Ament Addition storm sewer 'mess' needs resolved
The search for a city manager will grind forward with an assist from the Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council (SIMPCO), it was decided March 25 at the Cherokee City Council Meeting.
In other business, the Council adjusted admission rates for the Bacon Aquatic Center, discussed Ament Addition storm sewer woes and possible late penalties against the contractor involved, and considered reducing speed limits on two city streets and plans to address public nuisances.
Kristi Quinn of SIMPCO attended the meeting and told the Council that her agency would help in any way it could to assist in hiring a city manager.
Cherokee has been without one since Ron Strickland was terminated April 25, 2006. He was hired on May 1, 2003. Before that, Bruce Bierma was hired January 5, 1998, and terminated January 2, 2003.
After those two failed hires, subsequent City Councils gravitated towards hiring a head hunter to help find and interview qualified candidates and invested $12,150 in that process, before throwing in the towel.
Now, the Council has decided to work with SIMPCO, of which the City is a member, at no charge. However, Quinn advised the Council Tuesday night that SIMPCO did not have the manpower to do the full job of locating and hiring a city manager.
"We will help in any way we can with the city manager search on a consulting basis only," said Quinn. "We can offer unbiased help with advertising, interviewing, reviewing resumes, and offer recommendations. We can look at it with a fresh eye because I know you've been through this all before."
Quinn suggested forming a local search committee comprised of two Council members, one City employee, and two community volunteers who have proven track records for public service.
Council members Linda Burkhart and Jim Peck were quick to volunteer to serve on such a committee, although no formal action was taken.
Mayor Dennis Henrich and Council member Bob Leach voiced their concerns that the Council must be in 100-percent agreement when attempting to hire the future city manager. A splintered Council lacking a 5-0 positive vote will chase away any promising and well-qualified candidates, maintained Henrich and Leach, who said they have learned this by talking with several past candidates.
Leach also told the Council that they need to quit dragging their feet on this issue because it has been on the table since Strickland left two years ago. "We need to make a decision and get this done with," said Leach.
However, his concern was rebutted by Burkhart, who said she was in no hurry and needed to take time to carefully study the whole process, insinuating she wanted to go back to square one. "This is a big decision," said Burkhart, the newest Council member, who was elected effective January 1 of this year.
Council member Greg Stieneke lamented the fact that past Councils, committees, and the head hunter were unable to locate a candidate who anybody was comfortable with.
At the request of the Mayor, the issue will be included on the agenda for the next meeting April 8.
The Council heard from resident Chuck Black, who decried "the mess" involved with the Ament Addition storm sewer project now under construction on South Craig Drive. The contractor is Schoon Construction of Cherokee and the project is "way behind schedule," according to the Council.
Black said there is only one way in and out of the addition and that usually there were just two workers, and oftentimes none, on the scene as the project has dragged out. A recent emergency fire call there prevented Black from getting out of the addition and he said he had to go back home and notify his employer that he would be late.
Henrich advised Black that he would hold a future meeting with the contractor to see what could be worked out and to discuss assessment of penalties for the contractor missing the completion date.
In other action, the Council agreed to hike the daily admission fee to Bacon Aquatics Center to $5 for both adults and children. The rate during last year's partial opening season was $4. The 10-day pass will be $45, and family season passes remain the same.
The Council also heard from Sequoia Street resident Deb Sorensen, whose water line froze in late February and much of March. Water Superintendent Mark Napier advised the Council that there were a few similar situations throughout the City, but they didn't occur regularly and only in severe winters.
Napier reasoned that Sorensen's problem could possibly be attributed to the street grade being lowered after the water and sewer lines were installed, which makes the water lines too shallow under the street and more receptive to freezing. There were no inspections done back then when the lines were installed so many years ago, said Napier.
The City will research that area, and any others, to better identify if this is a large problem, or isolated cases.
The Council also discussed Ron Strickland's unfinished building on Lake Street. The building is an eyesore and has been partially erected and unfinished for several years. Last year, at the request of Building Inspector Kent Wenck, the City gave Strickland, the former city administrator, a 6-month extension to finish the building, but that has since lapsed. Wenck has told the Council that Strickland called him and said he would be here in April to finish the building. However, most of the Council members were skeptical of that occurring.
"Someplace, there has to be a penalty for people who don't comply," said Council member Mick Mallory. "We need to address this all over town." City Attorney Wally Miller Jr. said he would consult with Wenck and research the matter to, hopefully, find a solution.
The Council also discussed lowering the speed limit from 35 to 25 mph on North Roosevelt in the vicinity of Indian Street, where the Middle School and CYSBA ball fields generate great traffic flows. After discussion, it was decided to lower the speed to 25 mph there.
Ironically, in April, 2003, the Council voted to raise the speed limit there from 25 to 35 mph.
Stieneke also asked to lower the speed on Linden Street as traffic approaches or leaves from the T-intersection with South U.S. Highway 59. No action was taken on this matter, which was tabled, with Leach saying the 45 mph speed limit on Linden is to allow trucks to get up to speed to clear the hill on the designated truck route street.
The Council also decided to solicit bids for the City's annual audit. The City has used a Spencer accounting firm for the past six years and this year paid $9,000 for the required audit.
At Stieneke's request, the Council also pondered installation of a street light at the North Roosevelt and Indian Street corner, at a cost of about $26 per month. After lengthy discussion, the Council decided against the street light.