The Cherokee City Council, on a close 3-2 vote, Tuesday night approved the third and final reading of a new ordinance increasing the City sewer rates.
The sewer rate increase is designed to put the City Sewer Fund into the black after continually running in the red due to recent mandatory upgrades at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and on-going maintenance of the sophisticated facility. The Sewer Fund was $24,000 in the red at the end of the past fiscal year June 30.
The new ordinance will now increase the rates from the $6.37 (per month) current base fee to $8, and hike the commodity (volume used) fee 9-percent from the current $3.47 per 100 CF, to $3.79 per 100 C.F.
The Council approved the second reading at its Jan. 12 meeting on a narrow 3-2 vote, and failed a motion to waive the third and final reading, which then took place at Tuesday's meeting.
Council members Greg Stieneke and Mick Mallory voted against the proposed new ordinance, while Council members Jim Peck, Dan Morrow, and Linda Burkhart successfully voted for it. In the initial vote on first reading at the Dec. 15 meeting, Mallory was the lone Council member voting no.
The Council also held a Public Hearing Tuesday for plans to refinance two existing bond issues that will save the City an estimated $150,000 in interest costs over the life of the bond issues. The General Obligation bonds total $2,830,000 and are being refinanced due to favorable interest rates on municipal bonds and after consulting with the City's finance bonding firm.
Tuesday night the Council approved resolutions instituting proceedings and approving the preliminary official statement. The Council will be asked to approve the refinancing at the Feb. 9 meeting.
The Council also weighed in on Iowa Governor Chet Culver's proposal to dip into Road Use Tax Funds (RUTF) to help finance the Iowa State patrol. Cities and counties across the state are voicing their opposition to the proposal. The Council authorized the City to send a letter of opposition to the plan.
Should the Governor's plan be approved, the City would lose $22,872 annually of RUTF revenue, and Cherokee County would lose an estimated $155,000.
In other action, the Council also granted an second extension to LeRoy Schoon to develop lots he purchased at $1,000 each in the Doherty Addition in southeast Cherokee. The first extension was granted in July 2009, and the second is until December, 2010.
In his request for a second extension, Schoon reported that of the five lots he had purchased, that two had been sold and had new homes erected on them, a third lot was sold to Cherokee Work Services (CWS) and a new home built there to accommodate managed independent living for the adult handicapped. and negotiations are under way with CWS for a fourth lot to house their second home.
The Council also readily embraced the request by John Cook to briefly close certain City Streets to accommodate the second annual Great Pancake Day Race scheduled for Shrove Tuesday on Feb. 16, beginning at City Hall.
City Administrator Don Eikmeier told the Council that the inclement winter weather the past several weeks have prevented the City from removing the Christmas decorations on Cherokee, but that task will be done when weather conditions allow.
Eikmeier also cautioned the Council that, because of the heavy snow and ice build-up and more forecast in February and March, the City could face serious drainage problems this spring thaw. Eikmeier asks for citizens and the Council to be patient and everyone work together to get through such taxing times.
Stieneke also lauded the City Street Department and Superintendent Jim Agnitsch for their yeoman work at clearing the City streets in such frequent, terrible weather conditions this winter. Stieneke said he had talked with several Storm Lake visitors who were amazed at the difference between the Cherokee and Storm Lake streets.
The Council also scheduled a series of budget workshops for the next fiscal year's budget.