City council takes no action following closed session

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council went into closed session at the end of a special city council meeting on June 27, citing the portion of Iowa code that allows for a closed session "when discussing strategy with counsel in matters that are presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent." The council took no action when returning to open session. 

The special meeting saw a full council chamber with more than two dozen residents in attendance, some in response to concerns about action taken at the June 6 regular meeting, when the council, on a 3-2 vote, turned down a motion to offer a three-month extension of her employment agreement to City Manager Mary Willett. 

Mayor Russ Loven led the meeting with council members Steve Friedlein, Jane Parker, Virginia Saeugling, Fred Schaub and Austin Greve in attendance, as well as City Manager Willett. Assistant City Attorney Jim Garrett of Waukon was present at the council table in the absence of City Attorney Michael Schuster. 

The motion to enter into closed session passed on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Friedlein casting the nay vote. 

Monday night's agenda provided no opportunity for public comment on topics other than the two public hearings on the agenda regarding a zoning change and a budget amendment. 

Mayor Loven told The Press last week after the meeting that the city manager's employment status remains unchanged. "Basically, her employment agreement with the city is ongoing unless the council takes action on it," he said.  He noted that June 30, the end of the fiscal year, is the traditional time for review of such agreements. The next regular council meeting is Monday, July 11. The mayor said last week that he believes that the topic will appear on that agenda.

Other business

There were no public comments on a resolution to approve a loan agreement with Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative for a USDA loan with zero percent interest in order to complete financing of the city's water improvement project. The city manager explained the financing background of the water project. The total cost is expected to be approximately $356,000; the city received $300,000 from grant applications written by the city manager, with the remaining cost to be financed by the loan.

The council unanimously approved a second amendment to the  budget for the current fiscal year. Assistant City Manager Jamie Blume explained the reasons for the amendment — the late arrival of a bill and an adjustment to the loan payment budget —  and noted that it did not represent any additional spending, but rather a shifting of funds.  

The council approved the closing of the Pryam Street railroad crossing, the result of ongoing discussion the past several years with Canadian Pacific Railroad. The city manager gave a summary of previous efforts to negotiate crossing upgrades and repairs with CP officials. Willett reported that railroad officials recently approved the upgrade of the Schiller Street crossing contingent on the city closing one crossing in the community. 

Acting on a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the council approved a zoning change from mixed residential to general retail and office, with restrictions, for the historic Albertus building property located across from Clayton Ridge High School on South River Park Drive.

The council okayed an agreement with Clayton County for a trails project covering a portion of the Great River Road north of Guttenberg. The agreement provides that the city will maintain the trail from the levee north to the causeway road to the island. The agreement is contingent on receiving funds for the project. 

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