Change in allocation percentage for hotel/motel tax among many items discussed by Waukon City Council

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, December 18 to address a full agenda of items including the City application for the Community Catalyst Grant, discussion of changing the Hotel/Motel disbursement percentages from 75% to 50% for Park Improvements and Police Department evidence storage. The Public Hearing on rezoning a parcel from “R-2” to “M-1” was opened and closed without any written or verbal comment.

During Public Comment, Coordinator Ardie Kuhse with Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) briefly mentioned WEDC’s proposal for commercial tax rebates. Under Departmental Reports, Park and Rec Wellness Director Jeremy Strub discussed that the Wellness Center traffic volume is picking up and that the winter youth programming is beginning.

City Manager Dean Hilgerson provided an update on his activities indicating that in January he will be out of the office but will participate in City Council meetings by phone and can be contacted by phone while away. Hilgerson indicated that he attended the WEDC meeting with Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) at the former Tierney building last week. Hilgerson discussed meeting with City Attorney Jim Garrett regarding a potential sidewalk project on Fourth Street near the golf course with right-of-way being possible on the east side of the street. Hilgerson indicated that he will be putting together budget numbers for a Street Department and Police Station facility as a potential future project as well.

The Council moved into Regular Business with approval of the Sanitary Sewer Collection System Spot Repair – Partial Pay Estimate #3 Final for #2,697.66 to Skyline Construction Inc. The next two agenda items were combined into one vote and approved for Resolutions rescheduling the Public Hearing on the Southeast Urban Renewal Plan #20 and #21, with 7 p.m. January 2, 2018 being set as the time and date.

The Resolution for the Waukon Fire Department grant application was approved. The Waukon City Council will be the sponsoring governmental organization for the Fire Department’s grant application to the Allamakee County Community Foundation for a hydraulic drafting pump system with a grant request of $15,000.

The Ordinance - Rezoning Property from “R-2” to “M-1” was approved which changes a property designated as a single family residence to a manufacturing district.

The Council moved into discussion of the City application for the Community Catalyst Grant in reference to the former Tierney building. Kuhse discussed that this grant opportunity up to $100,000 involves development or rehab that stimulates economic growth and that WEDC believes that the former Tierney building is a good candidate for this grant. Hilgerson recommended that the adjacent Plaza may be part of the former Tierney building plan. The Council approved to have RC&D move forward with the grant application process.

Hilgerson discussed the State Revolving Loan Fund water resource restoration sponsored project application. Hilgerson described this as an opportunity to apply for a grant that potentially could match ten percent of the estimated $8 million wastewater treatment facility project. Hilgerson will be meeting with other City officials and representatives of Fehr-Graham Engineering Tuesday, December 19 to discuss cost proposals that may fit this grant opportunity. The Fehr-Graham professional service agreement for the Waste Treatment Facility was approved.

City Attorney Jim Garrett discussed the Resolution for the approval of the City Manager’s authority relating to the Waste Treatment Facility project. Garrett indicated that this measure makes the City Manager a representative of the City for decisions on the project, which is part of the agreement with Fehr-Graham Engineering. Hilgerson further clarified the role by commenting that on-site decisions could be made not affecting budget but he would not be authorized to approve change orders. The Council approved the resolution.

Waukon Police Chief Phil Young discussed the next agenda item involving Police Department storage not to exceed $3,000. Young discussed the need for additional evidence storage space with the Council reviewing several prepared options. The Council approved the third option involving the purchase of two evidence safes.

The Street Light on Fourth Street SW was approved and the project will move forward. The Council also approved the Reel Core Development Agreement which establishes a real estate tax rebate contingent upon the company’s building expansion and other agreed upon requirements.

The Council moved into discussion on changing the Hotel/Motel percentages from 75% to 50% for Park Improvement. Hilgerson indicated that the purpose of this measure is not to take away from Park Improvement but to get away from earmarking these funds, providing greater flexibility to meet the City’s needs. Hilgerson discussed that over the last five years, $90,000 in revenue was lost by having the Hotel/Motel tax at four percent rather than at the new voter-approved seven percent rate and that Park Improvement would still see an increase in funding at the 50% distribution with the seven percent Hotel/Motel tax rate in comparison to the previous fiscal year at a four percent rate with a 75% distribution. Hilgerson recommended that a resolution be drafted and that the matter be added to the January 2 City Council meeting agenda.

Joe Cunningham with WEDC discussed being an advocate for the seven percent Hotel/Motel tax during his time on the City Council, being able to raise the tax from three percent to four percent. Cunningham further discussed specific equipment needs for the City Park. Jesse Delaney and Cunningham both expressed concern about changing the disbursement percentage this soon following the recent vote to increase the Hotel/Motel Tax to seven percent.

The Council discussed the Downtown Street Light Committee, with Hilgerson indicating the importance of establishing the committee and recommendations being needed. Council member John Lydon volunteered to be part of the committee. The Council approved Hilgerson, Kuhse and Lydon as members of the Downtown Street Light Committee with additional members yet to be named.

Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe with Fehr-Graham Engineering discussed the Change Order #1 – 2nd St. NW to 1st Ave. NW Storm Sewer Increase of $14,984.27 to Skyline Construction Inc. TeKippe indicated that additional backfill was required following this exploratory dig and sewer replacement.

As an exploratory dig, extra caution was used to avoid water mains, fiber optic and other variables. The Council approved the change order. The Partial Pay Estimate #2 – 2nd St. NW to 1st Ave NW Storm Sewer to Skyline Construction Inc. was approved.

The Council moved into discussion of water meters with Water and Sewer Superintendent Bob Campbell discussing monthly versus quarterly meter readings and meter upgrade options including radio-read meters. City Clerk Al Lyon discussed that monthly meter reading and billing would provide a better opportunity for residents to budget this expense. Hilgerson indicated that internal discussion on this matter needs to happen regarding meter reading and expedited billing and that he and Campbell will discuss and provide recommendations. Campbell discussed the advantage of monthly meter readings in catching water leaks, those not being caught as fast with the current quarterly meter readings.

The next three agenda items involving routine financial transfers were combined and approved with a single vote, including $1,484.00 transferred from the Southeast Urban Renewal Tax Increment Revenue Fund to the Administrative Costs Sub Fund, $17,000 transferred from the General Fund (property taxes) to the Library Fund for Library expenses and $7,666.64 from the General Fund transferred to the Hotel/Motel (Park Improvements) Fund ($5,749.98 – 75%) and to the Hotel/Motel (Tourism/Economic Development) Fund ($1,916.66 – 25%).

Under Other Matters, Hilgerson briefly discussed WEDC’s recommendation involving an incentive for commercial development where the City will consider an economic development grant in the form of a series of real estate tax rebate payments based upon the increased assessed value of development or expansion of the property, with a minimum $450,000 taxable property value increase as a requirement to qualify. Hilgerson recommended that the City Attorney draft a resolution or policy to use as a guideline.

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