January 31, 2008
By Peggy Schlichter
Well folks, I was a bad girl last night and did not attend the city council meeting. I wish I could say that there was a previous engagement that I could not get out of or something else equally important as an excuse, but I cannot.
I just did not go because I did not want to.
Am I kicking myself about this, this morning? Of course I am. It is a little to late now though. I have already been told a few times this morning that I should have just sucked it up and went. Which is true I should have. But I didn’t.
So, I guess that I need to give myself a good talking to about my attitude problem last night and get on with other things I am working on.
January 29, 2008
Here is the agenda for the Wednesday Special Meeting.
January 24, 2008
By Peggy Schlichter
Here is a link to the Open Secrets Organization website. Lots of great information about who is financing your candidate. It might just surprise you.
By Peggy Schlichter
Well it is the New Year and all the old arguments have started up again about the School Bond Issue but maybe we should be more concerned that only 12 % of WCV students meet the benchmarks for ACT Scores. Here is a recent article from the Dallas County News that explains the scores, what they mean and where we stand in the percentile ratings.
I found Dr. Arnold’s response interestingly obtuse and lacking in any real effort to address the problem.
Everyone agrees that we need a new high school building and the devil is in the details of what and where to build. It will get worked out eventually. The bigger concern I see is that all the energy being spent fighting about a new building has taken the focus off of the important issue of providing a solid, basic education to every student whether they head off to college or not.
There is no way to convince me that we are doing so when only 12% of our graduating seniors headed to college test out this way. That tells me that the other 88% of seniors headed off to college are marginally prepared to compete in a college environment.
And what about the students who do not plan to attend college? Where do they stand in the grand scheme of things? How prepared are they for everyday challenges of a job? What basic skills have we provided them with to face the world with?
Maybe the focus should shift back to academics and give our students a better chance to excell in their future endeavors, what ever they may be. Maybe the time has come for the School Board, parents and residents alike to look at the big picture of how we are educating our young and get on with the business of ensuring they are getting the education they deserve.
January 16, 2008
By Peggy Schlichter
The Mayor announced that Mr. Sherman is the new Mayor Pro Tem and is on the Stuart Committee.
Mr. Belden is on the Finance Committee.
Mr. Crawford is on the Parks Committee.
Mr. Waddell is on the Streets Committee.
Mr. O’Keeffe is on the Cemetery Committee.
The Mayor raised the issue of where are we on the new city hall/library/police station. Mr. Crawford informed the committee that Mrs. Avey had contacted the owners where the city had expressed interest in possibly using the site for the city building and all were willing to sell. No prices were discussed during that conversation.
The Mayor then asked what is next, what should be be doing now. Mr. Waddell stated that he had heard that the School Board will not be close to having a bond issue ready until March. Mr. Sherman asked if they were back to a hurry up and wait situation and he did not want to see that happen. Mr. O’Keeffe stated that he had heard the the School Board was planning on waiting until after the next LOSST vote early next year to make it permanent before going forward with the school bond issue. Mr. Crawford informed the council that the School Tax Committee had recommended to the School Board to go forward with the bond issue as soon as possible with some recommended wording for the bond issue.
That being said the Mayor asked again what we should be doing in the mean time. Mr. Crawford stated that they should go ahead and get some price figures on the possible locations. Mr. Sherman pointed out that we have the plans for the new building based on the comparable size for the Masonic Temple and the size requirements should be checked against the available sites to see if they are even big enough for use. That by doing so it would possibly eliminate sites from the need to gather more information on. Then if all the properties are big enough for the facility then we need to proceed with getting the architect involved to evaluate the properties. Mr. Sherman then pointed out that they needed to decide on which version of the plans they wanted to go with before they could decide which sites it would fit on. It was decided that they would have Mrs. Avey call and find out the exact size and price of the lots before going any further.
Mr. Sherman then asked about the current site of the city buildings and what was being done to determine if they should tear them down and re-build there. Mr. Waddell stated that all he has heard is “don’t you dare tear down the library”. Mr. Sherman then stated that we could either tear it down and use the current site or wait for it to fall down.
