December 31, 2007

HO! HO! HO! MERRY NEW YEAR!!!!!!

Posted in General at 6:16 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

Here is wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.

For all of you going out celebrating the New Year please remember to use designated drivers.

For those of you home not feeling at the top of your game tonight I hope you are not feeling as badly as I am. 

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December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas

Posted in General at 12:54 pm by thevoicesofstuart

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas To All

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At Christmas Time – Grace E. Easley

There’s nothing like Christmas
And woods deep in snow
To make us remember
The dear long ago.

Down life’s weary highway,
Years pass single file,
But deep in us all
Lives a bit of the child.

The same breathless wonder
Floods over us when
The gray skies lose snowflakes
That dance in the wind.

Smoke curling from chimneys,
A white windowpane,
And dear thoughts return
And old joys remain.

The tinkle of sleigh bells
Across a still night,
A warm, shadowed hearth
Whose embers burn bright.

A colorful afghan
Thrown over a chair,
Green holly entwined
Down the length of a stair.

The candlelit church
And the golden bells tell
Of chapters each heart
Remembers so well.

Oh, there’s nothing like Christmas
And woods deep in snow
To make us remember
The dear long ago.

December 21, 2007

Stump For Your Candidate

Posted in 2008 Elections, my thoughts at 11:47 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

As always these are my thoughts and mine alone. 

With 14 days to the Iowa Caucus to pick the nominees for the Republican and Democratic Presidential Race here is your chance to stump for your candidate.  

I don’t know about you but I have made up my mind on this issue.  

After looking at all the candidates and their platforms I find that the majority don’t have  platforms they have pricetags.  They are pandering to different ideological, racial and religious groups, each with their own separate agendas, identities and special interests.  They have a litany of sound bites but no substance to support them.  Just looking at the pricetags to some of these panderings is enough to make me realize that they have no intention to make any real changes in the current governmental trends. 

In my mind to many people have bought into the mindset that the federal government knows how to fix societal problems.  If you look at recent history the federal government has a very poor track record.  Looking at FEMA’s handling of recent natural disasters, the Federal Reserve and its attempts to bail out financial institutions who deserve to fail for their bad business practices and the recent pushes for a National ID Card and ID-CHIP is enough to tell me that there is no reason to believe anyone who supports these actions. 

Based on everything I have learned about the candidates I can only support Ron Paul.  I can find no fault in his voting record.  His ability to speak to the heart of a problem even when his view is not popular or recognized tells me he has courage and integrity.  He has never accepted a donation from any special interest group.  His campaign has raised enough money to qualify for federal matching funds yet he did not accept them.  Do I agree with everything he says? No, but I do think he has the best interest of this country as his primary reason for seeking the candidacy and I just do not get that feeling from the rest of the pack.

Listen to what others have to say about Ron Paul at Ron Paul Revolution Radio.

So here is your chance to try and make me change my mind if you feel your candidate is a better choice.  

December 13, 2007

Old and New Business

Posted in Council Meetings at 11:20 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

New Business

Possible underground problem raised. 

Mr. Vitzthum posed a question to the council concerning the problem with Sargent’s building on 2nd Street and the newly found problems under the school and asked if there is a possibility that they could be related underground problems.  Mr. Aldrich stated that he had no idea.  Mr. Askren stated that there is a intake right outside of where the school problem is.  The Mayor informed the council that Bob was going to run a camera through the sections under the school to see if they could identify the problem.  Mr. Waddell pointed out that there was some distance between the two areas.  Mr. Sherman pointed out that there has been more moisture this year.  Mr. Askren countered that this type of situation does not happen in a years but over years and years.   Mr. Vitzthum informed the council that the engineer who looked at Sergant’s building reported that the structure was fine, it was the foundation that collapsed.  It was agreed that they should camera both areas.  Mrs. Avey pointed out that the school was built over city water and sanitary sewer lines.  Mr. Askren pointed out that the lines run under the gym.  At that time there were no storm sewers and the roof drains go directly into the sanitary sewer. 

