The regular meeting of the Lowden City Council was called to order by Mayor Barry Hoffmeier. 

Mayor Hoffmeier led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Council members present on roll call:  Olsen, Behrens, Helmold, Conrad, McCreight.

Visitors:  Kirk Steinke, Pat Kroemer, Brian Searcy, Robert Bang, Bill Norton, Don Meier, Barb McCreight, Jan Olsen.

M/S Behrens, Olsen to approve the consent agenda including the 1/3/12 and 1/16/12 minutes, bills, and financial report.   Ayes:  All.

Council discussed the tree ordinance.  City Attorney Sueppel recommended a few changes in wording and also said a tree planting permit, with no fee, should be created for planting trees in the public right-of-way.   Changes will be made in the ordinance and the issue will be placed on the March meeting agenda.

M/S Olsen, Helmold to credit a portion of the sewer bill, $408.88, for the resident at 809 Jefferson Avenue.  Ayes:  All.  The high usage, 87,600 gallons, was from a water leak in the walls from broken pipes and the water did not go into the sewer.

Council discussed other items for the FY13 budget.  The Cedar County solid waste assessment will be $3385.   $1000 will be added to the garbage expenditures.  City will also proceed with several storm sewer projects and sewer line rehabilitation with an additional $55,000 being budgeted from local option tax and sewer funds.  Curb and gutter work on Hall Avenue may be delayed a year while necessary storm sewer and sewer projects are completed.

Brian Searcy, MMS Engineers, and Robert Bang, Shoemaker & Haaland Engineers, were present to answer questions about the proposed wastewater plant project.  Searcy stated the City is not under any IDNR noncompliance violations at this time.  But the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permit did expire in 2006.  He said many Cities are working with IDNR on new permit limitations. A permit will be obtained when a new construction permit is issued for a wastewater plant project.  The Imhoff tank was built in the 1950’s and has severe cracks.  Searcy said it is undersized for the amount of flow generated by the City.  He said the sludge accumulated is removed and sent to sludge drying beds.  The wastewater plant project could cost approximately $2.2 million.   The City has applied for a $300,000 CDBG grant and could also obtain a State Revolving Fund loan from the State of Iowa at a 3.25% interest rate.   USDA also has grants available for up to 45% of the cost of a project. Searcy said there is a lengthy process with obtaining some of the grants or loans available   Councilman McCreight asked Brian Searcy to get a cost for a lagoon system. According to Searcy, 30-40 acres would be needed to build a lagoon system.  MMS will also proceed with an application for a planning and design loan with IDNR that would cover engineering costs for a proposed wastewater plant project.

After televising the sewer lines this past year by Schmitt Construction, deficiencies in sewer lines were noted in certain areas.  Council asked Searcy to prioritize the deficiencies, based on severity, as seen on the inspections, so the Council can determine what sewer lines to repair first. 

Kirk Steinke, said he had obtained quotes for a new one-ton dump truck, as requested by the City Council at the Jan. 16 meeting.  But City Council said, with the additional sewer line and storm sewer projects, they did not want to budget for a new truck.

Kirk also asked the City Council to reconsider the 2% wage increase for City employees that was given at the budget meeting.  He presented wage comparisons of neighboring towns or towns the same size as Lowden.   He asked for at least a 3% increase with an additional $100 on the current $400 monthly insurance benefit.  Some Council felt the Librarian and City Clerk should not get the same amount of pay increases as the City maintenance men.  Councilman Conrad thought the City employees should be given a 3% increase with a $50 month increase on insurance.   After discussion, no motion was made for an increase in wages.   This was discussed later in the meeting.

Bill Norton presented a proposal to the City Council for acquisition of development property for the City.  According to the proposal, the City could purchase 40 acres of land that borders the Schwarz Development and the 3-30 County Club.  The cost would be $10,000/acre and could be paid on a 30-yr. contract at 5% interest.  The City could rent out the land for 5 yrs. at $300/acre.  Development for housing could be done by the City or contracted with a developer.  Council felt this was a good opportunity for the City since currently there is nowhere for a housing development.  M/S McCreight, Olsen stating the City is willing to buy property based on the above terms presented by Bill Norton, subject to following legal procedures outlined by City Attorney Bill Sueppel.  Ayes:  All.   Mayor will contact Mr. Sueppel regarding the proposal. 

Kirk Steinke asked again if the City Council would reconsider a larger than 2% wage increase. 

Kirk reported there is a need for an additional 5 fire extinguishers in City buildings or vehicles.  Council authorized the purchase of 5 fire extinguishers from ABC Fire Protection at $50/ea.

Kirk also asked the Council if he should install the new radio read meters for water only meters.   Council told him to ask the homeowner if they intend to keep the water only meters and if so, install the radio read meters. 

Kirk told the City Council that Little Home Day Care Center, over the last 6 months, is averaging water use of over 100,000 gallons per 2-month period. The City waives payment of the water/sewer/garbage bills for the day care.  Kirk has been in contact with Lowden Plumbing & Heating and they are questioning if it is the geothermal system that is using the water.  Kirk said the City will check the water usage profile for the next two week time period and continue to investigate the cause of excessive usage.

Kirk told the City Council there are 5 residences or businesses that have lead service water lines.  They will have to be replaced, at the homeowner’s expense, before radio read water meters can be installed.

Council directed Kirk to list the JD 242GT mower for sale on Craig’s List and to ask $700 for the snow blower, $1000 for the mower, or $1400 for both together.

City will begin to charge residents for additional large volume garbage items such as sofas, large chairs, etc.  Fees will be determined and a notice will be placed in the newspaper regarding the new policy for large item garbage pickup.

City Clerk has contacted F & B for information and cost about a back up system for all computer records that will be kept off site of City Hall.

Mayor reported the City’s insurance carrier will handle the claim for the $11,000. in damages to Jefferson Ave. by Kay semis in November 2011.

Mayor asked a final time if the City Council would reconsider 2% wage increase for City employees.  After discussion, M/S Conrad, Olsen to increase City employee wages by 3% and increase the $400/mo. health insurance benefit by $25.   Ayes:  Olsen, Behrens, Helmold, Conrad.  Nays:  McCreight.

Dean Behrens reported the Lowden Park Board is considering the removal of the tennis court at the Park and possibly putting in a new basketball court.

M/S Helmold, Conrad to adjourn at 8:40 PM.  Ayes:  All.

Next regular meeting is March 5, 2012, 5:30 PM.

Barry Hoffmeier, Mayor
Peggy Kedley, City Clerk

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