Mr. Crawford then raised the issue that the drawings they have from the architect were only for the size comparable to the Masonic Temple and is that even what we really want or actually need. After a short discussion it was decided that they would take a look at the plans during the budget workshop and hopefully Mrs. Avey would have the size and price information on the lots by then.
By Peggy Schlichter
A motion was made and passed approving the Ordinance to change the speed limits when entering the town from the south. This change only affects the north bound traffic on P28. The south bound limits were not changed.
The 35 mph now starts where the previous 45 mph sign was at the south entrance to Quail Run. A 45 mph speed limit extends south to the point equal to the 55 mph sign for traffic heading south.
Other Traffic Sign Issues
There is a U-Turn sign on the corner of 2nd and Division that is not necessary and Robert asked if it could be taken down. It was agreed that that sign was no longer needed and should be removed. The council discussed the other U-Turn signs in the downtown and decided to leave them as is.
Mr. O’Keeffe asked about the missing stop signs in town and was told that two were knocked down because of road conditions and he did not know of any others. Mr. Waddell informed them of one more that was just about down but did not give a location.
Other Police Department Information
Included in the council packet was a copy of the Stuart Police Department Year End Report. The report was accepted with no comments or questions from the council.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. Bump informed the council that First Equity Builders is “throwing-in-the-towel” on part of the Quail Run Development and are selling some of the land to the east to Mark Earhart. The land being sold was originally designated as Phases 4 and 5 of the Quail Run Development and is being sold as Ag land.
Mr. Waddell asked about all the city services that were put in and how this sale would affect them. Mr. Bump informed them that these areas were not developed with services yet. Mr. Sherman asked about the areas that have the services and the money that they are obligated to purchase in the development. Mr. Bump stated that the reimbursement of the city services installed by the developer were only reimbursed as the properties are sold to the homeowner. If the developer sells that land without building the houses the city is not liable for the reimbursement. He also asked if the selling of the land will cause any of the streets to become dead ends. Mr. Bump answered no that the land is outside of the already developed area.
A motion was made and passed to remove the sold land from the Development Agreement and Urban Renewal Plan.
Mr. Sherman then asked if the land was still zoned residential and what if they want to farm it. Mr. Bump stated that it can be farmed but no row crops can be planted on it because it is within the city limits. Mr. Sherman then asked that Mr. Bump be sure to inform Mr. Earhart about that.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. Vanlandingham was not present at the meeting to answer the questions the council had about the provisions of the contract. They discussed their questions and asked that more information be provided to support the changes requested in the new contract.
The council decided to table the issue until the Budget Workshop Meeting on January 30th at 6:30 pm and requested that a Ambulance Board Representative and Mr. Vanlandingham be present with the information they requested.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mrs. Jo Veatch expressed interest to the council in purchasing the empty lot at 607 N. Gaines Street without stipulations. She informed the council that she is not sure if she wants to put a house on it or add it to the current property.
Mr. Sherman asked Mr. Bump to explain how the transaction needs to work. Mr. Bump explained that they can agree to sell the property to her, have the property appraised and then the transaction has to go to a public hearing where anyone is allowed to enter a bid for the property. Mr. Veatch asked if she would be able to re-bid if a higher bid was entered at the public hearing. Mr. Bump responded that it had never happened before but that he would find out.
He also pointed out that they normally have a stipulation that a house of a certain size is built on the lot within a certain time-frame and that is how they have sold all the previous city property to get it back on the tax rolls.
Mr. Waddell asked how the city came to own the property. Mr. Bump informed the council that Region XII helped the city get a dilapidated building torn down with federal money and then gave the lot to the city. The lot has been sold twice in the past and the city has gotten it back twice with no improvements done on it.
Mr. O’Keeffe thought that there should be a stipulation requiring a house to add to the tax rolls. Mrs. Veatch then asked if she could just have it added to the existing property. Mr. Bump stated that do so would only add about $30. to the tax roll. Mr. Belden pointed out that that is $30. more than what they are getting now on a empty lot the city has to keep maintained now. Mr. Sherman thought that there should be a stipulation for a house it they were to sell it. Mrs. Veatch pointed out that because of the size of the lot and the way the trailer was situated right at the neighboring lot line the only way a house could be situated would not face the street.
