City council covers lengthy agenda

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By Shelia Tomkins

At a lengthy monthly meeting on April 4, the Guttenberg city council gave final approval to utility rate increases, approved 50/50 cost share agreements with two businesses, discussed pool issues, and heard comments about railroad crossing closures. 

Mayor Russ Loven led council members Steve Friedlein, Jane Parker, Virginia Saeugling, Fred Schaub and Austin Greve through the evening's agenda. Also present were City Manager Mary Willett and City Attorney Michael Schuster.

The council passed the final consideration of an ordinance that will increase monthly water charges by 50-cents on the base rate and sewer rates by $2. The base rate for water will increase to $25.75 and sewer rate to $28.50. 

On a split vote, the council approved the proposal presented at the March 28 meeting by Anchored Storage, LLC, that would provide a 50/50 cost share between the property owner and the city for placing above-ground electrical wires at the Industrial Park site. (See April 6 issue). Greve and Saeugling cast nay votes.

Lengthy discussion was held on Guttenberg municipal swimming pool issues. A list of potential employees and wages was presented by the city manager and approved by the council after discussion. Staff duties/titles will be finalized at a later date. The city manager additionally recommended that there be no volunteers at the pool this season, citing auditing concerns about safety, liability, insurance and workmen's compensation. Councilman Parker commented, "My concern is that in a small town we rely on volunteers." City policy regarding volunteers, the concept of negligence as it relates to liability, volunteer training and certification were discussed. The topic will be revisited following research on volunteer policy. 

In other rec board matters, the council okayed a recommendation to divide youth ball games to Darwin Duwe Field for T-ball and younger kids and to Vet’s Field for the older youngsters.

Due to discussion at previous council meetings, an item was placed on this month's agenda for council consideration of a 50/50 cost-share agreement between the city and Cafe Mississippi/Dam Bar for a newly-constructed parking lot adjacent to the lower level of the business. The history of the proposal and maintenance responsibilities were discussed. Mike Hefel, who has a lease to an adjacent property, again questioned the authority to do the project, and DNR and Corps permitting procedures.  Hefel said he had no problem with the parking lot per se. "My main concern is how it was handled," he said. Council member Parker suggested that there be a written amendment to the Cafe Mississippi/Dam Bar lease allowing for public parking.  After further discussion, the motion to approve the 50/50 cost share agreement passed on a 4-1 vote with Greve casting the nay vote. 

The council okayed seasonal and part-time staff wages for Jim Zerbe, Judy Tepper and Jessica Bittner. 

Kluesner Sanitation, the city's new contracted waste hauler, received council approval to create a yard waste drop-off area on city property near Fourth and Broadway Streets. While the firm will continue to provide every-other-week yard waste pickup, the site will give residents the opportunity to dispose of materials between those visits. 

Discussion was held on proposed railroad crossings in the city. The city manager said that the Canadian Pacific Railroad recently failed to improve the Schiller Street crossing as scheduled; she believes the matter was not pursued due to the city not proposing two crossings for closure. Several residents were in attendance to  express the desire that the Herder Street crossing remain open, due to its access to businesses, St. Mary School, police station, postal carriers, etc. Discussion continued on the merits and/or problems with closing various other crossings. City Manager Willett said the city needs to further analyze crossing closures and invited the public to contact the council with concerns.  Other issues with speed, weight of trains, and whistles were also discussed.

The council okayed the hiring of engineering assistance for the federal bridge consultant process when applying for federal funds for the bridge over Miner's Creek.

The council reviewed a list of nuisance properties and gave the city manager permission to start the process of nuisance abatement on those properties at the top of the list. A letter will be sent to property owners in question, and photos will be taken for documentation. A formal notice will be sent listing steps needed to abate the nuisance  in a specified time period. If that is ignored, the city will take steps to repair and assess the cost to the owner. 

The fire department received permission to purchase a used 3/4 ton pickup to be used as a brush truck. 

In the time set aside for remarks on items not on the agenda, Tim Schmitt asked the council to consider opening each council meeting with a prayer. He has spoken to local pastors who would be willing to do so.

The council okayed a street closing made by JoNell Coates for downtown Guttenberg on Sept. 10 for a "Silly String Ride" to benefit wounded soldiers. 

The city office will be closed on May 12 for training in new computer software. 

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