Saying Thank You to Mr. Askren 

Mr. Crawford expressed his thanks to Mr. Askren for his 14 years service to the city as a Council Member.  The rest of the council echoed that sentiment.  Mr. Askren stated that it was a rewarding experience with a lot of ups and downs, frustration but worth it.  He also thought that it was time for new blood and did not recommend that anyone stay on that long.  You get tired and frustrated and need new blood to wrestle with the problems and bring a fresh perspective to it.  The Mayor asked if he would be a consultant and he said yes. 

Old Business

Mr. Aldrich forgot to asked the council during the Pay Estimate discussion for N. Division Street to make a motion to not pay for those items being paid by the Water Utility.  The Utility Board had questions at their meeting and he is to give them answers at the January Meeting.  A motion was made and passed to rescind the previous Pay Estimate motion.  A new motion was made and passed to add the withholding of the money for the water related issues along with the previous withheld items.

Mr. Sherman asked the Mayor if they have been buying salt for the roads.  Mr. Belden informed the council that he had fielded several requests asking the same thing.  Mr. Aldrich informed that council that Bob is using a sand/salt mix.  He also stated that if anyone asks they cannot use salt on the new portion of N. Division only sand.

The Mayor collected money from the council to pay for the flowers sent to the Wolfe family. 

Mr. Crawford informed the council that Sarah Tolkheim who was taking care of the website has taken a position with a firm that has a no compete clause.  She can no longer maintain the website.  He acknowledged that they had not gotten a lot of information to her anyway.  He had talked to Audrey Wells on the Chamber and will work with her on getting a new solution in place.  Mr. Waddell asked if she had been paid any money and was told no.  When asked why he was informed that they had not gotten the information to her yet.  She had been given some Chamber information but she would not put it up until she had all the information to design the site for.  Mr. Vitzthum informed the council that the Chamber is going to be working with Nate Westre on the site.  The Mayor asked what the $50. payment was for and was informed that that was the rate increase for StuartIowa.Com not this website.          

                

The ADA Council Discussion

Posted in Council Meetings at 9:46 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

Mr. Crawford opened the discussion by asking the council if they see any other site options that needed to be considered.  The Mayor asked if the committee could over the next month look into those sites to find out if they are for sale and cost.  Mr. Sherman asked if the city should do that not the committee and the Mayor agreed.  Mr. Askren informed the council that Mr. Jirak had mentioned to him that he was willing to sell his land and the Mayor stated he had mentioned it to her also.  Mrs. Avey questioned the possibility of the land needing cleaned up since his site was an old gas station and who would be responsible for the cleanup.  It was the opinion of the council that the seller would be responsible just like Dean Williams was for the R & D site cleanup.  Mr. Forrest confirmed that it is the sellers responsibility for cleanup.  Mr. O’Keeffe stated that they should not limit themselves to only finding a location for the city hall and police station but for the library also to keep the dual track going until they get a definite answer from the School Board.

 Mr. Crawford asked if the committee would have the resources to even know if the sites are even viable.  Mr. Belden thought that it should go through the City Administrator and the Architect.  Mr. Askren thought that the committee could at least find out if the owners were willing to sell or not before getting the architect involved.  The Mayor agreed that there was no point in proceeding with the architect until the sites were confirmed as available and it did not matter who did it, it could be the committee or the city.  Mr. Sherman asked if the required size was indicated on the drawings to see if the areas they were talking about were even adequate.  Mr. Waddell stated that the plans showed the space requirements. 

Mrs. Avey questioned the types of areas being considered compared to the plans.  She pointed out that the plans call for a square area and most of the sites were long narrow areas.   Mr. Askren pointed out that they needed to find the properties that were available and go from there.  The Mayor agreed and pointed out the the owners may not be willing to sell or may price themselves out of consideration. 