After further discussion the council made and passed a motion to get the appraisal and proceed with the sale without stipulations.
By Peggy Schlichter
Wastewater Treatment Facilitates
Mr. Aldrich informed the council that they have received written confirmation of the $1.645 M grant on the $2.7 M Wastewater Treatment Facilities Upgrade. They should receive word in the March/April time-frame on the requested $500 K Community Block Grant and if that comes through the remaining $565 K will still have to be funded by the city.
Mr. Aldrich asked the council to approve the Engineering Agreement to hire Veensta & Kimm to design the plant in 08 with construction and completion in 09.
Mr. Belden asked if the engineering fees were covered by the grant. Mr. Aldrich informed the council that they were.
The motion was made and passed to approve the Engineering Agreement with Veenstra & Kimm.
N. Division Street Project
Liquidated Damages Update – At the last meeting the council had asked for a justification of the liquidated damages. After reviewing the damages Mr. Aldrich informed the council that Gaines Street will need to be re-seal coated from 6th Street to Front Street because of the detour at a cost of about $8 K of which the liquidated damages would cover approximately $4,300. Under the contract V&K had their viewers out there longer and will have to be out here again in the spring at a cost of $5,200. This brings the total of Liquidated Damages to $9,500 with what could be justified.
Mr. Waddell asked about the time Mr. Airhart had to spend on-site when their representative was not there and the sign rental costs. Mr. Aldrich stated that the sign rental costs were a valid cost to be included in the liquidated damages but public employee costs were to much of a grey area to attempt.
Mr. Aldrich recommended that the council take no action at this time on the liquidated damages until the very end of the project.
Mr. Belden stated that he had received a complaint about the drainage at 4th and N. Division. Mr. Aldrich explained that Mr. Airhart had the same concerns about that corner and 3rd and Division. He recommended that until such time as the spring thaw where the drainage could be observed there was no need to address it now. Mr. Waddell asked if we are going to rely on the snow melt or are we going to flood the area to determine if we have a drainage problem. Mr. Aldrich stated that he is hoping for spring rains in march to test the drainage but if they felt that there was not enough rainfall they would flood the area to test it. He also stated that the cost to fix the areas if drainage was a problem would be in the thousands of dollars range not the tens of thousands dollar range and at the cost of the contractor not the city. Mr. Sherman asked if we were able to hold the money for that. Mr. Aldrich informed the council that the money was already withheld. The contractor had sent a request objecting to it and asking for interest on the withheld money. V&K replied to the contractor that because the areas in question are not perfect they would continue to hold the money without interest.
The curb drop north of the Allen Cook property was looked at and Mr. Aldrich informed the council that the placement and size were proper based on accepted construction standards and the it is located on city right-of-way property even though it is one and a half feet over on Mr. Cooks lot. Mr. Cook had previously asked the council to have it put back to where it was before and off of his property. After some discussion it was determined that they would not direct any changes be made until Mr. Cook has reported back with the exact location of his property line.
Sports Complex Recreational Trail Pay Estimate
Mr. Aldrich informed the council that this pay estimate is for the asphalt layed down and finishing the fence. They are still withholding about $10 K for the grading and seeding that needs to be done in the spring.
A motion was made and passed to approve the payment.
By Peggy Schlichter
Fire Chief Henderson acting as the City Representative to the Guthrie County Emergency Management Commission reviewed the upcoming budget to support the GCEMC. He informed the council that all equipment received since 2003 was paid by grants costing the city nothing. The city began funding their portion of the Commission in the 05/06 fiscal year at the rate of $1. per capita. During the development of the 08/09 budget the commission recognized the need to increase the per capita rate to $2.
The Commission consists of 9 communities in the area and all are increasing their per capita rate to $2. The unincorporated regions of the county pay a per capita rate of $4.14.
Mr. Waddell asked if the per capita rate was just for the Guthrie County side of Stuart. Fire Chief Henderson informed him that from the onset the State of Iowa recommended to the Commission not to split cities and towns for emergency management support or funding. Mr. Waddell then asked if they are asking us for $2. per capita or telling us $2. per capita, are the other 8 communities going to agree with the increase or if seven other communities say no are they only going to have to pay a $1. Fire Chief Henderson explained that it will be either all at a $2. rate or if some do not accept the $2. rate it will be all at the $1. rate and they will have to redo their budget. Three communitites have already approved the $2. per capita rate.
