Property purchase agreement fails on 3-2 city council vote

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg city council at its regular monthly meeting on Dec. 11 reversed an earlier decision on a proposed property purchase on Highway 52; approved a contract to repair flood damage to riverfront sidewalks and stairs, and made a major monetary donation to a proposed July Fourth military parachute demonstration. 

Mayor Bill Frommelt led councilmembers Mick Pierce, Austin Greve, Fred Schaub, Virginia Saeugling and Jane Parker through the evening's agenda. Also present at the council table were City Manager Denise Schneider and City Attorney Michael Schuster.

Property purchase

At the Nov. 12 meeting, council members, on a 3-2 vote, approved a $70,000 counter offer for property located at the corner of Highway 52 and Schiller Street, owned by Bender’s Foods. Plans were to use the building there for a Welcome Center. 

Bender subsequently accepted the counteroffer. When the formal purchase agreement came up for approval at Monday night's meeting, councilmember Parker, who previously voted in favor of the purchase offer, voted nay on the purchase agreement, and the measure failed on a 3-2 vote. Parker cited concerns about restrictions in the purchase agreement. Greve and Schaub, who had previously opposed the action, also voted nay, while Pierce and Saeugling voted to approve the agreement.

 Parachute program donation

The council voted to donate up to $5,000 to have the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team appear in Guttenberg on July Fourth. Mandy Ludovissy, director of the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce, told the council that Radio Dubuque will be hosting the group in this area and is seeking venues for additional performances. Radio Dubuque is asking communities to come up with $10,000 in advertising with Radio Dubuque stations in order to host the Golden Knights. Sales people from Radio Dubuque would visit local businesses to sell advertising and sponsorships in order to raise the local $10,000. Ludovissy asked the council to be a "signature" sponsor by funding the difference (up to $5,000) between the ad sales and the $10,000 goal. The city's action was provisional upon the school allowing use of the football field for the event. The council's vote was 4-1 in favor with Pierce voting nay. 

Hanging baskets

Ludovissy also sought direction from the council about the future of hanging baskets in the downtown area. Last year the local Umbrella Arts group spearheaded a project to create limestone planters at intersections, and that project is nearing completion. In the past, hanging baskets have beautified the downtown area in a project coordinated by the Chamber in cooperation with the City, which funds the expense of watering the hanging baskets seven days a week. 

The City Manager said that watering baskets is more labor intensive than watering planters, since baskets need daily watering, and it also takes longer for water to soak into the baskets. This results in more labor expense for the city. She estimated that last year the cost of watering baskets and planter barrels was approximately $7,000. If hanging baskets were eliminated, the city would continue to water the planter barrels and the new limestone planters, but the time commitment would be less. 

After discussion, the council unanimously voted to eliminate watering of hanging baskets.

Flood repairs

The council awarded a contract to Tschiggfrie Construction of Dubuque to repair flood damage to the riverfront sidewalk, stairways and handrails. The firm had the low bid of $73,619.

Other business

The council discussed but took no action on an item placed on the agenda at the request of Ryan Husmann regarding the establishment of living quarters in a commercial building or store front. Husmann was not present at the meeting, and the council took no action.

The council decided to seek input from the Planning and Zoning Commission on downtown C-2 district uses and to hold a public hearing on the matter at the January meeting.

  The council considered a request from Rick Jensen concerning the purchase of city property in north Guttenberg, located near the railroad tracks and adjacent to a small piece of property that was purchased earlier this year from the city by Dan and TJ Pierce. The council moved to proceed with the sale to Jensen at the same square foot price as the Pierces paid for the property, plus costs of the transaction.

The council approved some changes to its electric fees and line extensions ordinance, regarding fees for such items as bounced checks, reconnection charges, after hours service fees, etc. 

As an incentive for utility customers to sign up for e-billing and automatic bank withdrawals, the council voted 4-1, with Pierce in the minority, to offer a one-time $5 bill credit for those who sign up for e-billing, and a $10 credit for those who sign up for ACH utility bill payments.

An engineering agreement with  Veenstra and Kim, Inc., was approved for work on the upcoming sanitary sewer rehab project. 

Wastewater Superintendent Steve Bahls was present to submit his retirement resignation, and the council thanked him for his years of service. Mat Ries, a current city employee, was appointed to fill the position. 

Police Chief George Morteo reported that Guttenberg Industries donated $600 for equipment.

Mayor Frommelt reported that Guttenberg Industries donated $3,000 for Christmas lighting.   

Official appointments

The following appointments were made:

CDBG Housing Committee: Steve Rausch, Mary  Moser, Denise Schneider

Cemetery Board: Pat Kuempel, Larry Borcherding, Marie Torrey

Clayton Co. EMA/E-911: Bill Frommelt, Fred Schaub

Historic Preservation Commission: Gary Goyette, Lee Johnston

Park Board: Terry Moser, Mary Streich and council representative Austin Greve

Recreation Board: Bec Knudtson, Jen Radl

Cable Commission: Jean Green, Bruce Bryant

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