City hires CV/Chamber director

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council, at a special meeting on Aug. 29, hired Brandie Tomkins to fill the Community Vitality/Chamber director position.

On hand for the special meeting were Mayor Fred Schaub, City Manager Denise Schneider and councilmembers Mandy Ludovissy, Austin Greve, Jane Parker, Steve Bahls and Michelle Geuder.

Following the resignation of the Community Vitality (CV) director last year, a committee was appointed to study the scope of the position, funding sources and structure. 

At a special meeting on Aug. 15, the council decided to combine the duties of the CV director and the Chamber of Commerce. Following state hiring guidelines, the position was advertised, and at a special council meeting on Aug. 29, Tomkins, the current Chamber of Commerce Director, was hired to fill the newly-created position. 

Tomkins spoke with the council for approximately an hour prior to the vote. She gave the council a report summarizing Chamber expenses and financial standing. She noted that the Chamber's primary source of income is membership dues but added, "The Chamber cannot sustain itself on membership alone." She asked the council for additional funding for Chamber marketing. 

Topics discussed included the success of Celebrate Guttenberg and Stars and Stripes events; other Chamber promotions and their economic impact; how Chamber dues are structured; location of the office at the Welcome Center in downtown Guttenberg vs. the municipal building; tourism promotion, and ways to generate new income, such as grants and donors. 

Discussion also touched on other funding sources for the position in addition to the hotel/motel tax; concerns about steep property tax hikes for commercial/industrial businesses  and the fact that the Chamber of Commerce will remain a separate non-governmental entity.   

The motion to hire Tomkins passed unanimously and included an annual salary of $45,000 plus benefits (estimated at approximately $20,000), along with $15,000 annually for Chamber activities. The city manager said that hopefully the $15,000 would be reduced by income from "other entities." The new position will take effect Sept. 8.

Zoning enforcement

Residents Bill and Mary Frommelt addressed the council regarding the city's ordinance on operating businesses out of homes. Frommelt cited a portion of the city zoning ordinance regarding "home occupation" which states that home businesses can have no exterior activity that is offensive or detrimental to the neighborhood. The Frommelts, who have their house for sale, said they believe that equipment such as a backhoe, dump truck, etc., parked at the Ludovissy residence across the street is impacting the sales potential of their property. They asked that the current ordinance be enforced.

The mayor said he and the police chief are working on it, and that enforcing the ordinance would "open a can of worms" for other businesses. Council member Ludovissy, whose son is operating the businesss in question, said her son is just getting started in his business and that "having a business is challenging so you do what you have to do," and asked for time to figure out a solution.  

After discussion, the mayor asked the council for direction. Council members Bahls and Greve said they thought that  ordinances should be either enforced or changed. The mayor subsequently said, "So we will start enforcing it, and we will see what happens." He asked council members to supply him with names of other potential violators.

Other business

Resident Mike Landwehr questioned the council about action on the Schmitt property off Acre Street which has a deadline for nuisance compliance of Sept. 1. 

Discussion was held regarding a property owner on the Great River Road who has begun excavation into the bluff behind the residence, leading to concerns about potential erosion and the stability of Highway 52 on the north hill. The city manager said engineers are being consulted.

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