Council talks

Ashley Smith · Wednesday, March 1, 2017
The West Liberty City Council met on Feb. 21 to discuss updates to several public projects, including the Water Treatment Plant and the electrical portion of the Maxson Avenue improvement.

Several resolutions were also passed, granting money to local nonprofit agencies.

City Engineer Leo Foley announced that all electricity in the Maxson Avenue improvement project will be run above ground. It will not impact the tree that the city is required to safe harbor, but will result in the removal of other trees.

“A number of the trees that we need to remove are old or dying, and the homeowners wanted them removed anyway, so it became a win-win for everybody,” said Foley.

Foley also presented a change order for the Water Treatment Plant improvement in the amount of $5,917.76.

“This one had to do with the 12-inch door frame and relocation of the water and the chlorine line that will be above the new motor control center,” said Foley.

Five percent of the total projected cost of the Water Treatment Plant was reserved for making change orders during the construction process, he said. Although this is the third change order to be introduced in the project, the plant is still under budget for change orders.

“A project like this, which is a rehabilitation project with new equipment. . . that 5 percent contingency, it’s going to be hard to be below that,” he said.

According to Foley, the completion date for the Water Treatment Plant is set for April 13.

The Council also voted, with some reluctance, to pass several resolutions to fund nonprofit programming.

“The only thing I would like to see, and it’s for all of these that we’re doing, that they really work on trying to be self-sustaining and not lean on the city so much for financial assistance,” said councilperson Diane Beranek.

“Basically, we’re a tax-paying body giving money to nonprofits. I’d like to see a timeline that in three years or five years or something that they’ve figured out how to be self-sufficient and not rely on us,” said Beranek.

The council agreed to discuss sustainability concerns at a future council meeting.

“It will be sometime soon, so we don’t forget,” said Mayor Robert Hartman.

The council approved funding to WE-LEAD in the amount of $57,000 for economic development in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, while the Milestone Area Agency on Aging and West Liberty Community Center received $6,600 for senior meals held at the Community Center.

The West Liberty Chamber of Commerce also received $3,800 for community events, in addition to the $1,200 in annual dues paid by the city.

Funding for the Chamber, however, is contingent upon the Council’s receipt of its annual financial report.

“We keep asking for an annual financial report, and we haven’t had one,” said councilperson Joey Iske.

Councilperson Beranek also requested that the city keep track of the cost of services provided to community events held by the Chamber and other nonprofit organizations.

“I think people lose track of how much we contribute in terms of portable toilets, and police, and streets and so on,” agreed Hartman. “We do put forth a lot of man hours and tax-payer dollars to things that don’t really get accounted for.”

Next, Utility Billing Clerk Mayra Esquivel presented a list of bad utility debt to be written off.

“These are accounts where I have already tried to collect from them, I’ve sent them three notices telling the resident they still owe money, and I haven’t heard back from them or gotten any money,” said Esquivel.

“Once I’ve sent three notices and I don’t hear back, if we have their social security number, we are able to submit this to Income Offset and collect it from their state taxes or if they happen to have any Iowa Lottery winnings,” she said.

Debts without a social security number cannot be collected, and have to be written off, she said.

“During the winter months, residents can go to Muscatine County and get assistance, which means from October to April we cannot shut off their heat. So regardless of if they make payments or don’t make payments, we can’t shut them off,” said Esquivel.

“And then come April, they move and leave us with a big balance.”

Mayor Hartman announced two proclamations at the meeting.

“The City of West Liberty will observe Junior Achievement Day on April 6, 2017, as an opportunity to recognize and celebration Junior Achievement of the Heartland for empowering our young people to own their economic success,” stated the proclamation.

The Major also met earlier in the day with FFA students at West Liberty High School to sign a proclamation for FFA Week, held Feb. 21-24, 2017.
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