Fire Chief Henderson went on to explain to the council that as one of the 18 counties in Region 4 the development of this budget includes our portion of the fee for the HazMat contract with Council Bluffs in support of the HazMat Ordinance passed recently. Once the HazMat Contract is established the first two years fee is at a $.25 per capita rate and the next two years is at a $.50 per capita rate. Beginning in the 5th year of the contract the rate is negotiated.
Mr. Sherman then asked how much money they were talking about and did we have it in the budget to cover the increase. Mr. Ashour informed the council that the $1. per capita rate was already included in the 08/09 proposed budget and the additional $1,700. could be added.
The motion was made and passed to accept the $2. per capita rate for the 08/09 fiscal year budget.
January 15, 2008
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. O’Keeffe raised the issue of resident complaints particularly on N. Gaines Street being a sheet of ice. Mr. Airhart responded that that streets get very little sunlight, they have been out of salt until last week and that he had sanded all the streets. Mr. Sherman agreed that there were a lot of issues with the streets this year because of the combination of weather and even he thought that there were days that the slush should have been pushed off he softened his tone by acknowledging that he did not know what they were busy with and it was probable that not every street could be gotten to. He also stated that even Des Moines has been out of salt until last week and seldom to the side streets get plowed let alone salted. Mr. Sherman emphasized that all intersections that approach Division Street be salt and sanded to avoid mishaps especially with ice accumulations like they were.
Mr. Ron Gruber addressed the council about a letter he received today from the city billing him $40. for snow removal on December 18th. The bill stated that is was overdue and a lien would be placed on his residence. He informed the council that he cleans three sidewalks and his sidewalk was clean except for a 2 foot heap of ice piled at the curb in the street. His question to the council was why was he getting a $40. bill when his sidewalk was clean unless they were going to pay him for doing city work and his responsibility ends at the curb. Mr. Sherman agreed with that. Mrs. Jensen was represented by her daughter and Joann informed the council that she received the same letter Saturday from the city. She further informed the council that Mr. Gruber cleans her mothers sidewalk and the same circumstance applies. The ice blocking the cleaned sidewalk was in the street blocking access to the sidewalk.
Mr. Belden then asked how they came up with the list of people who needed to clean their sidewalks and did every sidewalk get checked. Robert responded with the officers went around town and made a list and then they prioritized the list. The prioritization was based on several phone calls from one individual who complained about S. Division Street. Based on the complaints from this individual that is the reason that these properties got singled out for cleaning and Schwinger Lawn Services was called to clean them. He then tried to say that if the access in not clear to the approach then the sidewalk is not clear. Mr. Gruber disagreed and stated that that is not the way the ordinance reads and that cleaning the street is not his responsibility. Mr. Sherman agreed that once you hit the curb the homeowners responsibility ends. It was then brought up that if the plow goes by and block the street approach to the sidewalk it is just like a driveway the home owner has to re-clean the end of the driveway and sidewalk. Mr. Gruber countered with that was not the case because the mound left by the plow was in the street not on the sidewalk. Mrs. Gruber informed the council that she had called the city 3 times telling them that the ice in the street was blocking the sidewalk and that they needed to clean it to allow access to the sidewalk. Mr. Sherman stated that he thought that calling the other two times should have been unnecessary since the city should have a record of the first call. Mr. Airhart then stated that Mr. Henderson informed him that he had missed that corner when they had gone around to clear the corners. On January 9th the city brought the backhoe and broke up the ice in the street and cleared the corner.
