City council approves budget

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council at its regular monthly meeting on March 7 approved the budget for the coming fiscal year, moved forward on a utility rate increase and bought a new boiler for the municipal building.

Mayor Russ Loven led council members Steve Friedlein, Jane Parker, Virginia Saeugling, Fred Schaub and Austin Greve through the agenda. City Attorney Mike Schuster and City Manager Mary Willett were also at the council table.

New budget

The council adopted the budget for the coming fiscal year (see story March 2 issue).  No public comments were received prior to adoption. The budget anticipates approximately $6.33 million in expenditures, and calls for a drop in the property tax levy rate.

Utility increase

The council passed the second consideration of an ordinance that increases monthly water charges by 50-cents on the base rate and sewer rates by $2. Before taking the effect, the ordinance must pass one more reading and final approval by the city council.

New boiler

The municipal building will get a new boiler at a cost of $27,751. The council accepted the low bid of WBC Mechanical of Waterloo. 

Zoning change denied

The council, concurring with a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission, denied a zoning change request from Dave Brown. Prior to the vote, Brown addressed the council to explain his proposal to put four "tiny homes" on a lot along Schiller Street.  He said his request to change the zoning to accommodate a "mobile home park" was not an accurate description but it was the only zoning category option. "It's more of an RV Park but the city doesn't have that category," Brown said. He said the RV units would be sold to occupants who would in turn pay rent to him. He described the units as attractive small homes that were a trend across the country. No public comments were received. 

Council members Parker and Schaub said that while they believed the units were a good idea, Schiller Street was not the proper place for them.

Following the vote, Brown issued a challenge to the city to find him another suitable place.

Employment matters

The council okayed agreements with two current city employees to reflect changes in workload since the death of Julie Zittergruen, deputy city clerk and assistant city manager.

Upon recommendation of the City Manager Mary Willett, Jamie Blume was appointed as Deputy City Clerk/Assistant City Manager. Blume advances to the post from her Utility Billing Clerk position.

The council moved into closed session to discuss employee performance evaluation. No action was taken upon return to open session. 

Industrial park proposal 

City Manager Willett said a group has purchased property in the Guttenberg Industrial Park with plans to build "high end" storage buildings. Due to issues with easements involving high voltage underground wiring, the city manager recommended that the council approve a 50/50 cost share to switch from underground to overhead wiring. The council debated the merits of using city money for an enterprise that offers an increase in the tax base but does not offer new jobs. The council subsequently approved the proposal authorizing the 50/50 share but with the  stipulation that the city's contribution be done in phases as storage buildings are completed.

Other business

Two residents spoke to the council during the time set aside for public comments on topics not on the agenda. 

Barb Pape asked for city action on unsightly properties along Highway 52, and commented on weeds along the north riverwalk and park benches in need of paint.

Mike Hefel, who addressed the council with comments about the new parking area at Cafe Mississippi at the Feb. 1 meeting (see Feb. 7 issue), again questioned the council about project authorization, total cost including manhours, and the 50/50 cost share with the business. 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 made the decision because they felt it was a way to help businesses. Hefel also discussed property lines for lease holders in the area; his lease adjoins the Cafe Mississippi lease to the south. 

Hefel also asked for details about the city's arrangement with school business manager Dave Schlueter. The council in January approved a 28E agreement with Clayton Ridge Community School District as a means to help fill the vacancy created by the death of Julie Zittergruen. Iowa Code 28E allows state and local governments to share services and facilities. Willett said Schlueter is on a six-month contract that ends in June, one day per week, at $300 per day and the school bills the city monthly.

In other business, the council okayed an ordinance amendment regarding perpetual care cemeteries in order to comply with new state law. 

The council took no action on a resolution relating to underground electrical wiring Irish Hound Studios. City Attorney said the resolution was not necessary to proceed.

The engineering firm of Fehr-Graham was hired for general engineering services.

Fire Chief Jim Cunningham presented  the department's annual and monthly reports.  

Temporary street closings

The council okayed four requests for street closings:

April 12: River Park Drive at Clayton Ridge School for Wellness Fair

June 6-10: Near St. John's Lutheran Church for Community Bible School.

Sept. 17: Bob Hinzman of the River Park Cruisers was present to request closing of River Park Drive from Main to South 600 block.

Sept. 23-24: Emily Moser spoke on behalf of the GermanFest committee, same street closures in downtown Guttenberg as last year.

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