Council approves budget, looks at electric rate study

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council at its regular monthly meeting on March 11 approved the budget for the coming fiscal year,  heard results of an electrical rate study and decided to participate in a home energy efficiency program.

Mayor Bill Frommelt led councilmembers Mick Pierce, Austin Greve, Fred Schaub, Virginia Saeugling and Jane Parker through the evening's agenda. Also present at the council table was City Manager Denise Schneider.

City budget

The council approved the budget for the coming fiscal year for the city and municipal hospital. The new city budget calls for an increase in the property tax levy. The current rate is $14.62827 per $1000 valuation for regular property; the new budget calls for a rate of $15.40653.  

Electrical rate study

Louie Ervin of Latham, Ervin and Associates presented  an electric rate study completed by his firm at the council's request. Ervin said the study was a financial analysis to make sure the city's costs are covered plus a  reserve margin. The purpose of a reserve margin is to cover unknown or future costs. He presented two options when recommending rates: keeping the current reserve margin ($156,000) vs. almost doubling it ($300,000). 

Ervin reviewed current income, expenses, load research and projections, existing and proposed electric rate comparisons by class and a summary of customer usage. 

He also noted that Guttenberg is fortunate to have a municipal utility service. "You are lucky you are your own customer," he said.  

Looking to the future, the City Manager said she would like to see improvements to the secondary line that serves the downtown area, as well as planning for the purchase of a new bucket truck. 

Ervin recommended going with the higher reserve margin.  Councilmembers will study the two options in the report and consider a rate ordinance at next month's regular meeting. 

Energy programs

Joleen Jansen of the Clayton County Energy District discussed two topics with the council: a home energy efficiency program and the city's solar interconnection agreement.

Jansen reported on a recent pilot project in Guttenberg that improved energy efficiency in 36 rental apartments. She asked the council to agree to a partnership with the Clayton County Energy District for a program that would help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes. "You would be setting a great example for the rest of the county," she said. The council agreed to participate in the one-year pilot program with a cap of 20 homes. Jansen projected that the program would begin in late fall.

Jansen also discussed Guttenberg pursuing a SolSmart City designation, a national program that  recognizes cities for developing local solar markets. "The problem (in moving forward) is a small conflict in the interpretation of your interconnect net metering policy," she said. Participating in the discussion with Jansen about the solar energy policy were council members, the city manager and resident Steve Dikkers who is considering solar installations. Jansen recommended that the city tweak the current resolution or come up with something new and less ambiguous.  

Chamber request

Director Mandy Ludovissy of the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce sought council direction on the community's annual hanging flower basket project. She asked if the city would continue to water the baskets as in years past. The council's consensus was to continue watering for this season, and revisit the issue next spring. Ludovissy said the Umbrella Arts limestone planter project will have six completed this year with more added next year.  

Other business

It was noted that Guttenberg has been designated as "River Town of the Year for Iowa." (See story in an upcoming issue.)

In consent agenda action, the council approved approximately $358,000 in payments to Portzen Construction for the pool project and $1,443 to IIW Engineers for the Garber Road bridge project.

The council accepted the bid from Miller's Lawn Care for mowing and trimming at the Guttenberg City Cemetery this season.

A request from the Dam Bar & Grill was granted for a street closing for the Combat Vets motorcycle ride on July 13.

The council donated a pool punch card to the Post Prom Committee.

The council considered a request from TJ Pierce and Dan Pierce to purchase a small parcel of city land owned adjacent to property they own in the north part of the city. The council voted to move forward on the request.

Citing concerns about grant timelines, the council turned down a request from Burbach Aquatics to spread payments for the pool project over two fiscal years.

Jim Zerbe was rehired for the city's seasonal marina position and received a raise commensurate with raises for other city employees.

Mayor Frommelt read a proclamation recognizing Junior Achievement of the Heartland.

The council okayed a policy regarding blood pathogen exposure, approved the closing of the city office for a day of software training, and asked the city manager to seek an auditor recommendation on how to handle police forfeiture account funds.

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