First meeting of year for new city council

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By Shelia Tomkins

The first city council meeting of the new year brought newly-elected members to the council table on Monday, Jan. 10. New mayor and former council member Fred Schaub called the meeting to order with new council members Steve Bahls, Michelle Geuder and Mandy Ludovissy joining holdover members Austin Greve and Jane Parker.

The council approved Mayor Schaub’s list of appointments to boards (see story elsewhere) as well as his appointment that evening of Jane Parker as Mayor Pro-Tem.

Project updates

Steve Thompson, an engineer with Veenstra-Kim, spoke to the board with updates on several city projects. He said that the Schiller Street project is substantially finished. The City Manager noted that the Schiller Street artwork will be installed soon.

Thompson said the city’s water system improvement project will move forward slowly due to all the environmental and  archaeological clearance needed. The storm sewer project is awaiting the completion of survey work, as well as waiting for more information on new funding from federal and state sources. 

Regarding the Limbeck Pond dredging project. Thompson said that he and the city manager have had numerous conversations with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources regarding the use of grant money and that renting a dredge might be a possibility. Discussion followed on who would run the dredge, operator training, and where to deposit dredge material. Any action was tabled for further discussion with a local contractor.

Clayton County Development 

Darla Kelchen of the Clayton County Development Group passed out information packets and spoke to the council about her group’s activities during the past year, including a revolving loan fund for small businesses, drone coverage of industrial parks, marketing campaigns, community development, funds for rehab and derelict buildings, housing needs assessments that are used for grants and other activities. She noted that that CCDG has sent a request to the city for help with its budget in the same amount as past years.

Other business

The council discussed a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) rebate agreement with Kathryn Klaes, owner of the new brewery now under construction. The agreement would provide for a rebate of a percentage of property tax revenue for a fixed period of time in order to be used to put money back into the business. After questions about TIF financing, it was the council’s consensus to set up workshop to learn more about the TIF program.

The council decided to move forward on a request from Alicia Walke to purchase a parcel of city property in conjunction with the planned expansion of her dental business, River Town Family Dentistry, adjacent to Highway 52. 


A request from Sadie Hefel of Divine Current Welness for a handicapped parking space on Schiller Street adjacent to her business received the council’s approval. 

John Hartmann, a resident on Miner’s Creek Road, spoke to the council and presented a petition from other nearby property owners who are concerned about power outages due to falling trees during storms. He asked that the city bury the power lines or at least remove all trees that pose a hazard. Following council discussion, the mayor asked the city manager to look into costs of underground electrical service. 

The municipal hospital received council authorization to refinance its loans in order to save interest costs.

The mayor gave an update on the status of action taken at a previous meeting that allowed the County 911 Service Board to improve and maintain the equipment shed on Acre Street. The mayor said it has been determined that the building is in such bad shape that the board is looking at eliminating it and doing a metal storage shed. More information will be presented at next month’s meeting.

Lengthy discussion was held on various nuisance/eyesore  properties in the community. The city’s action steps are to first send a courtesy notice and if no response, to send an abatement notice and ultimately court action. Properties of concern are located off Acre Street, along north and south Highway 52, and on Schiller Street. The council directed the city manager to take appropriate actions on the properties on the list. 

As recommended by the Guttenberg Industrial and Economic Development Commission, the council approved matching funding from the city’s Business Accelerator Grant Program for Sode’s Perk Central Coffee Shop and Cafe, for Xplore Guttenberg LLC, and Guttenberg Brewing Company. The council also okayed replenishing the fund with $5,000 for future grant requests.

A request for public Wi-Fi access in the municipal building was discussed. The item was tabled until the February meeting in order to look into costs and security concerns.

The mayor noted recent news about a possible railroad merger that would bring more trains through the community. Discussion was held on establishing quiet zones that require the closing of intersections, train speed limits, the increased potential for derailments, and public safety when long trains block intersections. 

An amendment to the agreement with City Attorney Michael Schuster was okayed providing for a return to a retainer fee system.

Discussion was held on access to cluster mail boxes following clean-up after heavy snow. The city manager will discuss the matter with the public works department.

The city manager reported she had completed an update on the city’s comprehensive plan/community action plan.

Lengthy discussions was held on employee certification and requests for compensation following completion of certification courses. The council okayed the $1,000 request for Assistant City Manager Jamie Blume since it was approved when she began her course of study but took no action on other requests.

Chief of Police Derek Chambers had his request for carry-over vacation time approved with the stipulation that it be used by June 30.

The council approved a request to seek engineer qualifications for the proposed water project.

A first public hearing on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year was set for the regular council meeting on Feb. 14. City Manager Schneider reported that the city tax rate will be going down.

A rebate schedule for utility customers who purchase energy efficient appliances were approved.

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