The discussion turned to the current site of the city hall and library.  The Mayor stated that her talk with Mr. Christensen indicated that the water storage behind the city hall could be taken out if a water tower was put on the south side of town.  The tanks are currently used only when there is a fire to store extra water and the last time it was used was when the building burnt down on 2nd street.  Mr. Sherman stated that the could direct the Utility Board to move it. 

It was finally decided that Mrs. Avey would make the calls as a city employee and get the owners answer to are they willing to sell and the size of the property. 

Mr. Crawford asked if there were any other properties that needed to be included on the list.  Mr. Sherman wanted to make sure that these were not the only properties that would get looked at if something new was discovered and once the word got out someone may come forward with other offerings that should be considered.  Mrs. Avey pointed out that it is important that they keep the location downtown and the council agreed.

Mrs. Phippen informed the council that they received 3 more responses to the library survey.  One was negative and they had no other choice if they wanted a library.  There are constant problems with conflicts with the school on access that the school refuses to address in the 28E Agreement.  It was also pointed out that the school only funded $1,900. this year and the city funded $9,700.  Next year the school finding drops to $1,400.  while the city is going to fund $9,800.  The Mayor stated that it appears that the problem is mostly with the 28E Agreement.  Mrs. Phippen re-stated that funding was also a problem.  Her search for pros and cons for combining the library resulted in a recommendation from the State Library that she use the Workbook “Is A Combined Library Right For You” to help in the decision process.  She also reported that the search for grants to help in the construction of a new library is ongoing. 

This ended the discussion.

                            

December 12, 2007

The ADA Committee Report

Posted in Council Meetings at 12:50 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

This is a paraphrase account of the committee report to the Council.

Mr. Crawford provided a run down of the last meeting of the ADA Committee attended by Neal Crawford, Nadine Avey, Jenyse Belden, Eric Tiernan, Katie Phippen and Tom Foy on December 9th.  The meeting agenda included a review of the Masonic Temple option for relocating the city services, location options of a new building for the city hall, library and police and the dual use option for the library with the school. 

Masonic Temple.

Committee discussion centered on the Architect Renovation Estimate that totaled close to $2 M.  Committee members expressed their appreciation of the qualities of the partially restored building but the price tag was considered to much given the space limitations, projected life and use of the building and unknown maintenance costs of the building.  The City Council received a new construction estimate of $1.5 M for a new building with similar use-able space.  With this estimate they did not consider the Masonic Temple a viable option unless the renovation cost comes in at $1 M or less. 

Location Options.

Location Options for a new building discussed were the current location where the city hall and library sit now, the corner east of the current city hall where the old Stuart Hotel and Creamry sits next to the Fire Station, the empty lot east of Warren Varley’s building, the corner east of the post office where Sergants buildings are and the SW corner of 2nd and Division where the current police station is taking into consideration that either a “L” shaped building could be used or the current building used by the police be removed and use the whole corner.  The need for parking and proximity to the downtown were central to the discussion and locations were kept to the Guthrie side of Stuart to preclude any loss of funding.  Preference to the current location was noted but the other sites were deemed to be good options for the council to research for comparability.  On-site parking was a concern for the existing site so the committee would like the council to investigate the other possibilities. 

The committee also discussed the feasibility of renovating the library in conjunction with  new construction of a city hall and police station as was researched by the council several years ago.  A preference for a new building was evident for the same reasons given for ruling out the Masonic building.  The condition of the building, likely high maintenance costs and high cost of renovation made this option less attractive. 

Dual Use of Library

A potential joint venture with the School Board for a dual use library was also discussed.  Concerns were raised with sharing with a high school library but sharing with an elementary library was felt more favorable given the closer proximity to the downtown area and shared functions could be better integrated with early childhood services. 

Survey responses from communities hosting dual use libraries were generally favorable siting the need for diligence in making an agreement between parties.  Given the unique opportunity the committee recommends further research by the council should they received favorable indications from the School Board after their December 12th meeting. 

