City council covers varied agenda

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By Shelia Tomkins

At its monthly meeting on Feb. 8,  the Guttenberg city council heard project updates, set a budget hearing and discussed property purchased by the city in connection with the Schiller Street project.

Mayor Bill Frommelt called the meeting to order with City Manager Denise Schneider and councilmembers Austin Greve, Fred Schaub, Virginia Saeugling, Jane Parker and Mick Pierce in attendance. 

Budget hearing

The council set a hearing on the budget for the next fiscal year for 6 p.m. on March 8 at the regular monthly meeting. The city manager noted that the proposed budget calls for no increase in city property taxes.

City project updates

Steve Thompson, an engineer with Veenstra & Kim, Inc., gave updates on city projects. He noted that the contractor for the sanitary sewer project, which caused some customer issues, has made a change in the foreman assigned to the project. He noted that the deadline extension to this spring will also mean that the warranty will be extended.

Thompson said that the Schiller Street project is out for bids, and plans are to award the contract at next month's council meeting. The project was bid with a number of alternate bid possibilities so that the council will have the option to award or delete certain parts of the project. "I will stress it is substantially reduced project from when we started, due to budget constraints," said Thompson. "It is really kind of the minimum to upgrade lighting and getting ADA (handicap accessible) ramps." 

The engineer gave an update on the riverbank repair project in downtown Guttenberg, and answered questions from Councilman Pierce about the slope of the bank, a frost barrier, time delays in permitting from federal and state agencies, and budget constraints. "It's as good are you can do with the budget you have," said Thompson. A pay request of $141,225.18 was approved to Taylor Construction, as was a change order that reduced the total cost by $24,718.92.

Bender property

Last year the council approved the purchase of the property at the corner of Schiller Street and Highway 52 owned by (Randy Bender) in order to facilitate the Schiller Street project. At Monday night's meeting, Councilman Schaub questioned the Mayor about his article in the Feb. 3 issue of The Press describing a proposal for a German-themed visitor center on the property. 

Schaub said he was okay with the Schiller Street project but spoke in favor of selling the property to a private developer. A lengthy discussion followed with the Mayor  saying a visitor center and proposed electric vehicle charging station on the highway will help support businesses by attracting tourists. "I think we are short-changing our existing businesses by not attracting tourists," said the Mayor. Schaub said he did not support the Mayor's visitor center idea and would like to sell the property in order to put it on the tax roll. 

Parker noted that when the city bought the property it was with the understanding that discussion about selling wouldn't be held until after the project was complete. Schaub suggested, and the Mayor agreed, to have a town hall meeting after completion of the Schiller Street project. 

Nuisance property

At last month's meeting, the council approved seeking bids to demolish a garage on the Schmitt property on Acre Street, giving Tim Schmitt  until Feb. 8 to repair or demolish the building. Schmitt spoke to the council  at Monday night's meeting and apologized for not meeting the deadline. He asked the council for an extension and presented a $10,000 check for the city to hold in a client trust account in the event he defaults on the deadline extension. He said his son T.J. was willing to take it on the project. After discussion, the council voted to extend the deadline to June 1.   

Appointments

The council made the following appointments: City Attorney, Michael Schuster; Park Board, Steve Staebler; Riverfront, Dave Schlueter; Cemetery Board, Carla Ruegnitz; Cable Commission, Don Mackey; Recreation Board, Christa Hefel and Historic Preservation, Don Mackey.

Other business

The city manager gave an update on the demolition of the former Palmer house in downtown Guttenberg, now owned by the city. She said the original timeline by the contractor, Lansing Brothers, was delayed due to snow and extreme cold. The project completion date is the end of March.

Emily Yaddof, Community Vitality Director, spoke to the council electronically about her request for a more private work area in the municipal building, as well as permission to work from home two days a week. The council's consensus was that a move to the mayor's office would facilitate her work, but council members preferred her to work in the office five days a week. 

The council approved the tentative agreement for the collective bargaining union. 

The council approved an amendment to the coronavirus relief act reflecting new federal changes. 

Approval was given to an grant application to be used for a proposed trail/sidewalk along highway 52 from Casey's to Schiller Street.

A  $45 pool punch card was given to the post-prom committee.

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