Mr. Waddell then stated that this was not the intent of the ordinance to cite people who have cleaned their entire sidewalk but the approach is blocked. Just because the plow came by does not warrant us calling our contractor to come and remove that. Mr. Sherman agreed. Joann then stated that even though that was not the intent of the ordinance and that they had done nothing wrong and that even though the contractor was called the ice remained in the street until the city removed it on January 9th that he did not remove it as the contract calls for and they were being penalized for it. Mrs. Gruber then pointed out that she had called the city on December 20th, 21st and January 8th informing them of the problem and that the bill does not even state what Mr. Schwinger did clean if anything. Mr. Sherman then asked if Mr. Schwinger did in fact go to these places. Officer Hrubetz stated that he went by to check the next day and he could see where a snow-blower had gone through but all the ice still remained and the areas were improved. He stated that the reason the east side of the street was done was because when Mr. Schwinger informed him that he had finished the ones on the west side of the street he told him that the east side was bad too. Officer Hrubetz then instructed him to do those also. He could tell he had been there but did not recall looking at the east side of the street. At that point he informed the council that they decided to take before and after pictures before any more complaints would be turned over to the contractor for removal. Mr. Waddell then restated that it was not the intent to penalize residents who did what they were suppose to do and that it is winter and that they will never be perfectly clean. He then questioned why the very first notice we send someone is a impending lein and asked if that was correct. He was then shown a copy of the letter sent by the city which stated that the bill was delinquent and if not paid a lien would be placed on the property. The very first letter saying we are going to lien your property is rather abrupt don’t you think. Mrs. Gruber then asked how the bill can be called delinquent when she did not even know that she had a bill. She then asked the council to void her and Mrs. Jensen’s bill because they had done what they were required to do under then ordinance.
The Mayor then asked what are we going to do about these two bills and what are are we going to do about our policy and the way we notify people. The discussion continued about whether a phone call or door hanger or municipal infraction should be used to notify people that they are in violation of a city ordinance. During the conversation Joann asked just how exactly how it was determined that only these 8 people/businesses got billed when there are still sidewalks today that have not been cleaned. If the ordinance is for the whole city why did they prioritize just S. Division Street and send notices but no one else received one. If the ordinance is good for everybody why did not everybody get notices. When asked how many sidewalks did Officer Hrubetz make note of he responded with 78 for a total of $3,120. worth. When asked how many people got notices he replied with 8. She then asked what happened with the other 70. The response was that they realized that this needed further discussion at council and that they only billed those where complaints had been received. Mr. Waddell then stated that he remembered during the previous discussion that it was going to be for everyone. The Mayor then pointed out that the cost of time and postage for sending all the notices was prohibitive. The discussion then turned to just what exactly would constitute deserving a notice. If it was just the approaches and the sidewalks were cleared the homeowner should not be penalized for doing what they are required to do. The discussion continued on how people should be notified. Mr. Airhart informed the council that he had contacted three other larger communities on how they handle this type of situation and found that is every case there is no set policy other than if a complaint is received the city orders it cleared and the homeowner is billed. It was finally decided that a door hanger would be used to notify residents that they are in violation of the city ordinance and the if the sidewalk is not cleared by the time the contractor arrives he would clean the sidewalk and you will be billed. Mr. Sherman then raised the question of is this going to be done every time or just to get people aware of the ordinance. Robert stated that they will keep a list of who gets a hanger and they will only get one. That way they will know who the problems are. Next year there will be no hangers and everyone should be aware of what the requirements are. A motion was made and passed to use the door hangers to notify residents who are in violation of the ordinance.
After further discussion and clarification by Mr. Henderson that all the ice removed on the corner of S. Division and 5th Street was on the street side of the curb it was decided and a motion made and passed to rescind the fine for the Gruber and Jensen properties.
Mr. Waddell then asked for discussion on how the billing should be handled in the future for contractor cleaned sidewalks and the process for payment of the bills and or delinquencies if they occur. He stated that the bill should be from the city not the contractor and that reasonable notices be given to the homeowner stating when it is due and how long they have before it goes delinquent. After discussion it was decided that the city will send bill with 30 days to pay. After 30 days a late fee will be assessed and after 90 days a lien will be assessed against the property.
Mr. Sherman then addressed the possibility that the contract work should be checked to ensure that it is being accomplished to the standard the city requires. Robert then informed the council that they would be taking pictures before and after the work is done to avoid any further conflicts. Mr. Waddell stated that he is being paid for snow removal so he should understand that whatever it takes to do so is required. Mr. Airhart informed the council that even though they had removed the snow in the park the ice was still there and he had Mr. Schwinger spray it so that when the sun hit it the ice would melt.
