/UTV Club and feedback received relating to Waukon’s ATV/UTV Ordinance. Mayor Pro Tem Johnson also discussed a variety of matters including current and upcoming events including National Police Week May 14-20 and Memorial Day Monday, May 29. The council discussed options relating to the consent agenda and public comment portions of its meeting agenda.

The meeting moved into Public Comment with former mayor Pat Stone addressing a variety of concerns as a citizen of the community. Stone discussed increased water utility revenue as the result of the water meter upgrade with increased water usage billing accuracy. He also noted his recommendation to not increase water rates.

Stone also recommended that the $400,000 borrowed for a street project should be used elsewhere rather than sitting in an account with the City paying interest, allowing for less tax increment financing (TIF) and General Fund use. He also noted concerns relating to the $45,000 left over from the McMillan property on First Street NW.

Relating to the ATV/UTV Ordinance, Stone recommended allowing ATV/UTV travel within the City Park. He noted the capital projects budget approved by the council and his concerns relating to the notes pertaining to the West Street project pushed back due to catch-up needs associated with Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) and that Waukon is using LOST too much.

Ellen Brown questioned the council about the timeline of the 8th Avenue NW sidewalk project and also noted that trees have been marked for removal. Ertl advised that the tree removal would start at the south end of 4th Street NW and move northeast with the sidewalk work schedule yet to be determined.

Matt Seibert encouraged the council to consider a special meeting to approve the letter of support relating to the proposed development of the upper level of the Hartig Drug building. Additional discussion of this letter of support took place with the council approving to set a special session for 7:50 a.m. Wednesday, May 17 to approve this matter.

The meeting moved into Amending the Code of Ordinances by Changing the Definitions, General Regulations, Operation on City Streets and Alleys, Operations on Primary and Secondary Roads, Restrictions and Violations for All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and Off-Road Utility Vehicles (UTV). Stinn provided an overview of this updated Ordinance which he advised would match changes in Iowa’s ATV/UTV legislation.

Stinn discussed specifics noting speed limits not to exceed 35 m.p.h., liability insurance requirements, penalties for violations, time of operation with 12-5 a.m. prohibited, among other requirements. The council also discussed allowing ATV/UTV travel within the City Park on paved roads similar to other vehicles. The First Reading of the Ordinance was approved.

The Public Hearing: Amending the Current Budget for the City of Waukon for the Fiscal-Year Ending (FYE) June 30, 2023 was opened. Stone voiced his concerns relating to budget transparency and a lack of detailed information being provided. Stone requested that the council either provide this detailed information, not a summary, or that no action be taken relating to this matter. Stone further noted that he may submit an appeal to the State Appeal Board and further recommended that the council should be better educated relating to the budget specifics being voted on.

Boden and the council discussed the Public Hearing notice and information published in the newspaper prior to this meeting. Boden provided feedback relating to specific budget line items, information provided to the State of Iowa and the availability of information to the public by request. Following a lengthy discussion relating to the budget process including feedback from Stone, Seibert and business owner Keith Bresnahan, Johnson closed the Public Hearing.

Boden then provided an overview of the financials relating to the Resolution Amending the Current Budget for the City of Waukon for the Fiscal-Year Ending June 30, 2023. He noted capital project expenditures this year with operational costs seeing little change. Council member Arvid Hatlan further addressed concerns raised by Stone relating to the availability of budget information. Stinn advised that a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request may be an appropriate step for the public in requesting information beyond what has been published. Following additional discussion, the Resolution was approved.

The Resolution Approving Salary and Wages for Non-Union Employees for July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024 was approved.

The meeting moved into the Water/Sewer Department Summer Schedule agenda item. Boden noted that amendment to the scheduling policy is being proposed for the period from May 15 to September 15. The matter was approved by the council.

The Process on Filling Mayor Vacancy agenda item was next addressed with Snitker noting that the council has 60 days to fill the mayor’s vacancy following resignation with an appointment by June 30 being required, or a special election would then need to be held. Boden advised that this vacancy will need to be advertised in the newspaper with Snitker discussing requirements for those wishing to be considered for appointment which would take place at the June 19 council meeting. The council approved the process.

The bids received for the Park and Recreation truck advertised for sale was next discussed. The council approved to accept the highest bid received from Wyatt Blake at $1,001.

The council approved to set Waukon City Council meeting dates during the month of July to include July 10 and July 24 to avoid holiday and schedule conflicts.

The meeting moved into discussion of Possible Changes to the Trees and Vegetation Ordinance. Hatlan recommended that this Ordinance be updated to prohibit the planting of trees and vegetation in boulevards to prevent root issues relating to utilities. The council was in agreement to bring this matter back for consideration.

The 4th Street NW/8th Avenue NW Improvements Project - Costs for Relocating Bushes was next addressed. Ertl advised that the property owner has requested that these bushes be relocated. Ertl noted that removal costs of $140 per bush, a total cost of $280, would be necessary if the bushes were not relocated. The council approved to move forward with the $280 maximum reimbursement for the relocation or removal.

Ertl provided an overview of the City Parking Lot/Alley Project Plans. Hatlan and council members Steve Wiedner and John Lydon recommended that eight-inch reinforced concrete may provide greater longevity with Ertl being directed to move forward per this direction. Security camera placement was also discussed. The council was in agreement that completing the project at one time is preferable.

Boden provided an overview of the impact of State Property Tax Reform. He noted that notifications are required to be provided to taxpayers relating to levies prior to March 15. Boden also noted the statewide trend of increased property value assessments. In context, a $32,000 increase in property tax revenue, as noted by Boden, would be seen next year in comparison to this year.

The council approved the Consent Agenda with the meeting then moving into the second Public Comment portion scheduled for this meeting. Citizen Harvey Estebo discussed concerns relating to the tone of earlier conversations and interruptions by citizens that took place at this meeting. Estebo noted that Boden, City staff and the council are doing a great job, and he stated that, in his opinion, that information is available by request.

Hatlan noted a previous conversation outside of the Council Chambers with Seibert and Bresnahan in which preventing future interruptions was discussed. Bresnahan noted his disagreement relating to the interruptions comment just mentioned, explaining that his comments took place during a Public Hearing.

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.