City awarded two major grants

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By Shelia Tomkins

At the Guttenberg city council regular monthly meeting on June 1, City Manager Mary Willett announced that the city is the recipient of $300,000 in grants for water improvements. The funds came from a $150,000 USDA grant and a $150,000 grant from Iowa Economic Development to help fund the city's $380,000 water improvement project. Funding sources are being pursued for the remaining funds, and requests for proposals from engineering firms are being sought.

Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Friedlein led the meeting in the absence of Mayor Russ Loven, with councilmembers Jane Parker, Dave Schlueter, Fred Schaub and Virginia Saeugling in attendance, along with City Manager Mary Willett.

Housing needs

Darla Kelchen of Clayton County Development Group gave a presentation on a proposed county-wide housing needs assessment that she said would strengthen grant opportunities, promote housing development, attract developers and ultimately increase property tax revenues for communities. Task force teams would gather data in part through the use of door-to-door volunteers. The council gave its support to a grant application for the assessment.

Feral cats

Sharol Squires, who resides in the downtown area, spoke to the council about the problem of stray cats in the area. "In the past three years we have dealt with 19 kittens," she said. "It's a never-ending flood." She said she and her husband have had two cats spayed and have helped find homes for others.

She asked if the city was aware of the problem and if there is a plan to deal with feral cats. Squires said she has heard of spay/neuter grants available. City Manager Willett said that she and the Police Chief had a meeting in recent months with local veterinarian Dr. David Connell to discuss the problem. Willett said the veterinarian is willing to work with the city on the spaying/neutering issue, and that more input is needed from Dr. Connell, who was not available to attend Monday night's meeting. Discussion was held on forming a volunteer committee to come up with a plan, and it was the council's consensus to support action on the problem.

Emerald ash borer

Richard Kittelson, a consulting arborist, spoke to the council about the looming threat posed by the emerald ash borer, which has now been found in Cassville, Wis. Guttenberg has approximately 140 ash trees according to an inventory taken several years ago. Kittelson told about new developments in preventive and remedial treatments that can help preserve healthy ash trees, noting that time is of the essence. He said treatment programs are less expensive than removing dead and dying trees. 

Property request

Jack Benskin presented a request to purchase a parcel of city property, consisting of a vacated street located between two parcels of land that he owns between Highway 52 and South Bluff in the area of Weiland and Herman Streets. Benskin said his family has maintained the property for approximately 50 years and that he tried to purchase  it from the city in the past. He said he has no plans to develop the parcel. He asked for a special circumstance waiver to the city's policy for the disposal of property. The current policy provides for upfront payment of fees and earnest money prior to learning how much the property will be appraised at and sold for. City Manager Mary Willett said that it may not be in the city's best interest to sell the parcel due to the fact that the city has very few open lots for development. The council decided to hold a closed session at the regular July meeting to further discuss the matter. 

Administrative reports 

In her monthly report to the council, the city manager reported on 911 address signs on Acre Street, a change in fence permits, swimming pool update, water/sewer connection meetings, garbage contracts, nuisance properties, job vacancies, a wetlands restoration project by the Boy Scouts, and the fact that Guttenberg Industries will be moving to Garnavillo.

Assistant Fire Chief Tony Mescher presented the monthly report in the absence of Chief Chad Esmann. The City Manager reviewed the police chief's monthly report during his temporary absence from the meeting.

Jim Zerbe, city marina manager, reported that things  are operating smoothly at the Guttenberg Marina and that he has heard positive feedback from visitors and residents.  

Other business

Donald Mackey spoke to the council and received permission to hold an Alzheimer's fundraising walk along the river on Aug. 1. The walk has the support of the Dubuque chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. 

Emily Moser of Guttenberg Development & Tourism discussed plans for "Celebrate the River" coming up in August, and asked for permission to use the vacant city lot to the south of the municipal building for some "Mississippi mud" activities. 

The public hearing on recovering fine money from a tobacco violation by Pronto Market was cancelled after Pronto made an affirmative defense based on its participation in the retrailer training program.  

In consent agenda action, the council appointed Dave Schlueter and Sue Osterhaus to the Guttenberg Economic and Industrial Development Commission; J.J. Rochford and Anna Mae Moser to the planning and zoning board and Vernon Heck to the riverfront advisory board.

The request for a city donation to Vacation Bible School was tabled pending legal review. 

The council approved the list of streets scheduled for seal coating this year, and gave approval to a blacktop project for the alley in block 9 to be paid for by property owners. 

A public hearing will be held at the July monthly meeting on the sale of city land to the owners of the Guttenberg RV Park. `

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