Mr. Crawford’s final comments to the council were that as a result of the School Boards meeting Wednesday night he expects them to make a decision on the direction they are going to be taking over the next several months.  There is a possibility for a School Bond issue in March.  Nothing has been decided by the School Board.  His recommendation was that we wait to make a decision on what we do until after that meeting.  If we find out from the School Board that they want to talk to us about dual use and if there is going to be a bond issue in a short amount of time we go ahead and explore that option.  He thought that if they could determine in the next month or so it is really a viable option they should go that route.  That is where we are at.

This ended his report to the council.

Up next is the council discussion of the report.

              

December 11, 2007

N. Division Street Discussion

Posted in Council Meetings at 3:00 pm by thevoicesofstuart

And A Piece of Good News  

By Peggy Schlichter

According to Forrest Aldrich the entire length of N. Division Street was poured 6 inches to high due to a mistake by the staking company and a communication error to the contractor .  The staking company measured and marked sub-grade not finished levels.  The problem arose from the mis-identification of which sub-grade level the measurement was from.  Instead of measuring from the top of the dirt level it was measured from the top of the 6 inch compacted gravel level.  This mis-identification of the level from which the staking was done resulted in the contractor ending up with a pour that was 6 inches to high on the entire project.  As a result 60 feet north from 2nd Street was taken out and replaced to match the grade there and transition to the new pour level north. 

Mr. Aldrich has reviewed the site and thinks that there should not be much of a problem with how the street is now but acknowledges that a real test of drainage will probably not occur until spring thaw.  He recommended that the council not “final out” the project at this time and pointed out that there is a 2 year maintenance bond on the project and there is still work like grading, seeding and Allen Cook’s driveway had not been cut out yet to be done. 

The subject of Liquidated Damages was discussed and the council was informed that they cannot penalize the contractor by withholding a substantial amount of money from the project because they were late.  They have to be able to justify exact damages that the city incurs as a result of the contract.  Mr. Aldrich felt that short term interest, damage to side streets because of extended re-route of traffic were viable items to be estimated for damages.  He re-enforced that they were not accepting anything at this point on the contract and that he would get with Bob and Ash and they would work up the actual dollar amount of damages with justification to support them to give them a better idea of how they needed to go.

Mr. Belden then asked if there was any reason to doubt the integrity of the project when compared between how it was built and how it was suppose to be built.  Mr. Aldrich stated it was fine, the strength was there, the air content was there, it was poured when it was above freezing,  they covered it with insulated blankets and kept it warm for the required amount of time.

Mr. Askren challenged that the little bit of money Mr. Aldrich was recommending that they hold back was insufficient because everything was covered with snow, there was no way to know if driveways were going to pool water, he knew of one area that looked like it had a hump in it and that until there was a good rain they would not know how the drainage would work. 

Mr. Sherman asked why they should not just say that they needed to rebuild it the way the contract called for.  Mr. Aldrich stated that that is your right if you wish to do that but he cautioned them that the construction company would not do so without a fight.  Mr. Askren asked if he gave them the permission to fix it and Mr. Aldrich stated no.  Mr. Sherman then stated that his biggest problem was it was a big project for us, it cost a lot of money and now it wasn’t what it was suppose to be.  Mr. Askren then stated if they poured a street four blocks long, six inches to high how do I trust them and you to say that its going to be fine.  Mr. Sherman then stated that there was a reason that it was suppose to be at that elevation to begin with.  That the elevation number was not just pulled out of a hat.  Mr. Aldrich reasoned that the elevation is not a finite number and as long as the elevation does not hamper the characteristics needed there is not a problem.  Mr. Aldrich then pointed out that they are not accepting anything tonight and that until there was reason to there was no need to push for redoing the street.

Mr. Aldrich informed them that they re-shot the entire area and that in a lot of instances the grading is now better than at the contract level.   

