Monona council to look more closely at annexation plans

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Monday night, Monona councilmen Andy Meyer and Jason Schubert volunteered to further develop the city’s annexation plans, better determining the municipal boundaries that would be created if the city limits were expanded.

The council has discussed land annexation for several months, largely singling out the area where the Birdnow Dealership is located, as well as across the highway, where Kwik Star, TJ’s Pizza and Monona Auto Center reside, as prime opportunities. Areas to the west of town have also been considered.

The issue has come up as Monona prepares for phase II of its sanitary sewer project. The council wanted to know if planned upgrades would work for future development. Council members also see annexation as a way to grow the community now, by incorporating existing businesses.

“If you look around Iowa and Wisconsin, all the major businesses are in town. They’re not in the country,” said councilman Dan Havlicek. “Every council has talked about it, but they’ve drug their feet.”

“It’s painful. It’s never easy,” added councilman John Elledge, referencing the misgivings some business and property owners may have, “but you live in Monona and have all the benefits of Monona. Now, you’ll be part of Monona.”

The city said agricultural land will warrant around the same amount of taxes if annexation occurs, but business owners will have to pay more. Meyer said the city can ease people into the new amount over time, having them gradually pay more each year, to make the transition better.

“It’s something we can sit down and figure out with people,” he said.

If Monona moves forward with annexation, City Administrator Dan Canton said the city will have to consider several factors, including zoning districts, the extension of city infrastructure and whether or not annexed areas are located in an urban renewal or tax incremental finance (TIF) district.

Mayor Barb Collins tasked Meyer and Schubert with determining some set boundaries before the city moves forward.

“We really need to look at the parts we want to annex and look at the [land’s] purpose if we’re seriously going to do anything with certain areas,” she said.

Business start-up incentive program

The council chose to discontinue the city’s new business start-up incentive program. Enacted in Nov. 2013, the program allowed new businesses or new business owners within Monona to receive city services like garbage pickup, recycling collection and water and sewer at no charge in an amount not to exceed $200 per month for one year, a total value of $2,400.

In the last year, four or five businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity.

“It was set up because the city was trying to stimulate business,” Canton said.

In reality though, Canton continued, the program was more of a perk rather than an incentive to new businesses. Those who took advantage would not have been dissuaded from starting a business in the community without it.

Discontinuing the program would also save money, added Havlicek, as the city has not budgeted for it.

Airport board

The council was informed of several filled vacancies on the Monona Airport Board, including the addition of Bob Palmer as manager. Palmer keeps an airplane at the airport and is nearing completion of his pilot’s license. He will replace Clyde Thompson, who stepped down last year.

Anticipated to join Palmer and existing member Paul Rasmussen on the board will be Ken Waters, Kevin Mathis and Monona Chamber and Economic Development Executive Director Rogeta Halvorson. Rasmussen will be board president.

Sewer rates

Resident Bob Melcher voiced his concerns about the city’s proposed ordinance to increase sewer rates from $15 to $35 per month in order to finance wastewater treatment facility and sanitary sewer improvements. He feared raising rates would hurt Monona residents, especially the elderly, who live on fixed incomes.

 “We know it’s going to hurt, but we have to do it,” Elledge said, noting that the council felt it was better to “bite the bullet” and raise the rate $20 right away rather than implementing a gradual increase. 

“Nothing has been done for a long time,” Collins said in reference to the infrastructure work that needs to be done underground in order to prevent violations. Work will hopefully prevent the need for phase III sewer improvements, she added.

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