Purposes of town hall public meeting at the library Monday, October 2 discussed during September 18 regular meeting of Lansing City Council

by Julie Berg-Raymond

A town hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 2, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Meehan Memorial Lansing Public Library. The regular meeting of the Lansing City Council also scheduled for that evening will commence at 7 p.m. - following the town hall meeting - at Lansing City Hall.

According to information provided by Main Street Lansing (MSL) Executive Director Andrew Boddicker during the regular meeting of the Lansing City Council Monday, September 18, the town hall meeting being held October 2 at the library has three purposes: 1) to hear from community members about what their thoughts are on restoring the Old Stone School, and about what they would like to see it used for; 2) to hold an informational session on the residential tax abatement ordinance being drafted for Lansing by attorneys at Dorsey and Whitney, LLC, of Minneapolis, MN serving as bond counsel for the City’s residential tax abatement/urban revitalization plan; and 3) to give residents an opportunity to share their ideas about the housing needs of Lansing, and take in person the housing needs survey currently available online at  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/V8LDVL8.

A hard copy of that survey is available by calling Michelle Barness at Upper Explorerland, at 563-419-6243. The Allamakee County Housing Study is being undertaken by Allamakee County Economic Development and Tourism (ACED) in partnership with Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC).

In attendance at the October 2 meeting will be members of the Lansing City government, representatives of Allamakee County Economic Development & Tourism and Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission.

The council approved a request from Boddicker that he be allowed to clean the front, northwest room on the ground floor of the Old Stone School, in preparation for a visit from Debi Durham, head of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, October 11. The cleaning will involve vacuuming, disinfecting and organizing the space for visiting.

Chris Troendle, housing planner for Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC), spoke to the council about the Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund. The Housing Trust Fund serves Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties and assists individuals, non-profit, for-profit owners and provides down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers.

According to materials Troendle shared with the council, the main purpose of the Housing Trust Fund “is to improve the housing stock by providing much-needed funds for home rehabilitation for those who may otherwise be unable to secure funds from traditional sources.” Among the rehabilitative possibilities are roof repair, furnace repair and replacement, energy efficiency updates, electrical and plumbing, and handicap accessibility.

In addition to providing the council with information about the Housing Trust Fund, Troendle asked the council to consider having the City of Lansing provide matching funding for the program. That matching funding would, Troendle said, help “secure more funds from state and federal governments to improve or make available housing in our communities that is affordable and safe.” Local matches for 2022-2023 in Allamakee County are currently provided by the Allamakee County Supervisors, the City of Postville, the City of Waukon, and Freedom Bank (Allamakee and Clayton).

Lansing Chief of Police Conrad Rosendahl told the council about this year’s Faith & Blue event, which is scheduled for Sunday, October 8 from 1 to 3 p.m. in Lansing City Park. Chief Rosendahl said the event will include a free will donation meal, with proceeds going to Lansing Iowa Food Trust (LIFT) and the Way Station Thrift Store and Food Shelf in New Albin. “We will have a live worship band and some officers who will share their testimony,” he added. Chief Rosendahl implemented the federal initiative in Lansing last year.

According to Faith & Blue’s website at faithandblue.org, “Faith & Blue was inaugurated in 2020 by MovementForward, Inc., working with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) at the U.S. Department of Justice. The idea was a simple but powerful one - the ties that bind officers and residents must be reinforced if we are to build neighborhoods where everyone feels safe and included. Faith-based organizations are key to building these bonds because they are not only the largest community resource in the nation, with 65 million participants in weekly events, but because they are as diverse as our nation. Moreover, they speak to Americans’ shared conviction that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”

When Chief Rosendahl first described the event to the council last year, members expressed interest in the goals of the program while cautioning that the council cannot be involved in any kind of sanctioning of it, due to Constitutional concerns regarding the separation of church and state. The council noted further that, while police officers are entitled to participate while in uniform, they need to be off duty while doing so.

The council was asked to revisit a citizen concern first offered in August by Arla Wagner, as regards helping with the cost of repaving the street where the sewer line from her house to the city line is being replaced. According to the city code, the homeowner is responsible for repaving the street section to its condition prior to being torn up during construction.

In her initial statement of concern to the council, Wagner noted that “the current state of the city street is in extremely poor condition,” and told the council she believes it is not fair to ask her to pay the full amount for bringing it back to new condition. “I really appreciate the council listening to my concerns,” Wagner said. Following that initial statement of concern offered in August, the council consulted the City’s attorney.

During the September 18 regular meeting, council members Mike Manning and Curtis Snitker acknowledged that bringing the road back only to its pre-construction condition is not an option. “The recommendation from our attorney is that the ordinance’s ending leaves things open to discussion,” Snitker said. “But if we allow something to be put in that area that is sub-standard, we could be putting something in that is unsafe.”

City Clerk Katie Becker, among others, was concerned about setting a precedent. “So now every time somebody digs up their street because they need something done, we’re on the hook?” she asked. The council decided to find out how much it will cost to blacktop that section of the street before making its decision.

The council approved a request to relocate the Jerry Irons memorial bench under the Black Hawk Bridge due to upcoming bridge work. The desired new location is just south of an existing bench, south of the City Marina. The family will take care of the concrete work and relocation of the bench and will contact the Streets Department if anything specific needs to be done.

PeopleService Representative Duane Estebo reported that, “during the month of August, we have had several locates. Some of these were for cable companies or trenching companies. The rest were for water and sewer repairs.”

August 17, duckweed and algae were cleaned out of the disinfection tanks. “The duckweed got in from the flooding and the algae just grows in the hot weather,” Estebo reported. August 21, the siphon pipe and the City Hall lines were jetted. August 23, the DNR did the city’s sanitary sewer survey review. “We had no issues, and everything looked good,” Estebo reported. “After that extreme hot spell we had, the blowers weren’t operating correctly,” Estebo said. “Several malfunctions were showing up. These ranged from slow starts, poor running, and sometimes not coming on at all. I had a service call done and it was determined that the variable frequency drives (VFDs) had gotten too hot and had internal damage.” Estebo said he is looking into some replacements.

In other business, the council approved a one-time payment of $4,500 to Dorsey & Whitney, LLC, of Minneapolis, attorneys who will draft the City’s ordinance for the residential tax abatement/urban revitalization plan. The council also approved Resolution No, 991, City Street Financial Report.

The next regular meeting of the Lansing City Council is scheduled for Monday, October 2, at 7 p.m., in Lansing City Hall.