The last issue brought up was snow removal on the walking trail. Mr. Airhart asked if it had to be maintained. The mayor responded with it is city property and should be maintained. Mr. Sherman responded with I just made a sign today for the Des Moines park that said that the walking trail is not maintained during winter months use at your own risk. He also added that if you are caught up with the other snow removal requirements then you should do it as the last item on the priority list. The mayor asked if a sign needed to be put up and council agreed.
Mr. Gruber then asked the council what the policy was on the cemetery for snow removal and was informed that it is only cleared when there is a funeral and then only the areas needed to accommodate the area being visited.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. Bill Sloss addressed the council about the snow removal responsibilities for the new parking on N. Division Street. Apparently there was some confusion by the Street Department about who was responsible for the removal. Mr. Sloss reminded the council of the discussion that took place in June before construction took place that the parking was public even though the church agreed to pay for it. He addressed the fact that the church acknowledged need for increased parking not only for their needs but the city’s needs in the future. He reminded the council that the agreement at the end of the June council meeting was that the city would maintain the parking just like main street and perform the snow removal as a part of their regular maintenance of downtown. That the parking would be used as a place to push snow to the north and then be hauled away.
Mr. Crawford acknowledged that that it was his understanding that the city would maintain it as Mr. Sloss presented. Mr. O’Keeffe asked what has been done this winter to raise this issue. Mr. Sloss stated that the city pushed to the south and the church pushed to the north. The south snow was hauled away and the pile to the north was not removed until he had contacted the Mayor and she directed it removed resulting in the issue being addressed in the January meeting. The Mayor reminded the council that it is city right-of-way just like the other parking and it was their responsibility to remove it. Mr. Airhart informed the council that he had talked with the Ombudsman’s Office about using city equipment to remove the snow. Based on it is city right-of-way but it is also church parking the Ombudsman stated it was a grey area and that it had to be a benefit to the city for city employees to clean it. On the other hand if he is directed to clean it by the Mayor he should do so and keep a record of the instruction in his employee file.
Mr. Sherman asked if it was designated as church parking or did they intend to designate it in the future. He was informed by Mr. Sloss that there are no signs designating church parking nor was there any plans to do so and that the church Board of Elders is in complete agreement that this is public parking for anyone. He also wanted everyone to know that the parking is “head-in” parking and leaving the parking space requires travel to the south.
Mr. Waddell asked what was the case across the street at the Dollar General. Mr. Sherman informed him that even though DG had requested that it be designated parking for them the council did not approve it and it remains public parking. Mr. Waddell then asked why we were not removing the snow there. Both sides of the street are public parking and why should we not be removing the snow. Mr. Airhart pointed out that the problem to do this is that the people who live in the apartments above the businesses on 2nd Street park there overnight because of the restrictions on overnight parking on 2nd Street. As long as there are cars parked there it is not prudent to try and remove the snow. The Mayor then stated that it is not an issue right now and won’t be until DG raises it. Mr. Waddell stated that DG should not have to come and complain. They are both public parking and is just like the other side of the street. If we are doing it for one we ought to do it for both. Mr. Sherman then raised the question of how do they allow vehicle parking there and still remove the snow. After further discussion it was decided that there was no way to solve the overnight parking issue by DG and the city would no attempt to clean snow there if cars are parked there.
Mr. Airhart then raised the question about whether the city was responsible for all the maintenance of the parking and sidewalk if something is damaged. Mr. Bump informed the council that once Mr. Aldrich accepted the construction it became the city responsibility for all maintenance just like any other street including the sidewalk since it is in city right-of-way.
A motion was made and passed to have city employees perform regular maintenance to the city parking area adjacent to the Congregational Church because of the city right-of-way and that the council finds that the maintenance is a public benefit.
By Peggy Schlichter
The council was presented with the findings of the annual Sewer Fund Audit showing the overall operation for the year. The fund ended $30k to the black and the money was transferred to the debt service fund. The council asked no questions and the audit was accepted and approved.
January 11, 2008
Here is the agenda for the January 14th City Council Meeting.