Waukon City Council denies large water bill reimbursement, unable to appoint anyone to Ward 3 Council seat; Life Saving Award presented

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, July 24 to address a full agenda of matters. The meeting was called to order by Mayor Arvid Hatlan and moved quickly into the presentation of a Life Saving Award.

Hatlan, Waukon Police Chief Paul Wagner, in addition to other representatives of local medical and law enforcement personnel, participated in the award presentation honoring the life saving actions of Sarah Hennessy of Waukon (see photo on this week’s Front Page). Hatlan thanked Hennessy for her actions and read aloud the inscription on the award, which stated, “This award is presented to Sarah Hennessy for her actions that saved a child’s life on June 17, 2023. On this day, Sarah performed life saving CPR on a victim who was having a medical emergency and was drowning. Sarah’s quick thinking and outstanding efforts gave someone another chance at life. City of Waukon & the Waukon Police Department July 24, 2023.”

There was no Public Comment at this time with the meeting moving into Department Reports and Library Director Cate St. Clair of Robey Memorial Library providing an update. St. Clair advised that the Summer Reading Program is going strong and made note of Story Time which takes place each Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. She discussed a variety of matters including book clubs, the library’s presence at the Allamakee County Fair, among other items. St. Clair discussed the variety of informational presentations and guest speakers taking place at the library, and made note of the upcoming Live & Learn: Pigeon Breeding & History presentation taking place Thursday, July 27 at 5:30 p.m. St. Clair and Hatlan made note of guest speaker Prosper Waukon, the great-great-grandson of John Waukon, the City of Waukon’s namesake, and his presentation scheduled for Tuesday, July 25 at 6 p.m. at Robey Memorial Library. St. Clair further discussed the community’s use of the library, advising that numbers have been great and that it is good to see families at the library this summer.

Waukon Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub advised that the Youth Summer Recreation Program is finishing up and that the last Music in the Park concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 27 with a performance by “American Standard” at the Waukon City Park. Strub also noted that a circus is scheduled for Thursday, August 10 and Friday, August 11 with shows at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. both days, and that plans are to close the swimming pool as of Saturday, August 12.

Police Chief Paul Wagner noted that the Waukon Police Station’s phones are being switched over to Allamakee-Clayton REC with some redundancy in place at present. Wagner made note of several donations and that a project announcement will be made at a later date relating to the use of these funds.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett reported that tree trimming is scheduled following the completion of street patching work.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper discussed a recent incident involving a vehicle hitting a fire hydrant. Cooper noted that there was extensive infrastructure damage requiring repair with the fire hydrant to be replaced Tuesday, July 25 affecting a portion of southwest Waukon during the morning hours.

Engineer Sam Ertl of Fehr Graham Engineering provided an update, making note that Friday, September 15 all Fehr Graham offices companywide will be closed for the entire day. Ertl updated the council about several specific projects in addition to a brief recap of a recent box culvert pre-construction meeting. He advised that Alliant Energy is preparing a proposal relating to the placement of three light poles in or near the Family Dollar/Dollar Tree portion of the Pladsen Addition. Ertl advised that planning work continues relating to several City Parking Lot items.

City Clerk Sarah Snitker advised that the housing meeting and discussion that took place two weeks ago went well. She noted that all of the attendees and presenters should be thanked for their involvement, with the efforts of Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) in planning and coordination of this meeting being further noted.

Assistant City Attorney Hattie Frana advised that she did not have an update but would be available for questions relating to items on the meeting agenda.

City Manager Gary Boden reported that housing-related meetings are being set up with developers and other stakeholders. He further commented that with recent and upcoming housing meetings, that locally many now have a higher degree of understanding of what has been done and what needs to be done in addressing the demand for additional housing in Waukon.

Boden noted that KCRG will be running commercials on behalf of the City of Waukon and certain Waukon area businesses at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. starting July 31. He further noted that this is a significant opportunity for the City of Waukon to receive regional advertising and promotion relating to several aspects including life, work and play. Boden provided a recommendation to install additional floor tiles beyond those installed in the north entrance of City Hall, extending into the lobby area and restroom areas with the availability of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds being an option.

For the City Council Report, council member Kevin Johnson noted feedback he has received relating to the need for extra vehicles and junk cars to be removed from various lots or areas in town. He advised that the council will be reviewing ordinances relating to this clean-up process. Johnson noted upcoming events in Waukon including Corn Days and Crazy Days. Council member Steve Wiedner echoed similar thoughts about cleaning up junk vehicles.

