City council eyes water increases

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council at its monthly meeting on Feb. 2 discussed increasing rates for  water and sewer and decided to consider an ordinance reflecting those increases at its next meeting on Feb. 11.

Mayor Russ Loven led councilmembers Steve Friedlein, Jane Parker, Dave Schlueter, Fred Schaub and Virginia Saeugling through the evening's agenda. City Manager Mary Willett and City Attorney Michael Schuster were also on hand. 

City Manager Willett said the city's audit report recommended an increase in customer water and sewer rates in order to cover operating costs. Proposed is a base rate increase of $1 for water, $2 for sewer and $.50 for storm sewer. After discussion, action on the matter was tabled until the Feb. 11 meeting in order to make  a correction in wording of the proposed ordinance amendment.

In a related matter, discussion was held on charging minimum water and sewer fees to owners of temporarily vacated properties, such as those who go south for the winter. Currently, if water is temporarily shut off to a property, the owner incurs no charges. Under the change recommended by the city manager, minimum water and sewer fees would be charged each month. The fees would help cover infrastructure and fire protection costs. The council approved the first consideration of an amendment reflecting that change.

The city manager told the council that the Iowa Department of Transportation has completed a study on every street in Iowa. She recommended hiring an engineering firm, Fehr-Graham, to adapt the Guttenberg's data into a computerized inventory that can  then be easily accessed by city officials. The council approved the recommendation for general engineering services with the firm.

The council tabled approval of a routine city audit by Dietz, Donald and Company pending updates on the name of the mayor pro-tem and on utility rates.

The council approved an amendment to the park board ordinance that allows for the election of all members (the board is currently composed of elected and appointed  members), deletes the park board secretary position and removes oversight of the Guttenberg Marina from the park board's duties. 

The council moved forward in its annual budgeting process and heard a presentation from Police Chief George Morteo and a summary given by City Manager Willett on budget requests from department heads Dan Walke, Steve Bahls and Al Troester. She also discussed a proposed timeline to complete the budget in accordance with state deadlines.

The council approved a new fee schedule as recommended by the Cemetery Board. The new rates are: cremains, $300 plus $50 administrative fees; opening and closing graves, $625 plus $50 administrative fees; cremains urn vault, $400 plus $50 administrative fees; Sundays and holidays, extra $100; Miller addition raised from $100 to $150.

Discussion was held on a recommendation from the Riverfront Advisory Board regarding lowering lease fees from $8 to $5 per foot for the 2015 season. On a 4-1 one, with council member Fred Schaub in the minority, the council voted to maintain the $8 rate.

Fire Chief Chad Esmann gave his annual report to the council.  

The mayor will have the city manager's annual review reading by the March meeting. 

City Manager Willett gave a report on her activities in January, including meetings with neighboring city officials, a legislative event in West Union, as well as attending meetings with city boards, school board, hospital board, and civic organizations.

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