Waukon City Council approves 2022 Street Improvement Project focused mainly in the northwest quadrant, discusses land and airport hangar lease agreements

by Joe Moses

The Waukon City Council met in regular session Monday, November 1 to address a full agenda of items including considerations and requests for direction relating to the 2022 Street Improvement Project, the group health insurance renewal for 2022 and Community Development Block Grants.

There was no Public Comment and the council moved into Department Reports with Park, Recreation and Wellness Director Jeremy Strub providing an update relating to the Waukon City Park. Strub noted that preparations are being made in the City Park for winter with restrooms being closed and water being turned off. The new shelter in the former Jaycees Shelter location was discussed by Strub as having been completed with suggestions being accepted for naming of the new shelter. Strub advised that fall sports have wrapped up with winter sports beginning soon. He also noted that October was a good month for the Waukon Wellness Center.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jim Cooper discussed a water valve that will be replaced this week. Cooper advised that one layer of blacktop is being applied to the driveway leading into the new Wastewater Treatment Plant with another layer of blacktop to be applied in the spring per the recommendation of the contractor. Cooper added that the contractor has agreed to honor the same price next year with the delay between blacktop layers to yield improved quality and greater longevity for the road surface. Cooper discussed being honored as the 2021 Operator of the Year by the Iowa Water Environment Association (IAWEA) in addition to being nominated by his fellow IAWEA operators to serve a one-year term as Vice President of the organization and another one-year term as President the following year.

Street Superintendent Keith Burrett advised that leaf pick-up continues and will likely wrap up around Thanksgiving time. Burrett further noted that tree trimming will be starting with winter preparations and maintenance ongoing.

Police Chief Paul Wagner reported that there were no issues with Halloween this year. He noted that Mason Kwilinski was sworn in as an officer with the Waukon Police Department prior to the Monday council meeting. Wagner discussed Kwilinski’s experience as a certified officer with the Marquette/McGregor Police Department. Wagner also advised that a check was received from the Arlin Falck Foundation as a result of grant funding being awarded for the purchase of three Attack Mats, ballistic floor mats for law enforcement vehicles that also serve as protective shields for officers.

Senior Project Manager Lyle TeKippe with Fehr Graham Engineering provided the Street Improvement Project Report and discussed that the paving portion of this year’s project is close to completion with some minor detail work remaining.

City Attorney Jeff Swartz provided an update and discussed that an additional attorney has been hired at his firm and that a recommendation to appoint this individual as Assistant City Attorney may be made at a future time.

As part of the City Manager Report, City Manager Gary Boden advised that a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2 relating to discussion of countywide ambulance service options. Boden advised that a capital improvements meeting will tentatively be scheduled for January. He discussed fiber optic infrastructure and ongoing planning with Allamakee Clayton Electric Cooperative relating to that matter. Boden said that a wood chipper is being purchased per a recommendation from Mayor Pat Stone with that $2,300 expense not currently budgeted and to be presented to the council for approval.

Boden also provided a brief update relating to the Teamsters Union and provided an update relating to the former JCPenney/Tierney building. He indicated that interior design work is being drafted, with those designs likely to take most of November to complete as part of the agreement with the investor and the Iowa Economic Development Authority  (IEDA) relating to the Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant.

Boden and council members Gayle Decker and Ben Rausch further discussed the need for fiber optic networking in Waukon. Council member Arvid Hatlan questioned Boden and Swartz about the delay in progress relating to the City Employee Handbook, which Hatlan noted is overdue and was promised as part of Union negotiations. City Attorney Swartz replied that much work has been completed relating to the handbook while work continues relating to other projects, with progress relating to the handbook to resume soon.

There was no Mayor’s Report or City Council Report with the meeting moving into consideration of the group health insurance renewal for calendar year 2022. Benefits Consultant Renee Warren with Group Services provided an overview of group health insurance plans including options available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the City’s current group health insurance provider. Following discussion with Warren, the council approved to move forward with the renewal of a Wellmark group health insurance plan.

The council moved into the next matter relating to discussion with Piper Sandler & Co. regarding financing. Due to technical difficulties, Managing Director Travis Squires of Piper Sandler & Co. did not provide an update via Zoom web-conferencing. In his place, Boden discussed recent communications with Squires and discussed a recommendation to pursue financing through local banks rather than through the bond market.

The meeting moved into discussion relating to direction for the 2022 Street Improvement Project with Engineer Sam Ertl of Fehr Graham Engineering providing an overview of several potential street projects and options. Following discussion with Ertl, the council approved to move forward with several street improvement projects including Project #1B: 5th Avenue NW from 2nd Street to 4th Street, Project #2: 2nd Street NW from 4th Avenue to 8th Avenue, Project #3: 2nd Avenue NW Reconstruction from 1st Street to Allamakee Street, and lastly, to continue moving forward with 4th Street NW over a two-year period of time.

City Clerk Sarah Snitker addressed the next matter relating to discussion of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant. Snitker advised that grants are available for commercial façade improvements in the amount of $50,000 with a City match not required but recommended. The council was in agreement to have Snitker continue research relating to this grant opportunity. Snitker noted that the Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant is available on an annual basis with the council in agreement that this grant information be shared for the potential rehabilitation of other buildings.

The council moved into discussion of Airport Hangar leases. Options available for the City’s hangar and improvements were discussed. The council approved to move forward with lease agreements with certificates of liability.

Prior to adjournment, the council reviewed the Land Lease Agreement Amendment relating to the SW three acres of the City-owned portion of the former Bresnahan property. Hatlan clarified that the current lease holder is finished with crops on the three acres and is willing to sign off and forgo this property. Hatlan motioned that the three acres where the City is putting water and sewer infrastructure in be released immediately with the council approving that motion.