He went on to review the options available to the council and their impacts.  The first option is not to accept and close out the contract until everything is complete and tested out.  The second is that if the project is not accepted by April, maybe early May then there is not enough time to get the special assessments certified by the county to be on the tax rolls and you lose a full year of tax payments which would add to the Liquidated Damages cost.  Thirdly they could accept a majority of the project, come up with a fixed dollar amount and then do a supplemental contract with a fixed dollar amount to finish the project.  That allows you to do the tax assessment and have the contractor finish the project for the fixed amount.  He cautioned that there are some legal things that would have to be worked out to accommodate this option because the dollar amount they are talking about exceeds the legal limit for that type of contract.  Supplemental Contracts cannot exceed 10% of the total cost of the project.

Mr. Sherman asked what was his recommendation to the council tonight.  Mr. Aldrich re-stated that he recommends that the council do nothing tonight except pay the contractor something at the next agenda item.

It was then agreed that they needed to withhold more than the seeding and grading amount from their payment.  

Mr. Allen Cook addressed the council on the neighbors driveway that was put on his property.  He showed the council pictures where the flare was put on his property.  Mr. Aldrich informed the council that the area in question is actually on city right-of-way and not on Mr. Cooks property.  Mr. Cook pointed out that they widened their driveway onto his property right up to his fence which puts it two and a half feet onto his property.  His position is that the drive way be put back to the way it was before and off his property including moving the flair at the end of it.  The question of where the actual property line is was then discussed and Mr. Cook admitted that he did not know where the pin was.  Mr. Sherman then asked if the curb drop was where it was originally and was told no it isn’t.  It was decided that Mr. Cook would find the pin and a decision would be made then.  

Mr. Vitzthum then brought up that the Sloss’s had mentioned that the water appeared to be running toward the little shed behind the store and that might be a problem.  He stated that they would not no for sure until it thawed but they wanted it noted.

The discussion then turned to how much should be withheld and it was finally decided that $100 k would be withheld from this payment. 

The motion was made to approve the payment less $100 k stating the concerns the council had on unknown drainage problems.  The motion passed.

The Good News 

Mr. Aldrich then informed the council that Stuart has been awarded $1.645 M grant from the Iowa Finance Authority to help fund the $2.7 M Waste Water Treatment Facility Upgrade.  No word had been received from the CPG on the $500 K grant request.

December 7, 2007

Agenda, December City Council Meeting

Posted in Agenda at 6:01 pm by thevoicesofstuart

Here is the agenda for the City Council Meeting Monday night.

December CC Agenda

December 6, 2007

It’s Snowing, I’m Bored, So What Shall We Talk About?

Posted in General at 5:38 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

That’s right…..it has been snowing all day…..suppose to snow all weekend….and I’m bored!!!

The snowmobiles have been running the streets this afternoon driving my big dog crazy. 

The Stock Market has been running itself up again in hopes that the Fed will lower rates again next week. 

The President thinks he can avert the looming home mortgage crisis and continues to press for sanctions against Iran  even though it has been proven that the enrichment program was dumped in 03.

The House passes a new Energy Bill but…. Senate doesn’t like it and you know who doesn’t want it.

Maine won’t let you go back to college without your mumps shot.

Venezuelan President Chavez says he will leave office in 2013.  Want to bet there will be a change in the type of government just before then?  This from a guy who hates America so much that he is changing the name of all his Citgo Stations to Petro Express to try and fool folks into buying gas there again.   

I thought CNN stunk in their handling of the last republican debate.  So badly that I wrote a letter to the editor at the DM Register since they are sponsoring the next one on December 12th.   To The Editor

Did anyone watch the three part series of the Tin Man on the SciFi Channel this week.  I thought is was a pretty good twist on The Wizard of Oz.  They are going to run it again on Sunday at 5 pm.

Okay, enough of this.  Start talking about something and we will see where it goes.