City council sets budget hearing, eyes water increase, hears updates

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council at its monthly meeting on Feb. 6 adopted a budget for the coming fiscal year, moved forward on a water rate increase, and heard updates from the hospital task force and on the Garber Road bridge project. 

Mayor Russ Loven called the meeting to order with council members Austin Greve, Fred Schaub, Jane Parker, Virginia Saeugling present, along with Assistant City Manager Jamie Blume and City Attorney Michael Schuster.

Budget hearing set

The council adopted the proposed budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year and set March 6 as the date for a public hearing on the budget. The new budget calls for a decrease in the city's tax levy rate of 1.29%, and anticipates expenditures of $6.6 million matched by revenues of $6.6 million.

Water rate increase

The council approved the first reading of an ordinance that will increase water and sewer rates. Water will increase 25¢ a month (from $25.75 to $26), and sewer rates will increase 50¢ (from $28.50 to $29). The ordinance must receive council approval at two more readings and final passage before it takes effect. 

Garber Road bridge project

The council heard an update on the Garber Road bridge replacement project from Julie Neebel of IIW Engineers, the firm managing the project. The bridge crosses Miners Creek within the city limits. At last month's meeting, the council decided to keep the bridge in the same spot, detour traffic during construction and to investigate a temporary access for Bard Concrete. Neebel said work is continuing on the latter. The council approved a supplemental agreement with IIW that will cover work up until the bidding process. Guidelines are being observed in order to keep the project eligible for 80% in federal aid. 

Hospital Task Force

Bill Allyn of the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital board and a member of its strategic partnership task force, gave his fourth monthly update to the council. He said the focus of the task force has now shifted to learning more about potential partners. The board has subsequently narrowed the choice to three and has invited them for presentations in March — University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, UnityPoint Health and Mercy Health Network. "We are using the month of February for educational purposes," said Allyn as he told of plans to seek input from stakeholders, including the city council.  (See Allyn's update in an upcoming issue.)

Cable TV grant

Nancy McClellan, representing the Guttenberg Cable TV Commission, asked for and received council approval to apply for a $25,000 grant from Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation for system improvements. The council also committed to a 25% match should the grant be received.  McClellan told the council about problems with live broadcasting of local church services since the system was damaged by lightning. The grant would be used to convert to a digital system using new hardware and software.   

Street and park closings

The council okayed three requests for street and park closings.

Ole Oleson asked that the 400 and 500 blocks of South River Park Drive be closed the afternoon of July 8 for a Combat Veterans motorcycle ride; 1,500 bikes are expected to stop here.

The River Park Cruisers received permission to close the 100-600 blocks of South River Park Drive on Sept. 15 for their annual show, cruise and dance — the same closures as last year.

Cindy Olson of the Creativity Center received council approval for an art festival in the park on June 3; she previously received permission from the park board.  Her request for two pool passes for the Fangmann benefit was also approved. 

Other business

Following a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the council okayed a zoning change from single family residential to highway commercial at the request of Steve Miller for property along south Highway 52.

Marie Torrey was appointed to the Guttenberg Cemetery Board.

Following up on discussion at the January meeting, the city council set a 30-day deadline for Austin Finch to repay a Community Development Block Grant for improvements on property that is no longer owner-occupied. 

Nick Pribyl and Chip Wickal of Black Hills Energy were present to introduce community tech Dennis McNeal of Guttenberg, and also noted their company's "Power of Trees" and energy rebate programs. 

Fire Chief Jim Cunningham and Police Chief George Morteo were present to answer any questions on their monthly reports. Mayor Loven reported he has had no further conversation with railroad authorities  regarding the railroad crossing closure discussed at last month's meeting. The mayor will contact Gary Westhoff to set up a time for an onsite meeting at Westhoff's property near the crossing.  Councilman Schaub questioned if a dog owner can be charged for leaving dog waste in a public space —the city attorney answered that it is a violation of city code and subject to  fine. 

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