City council moves forward on proposed water rate increase

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council at its regular monthly meeting on Feb. 1 took the first step in raising water and sewer rates, acted on recommendations from city boards and heard questions about the new downtown parking area.

Mayor Russ Loven led council members Steve Friedlein, Jane Parker, Fred Schaub and Austin Greve through the agenda. City Attorney Mike Schuster was on hand, as was administrative assistant Deb Eulberg in the absence of City Manager Mary Willett. There was a vacant seat at the council table due to the resignation of councilman Dave Schlueter, Clayton Ridge School business manager,  who has assumed a part-time position with the city.

Utility increase

The council passed the first consideration of an ordinance that would increase monthly water charges by 50-cents on the base rate and sewer rates by $2. The council decided to forego any storm sewer rate increase. The mayor noted that the increases are at the recommendation of the city's auditor. Before taking effect, the ordinance must pass two more readings and final approval by the city council.

Parking lot questions

In the time set aside for comments from the public,  Mike Hefel questioned the new public parking area located on the Mississippi River bank adjacent to the Dam Bar in downtown Guttenberg. The parking lot was a "public-private venture with a 50/50 cost share," according to City Manager Mary Willett in the Jan. 6 issue of The Press. Hefel questioned future responsibility for maintenance, and why the city council, Riverfront Advisory Board, Park Board and neighboring property owners were not contacted prior to the project.  "I'm not necessarily opposed to the parking lot, just the way it was handled," said Hefel.

Mayor Loven said the decision to make a parking lot grew out of a need to shore up eroding shoreline and that he and the city manager felt it was a way to help businesses. Councilmember Friedlein noted that this was not the first time that the city placed rock in that area to preserve the riverbank. The Dam Bar paid approximately $1,000 toward the project. Hefel said he would like the entire cost, including city worker manhours, be shared by the owners of the Dam Bar. 

Other business

Following the third reading of an ordinance allowing underground wiring, the council approved final passage on a 3-1 vote with Friedlein voting nay.

The council approved the appointment of Jim Johnston to serve the rest of the term (until this year's Nov. election) left vacant by the election of Austin Greve to the city council.

Lori Brockmeyer spoke on behalf of the Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund that serves economically disadvantaged residents. Guttenberg has participated in the program in the past, and she asked the City to again provide some matching dollars. The council consensus was to act on the request at an upcoming council meeting.

The council acted on a request presented by Gary Goyette of the Historic Preservation Commission to increase the number of HPC members from five to seven and to declare a seat vacant if three consecutive meetings are missed. The council changed the ordinance regarding the Riverfront Advisory Board to change the meeting date from December to "at least once a year."

On the recommendation of the cemetery board, new fees were approved for dual graves and additional burials.

A consultant will be hired to advise the city on planning the Garber bridge project. The bridge will cost the city an estimated $100,000  in fiscal year 2018.

Fire Chief Jim Cunningham and Police Chief George Morteo presented their monthly reports to the council.

The council approved in one motion items on the consent agenda which included the appointment of James Eglseder and Donald Herkes to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

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