For the Mayor’s Report, Hatlan advised that the July 22 Coffee with the Mayor event was a success. Hatlan thanked Boden and Wagner for being part of this event in providing additional City representation and participating in discussion and conversation with residents. Hatlan noted that he would like to thank Lyle Bodensteiner for the work and improvements being made on his building on Main Street. He discussed the shared calendar, with department heads to meet with Snitker in getting this set up on tablets or computers.

Hatlan also discussed feedback received during the Coffee with the Mayor event and recent phone calls relating to weeds, lawn mowing and junk vehicles with Hatlan advising that ordinances will be reviewed relating to these matters prior to recommendations and official action. He noted that the 8th Avenue NW sidewalk was heavily used during the Allamakee County Fair.

The council moved into discussion of the water bill at 105 1st Avenue SW. At the Monday, July 10 Waukon City Council Meeting, Matt Teslow, owner of that rental property¸ discussed receiving a water bill for 132,400 gallons for a billing total of $2,137.70. At that July 10 meeting, Teslow noted that 57 days into the billing cycle, the water meter upgrade at this residence took place with the regular three-month billing interval interrupted resulting in the billing and notification that there was a water usage issue being delayed. Following this billing and discovery of the issue, Teslow noted that a leaky toilet and faucet repair appears to have fixed the water usage problem at that rental property.

At that July 10 meeting, Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper noted this was a “perfect storm” of factors with the water meter upgrade and employee training taking place in March while this issue was ongoing. At that July 10 meeting, Teslow requested a billing adjustment based upon the average water use at this property after what would have been the normal three-month billing cycle which would have provided notification about the issue in a timely manner, but the matter was tabled for consideration at the next council meeting.

At the July 24 council meeting, Hatlan began the discussion by noting that there is an understanding and appreciation for Teslow’s situation; however, it is the property owner’s responsibility in this case. Council member John Lydon advised that following review of the matter, he is not in favor of providing compensation back relating to this legitimate billing. Johnson echoed similar thoughts noting, “If we start doing it for one, we have to do it for all.”

Council member Steve Wiedner noted his disagreement and provided a recommendation to provide a 25-percent refund due to this being an unfortunate incident with Teslow not at fault. Wiedner motioned to provide a 25-percent reimbursement of $389.48 with that motion failing due to a lack of a second. Teslow further discussed his concerns relating to the delay in billing and notification with the City’s policy to bill at three-month intervals, advising that the water bill for this rental property was six times the average billing for this property. Teslow expressed his disappointment in this decision and treatment by council relating to this matter.

The meeting moved into the appointment of the Ward 3 Council Member. Hatlan noted that one application was received but after review of the application and Ward mapping, it was determined this individual does  not live within Ward 3 and could not be appointed to the position. The council approved to add this appointment to the August 7 council meeting agenda.

No action was taken relating to the next agenda item pertaining to a hire for a street maintenance worker position. Payments relating to the Pladsen Addition Improvements Project were approved.

The meeting moved into the next matter relating to the purchase of an ATV/UTV for the Park, Recreation and Wellness Department. Strub noted that an ATV/UTV is due for replacement and has presented issues throughout the summer. Strub further noted that four quotes were received from Iron Hill Harley Davidson with the Park Board providing a recommendation to purchase one of the models provided in the quote. The council discussed the recommendation and approved to take no action at this time with quotes from other dealers to be requested prior to a decision, allowing for competitive quotes.

Wagner addressed the next agenda item relating to the ownership of speed feedback signs. At the July 10 council meeting, Wagner discussed the Speed Feedback Sign Program through the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT). At that July 10 meeting, Wagner advised that it is likely that Waukon will qualify for three speed feedback signs to be placed on State Highway entrances into town to show vehicle speed and slow traffic, increasing pedestrian safety, among other benefits, with there being no cost to the City of Waukon through this program. At the July 24 meeting, Wagner further discussed the program and the request for the City to sign the permit with IDOT. He added that the City of Waukon would be required to take ownership of the speed feedback signs upon installation with a five-year warranty in place making this a safe acquisition. The council approved the matter.

During the second Public Comment portion of the meeting, Wagner added to his earlier report by discussing that an application was recently received with an officer vacancy not actively being advertised.

Paul Rieder discussed some electric service issues at the Waukon Airport affecting a hangar. Hatlan noted that the council was unaware of this issue and the repair quotes mentioned by Rieder. Hatlan recommended this matter should be added to the next meeting agenda for official action by the council.

Keith Bresnahan addressed the earlier agenda item relating to the water bill at 105 1st Avenue SW. Bresnahan noted that he disagrees with the council’s decision not to provide some reimbursement to Matt Teslow relating to this water bill. Bresnahan noted that this is an extreme situation with a six-month delay in billing.

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.