Council tackles numerous topics at lengthy meeting

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By Shelia Tomkins

Budget issues, project updates, personnel matters and Chamber of Commerce concerns were among the topics that the Guttenberg city council dealt with at a lengthy monthly meeting on May 13.

Budgeting and finance

The council amended the budget for the current fiscal year as discussed at last month's meeting. The budget is routinely amended each year to reflect unanticipated changes in income and expenditures, as well as transfers between various city funds. There were no public comments at the public hearing preceding the vote.

The council gave final approval to an ordinance providing for an increase in water/sewer rates as approved at two previous meetings. The ordinance does not change the current planned rate increases but rather spells out fees and includes a table with rates for the next five years. The increase will take effect on July 1 of this year, when the minimum water bill (2,000 gallons or less) will be $31.37 and the minimum sewer bill will be $37.91.

The council agreed to borrow up to $1.5 million  from the State Revolving Loan fund to help finance water system improvements planned for this season. City Manager Jamie Blume said all or part of the grant could possibly be waived by the state once the project is complete. A $500,00 CBDG state grant will also help fund the project.

The council okayed various routine fund transfers at the end of the fiscal year in order to zero out negative fund balances and to use reserve funds to pay debt. They also approved a routine  transfer of $182K from the electric fund to the general fund. 

Ambulance request

Keri Smith and Paul Decker, representing the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital ambulance service, spoke to the council about the need to replace the transit ambulance at a cost of approximately $126,000. Discussion was held on the ordering schedule, upcoming needs and budgeting for ambulance replacements. The council voted to proceed with the order for an ambulance and plans to meet with the hospital board to discuss procedures for future purchases. 

Property matters

Acting on a recommendation from the Zoning Board, the council approved a re-zoning request from John and Charles Finch for eight lots in the south end of the city, changing the zoning from commercial, retail and single family residential to mixed residential use. 

Following a survey and appraisal, the council moved forward on the sale of property on 310th Street near the city dump and set a public hearing on the matter for the next regular monthly meeting on June 10. The city manager said the appraisal came in at $14,400. The action followed discussion at previous meetings 

Umbrella Arts

Julie Rastetter and Sherrie Oliver of Umbrella Arts were on hand to give an update  about plans to enhance the limestone pillars that mark the entrance to Schiller Street from Highway 52. She presented copies of a proposed design created by a sculptor that will feature mixed materials and LED lighting. She said the group will return to the council once plans are final, and added that members are willing to work on grant writing and fundraising. The council voted to take care of the electrical wiring to the pillars.

On the recommendation of the park board, the council approved plans for landscape enhancements at the Harmonie Platz musical instruments on South River Park Drive. The project will be funded as a Loven family memorial.


The council discussed adding a work-from-home policy  to the employee handbook — when it would be allowed, what requirements would have to be met, and other considerations. The City Manager said that in the past no one has ever had the need to work a full day from home. After discussion, the item was tabled for further review by the council.

The employee health and vision insurance plan was renewed by the council.

Council okayed a request from Public Works Director Dan Pierce approving a  trial period for some employees to have a change in schedule during the summer months. The matter will be reviewed in two months.

The council approved a list of municipal pool staff for the coming season. Pool managers will be Lexi Lindsay and Mariha  Werger, and assistant manager will be Daisy Dickson.


Brandie Tomkins,  Community Vitality and Chamber director, told of plans to sponsor a fire hydrant decorating contest for the new dog park using old city hydrants. She received council okay for a 5K event and kids fun run being planned for the community Stars and Stripes celebration in July.

The job description for  her position, a shared position funded in part by the city, was on the agenda after being carried over from previous meetings. A job description that was approved in 2022 was presented to the council for further review.

  Patty Schwarz, president of the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce, addressed the council numerous times throughout the meeting, first speaking to suggest adding a public water fountain on the south end of River Park Drive and a trash receptacle at the south boat ramp, and later speaking on matters relating to the Chamber. She spoke  on  the planning that goes into the Chamber 5K event. She questioned the work-from-home policy during discussion by the council. She talked about recent events that the Chamber sponsors to promote the community, and said,  “I don’t feel we get the respect and appreciation we deserve." 

Councilmember Jane Parker read a statement regarding rumors she had heard about a recent personnel committee meeting and clarified her position on the Chamber/city relationship. “I don’t want  it taken out of that meeting and slandered,” she said. Her statement read in part: “When any person is hired by the City (which is the taxpayers), the employee is held to a standard of accountability, professionalism and customer service. A few times in the past the Chamber Director was an employee of the City but for whatever reason those positions vacated and the City (its taxpayers), returned to budgeting a stipend to the Chamber, and the Chamber Board paid the Director and had direct responsibility of the Chamber functions and its Director. My suggestion was that the City return to that model of support for the Chamber. In other words, The City (its taxpayers) would budget a much bigger stipend than was given in years past to the Chamber and the Director would no longer be an employee of the City but rather of the Chamber Board. This would give the Chamber Director less accountability to the City Mayor, Council and to the City Manager and more direct supervision from the Chamber Board.” 

Railroad issues

Discussion was held on nuisance property issues, specifically brush and weeds on the property owned by the Canadian Pacific Railroad between the railroad track and Dollar General. The city manager has written to the railroad but has received no response. 

The council also commented on the condition of some of the railroad crossings. It was noted that if residents have a concern about a crossing, they should  call the number on the blue sign closest to it.

Other business

The council okayed a request from the Clayton Ridge Gridiron Club for a pool punch card to be used for a fundraiser.

A written report on current city project was submitted by the engineering firm of Veenstra and Kimm, Inc. The water system improvement project is awaiting DNR permits, and the Fifth Street overlay project is awaiting final close-out and paperwork. 

Retail alcohol licenses were renewed for Guttenberg Brewery, the Eagles Club and Moxies Tap.

Justin Wilson was approved as a member of the fire department. 

Mayor Fred Schaub noted that the city of Dubuque was offered incentives by the railroad for closing crossing.

At the close of the meeting, the subject of fishing on the south municipal marina docks came up, a topic that has been discussed at length numerous times in previous years. In the past, problems have arisen when people who lease dock space from the city have complained about youngsters and others fishing near their boats. The south marina was built using federal funds, and council member Mandy Ludovissy said she would research the grant terms to see if fishing and swimming are actually prohibited.

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