Cherokee's City Council, hoping to get past the lingering controversy surrounding residents in the Ament Addition ordered to disconnect long-established cross sewer connections in violation of City Code, voted unanimously last week to continue to enforce the City Ordinance and allow property owners up to 10 years to pay for the cost of the disconnections.
All but four Ament property owners have already complied with the City Council ruling from several months ago. Those residents can now spread the costs within their utility payments for up to 10 years.
A group of Ament property owners present at last week's meeting also sought answers for water drainage woes through the Addition due the State IDOT building the 1963 Iowa Highway 3 By-Pass north of Cherokee.
The residents say the By-Pass forces rain water to run through some back yards and create flooding issues and ponding of water. Heavy rains increase the problems immensely, according to the residents.
City Administrator Don Eikmeier advised the residents that repeated pleas to the IDOT by the City have gone nowhere and that IDOT maintains the water drainage is the natural drainage of the area involved and offers no resolution.
Eikmeier and Mayor Mark Murphy told the property owners they would continue to communicate with the IDOT to see what could possibly be done.
The Council also accepted the resignation of Ward 3 Council member Greg Stieneke and authorized the process to begin to fill the vacancy. Stieneke, who has served on the Council since December, 2006, resigned officially August 4 citing health reasons in a letter delivered to City Hall.
Stieneke was appointed to the Council on December 12, 2006 to serve out the term of former Council member Ron Johnson, who resigned for health reasons. Stieneke was re-elected to another term in the Ward 3 post beginning January 1, 2008.
The Council is now faced with appointing someone to finish Stieneke's term, unless a citizen's petition calling for a special election is filed with the City Clerk and County Auditor (Commissioner of Elections) within 14 days of the required Public Notice published by the City.
Mayor Mark Murphy publicly thanked Stieneke for his years of service and dedication to the City.
In other business, the Council heard a report from Mark Buschkamp regarding establishing a pedestrian walking/hiking trail on the abandoned CN Railroad line in Cherokee.
Buschkamp is pursuing a possible REAP Grant to be applied to the acquisition and development of the proposed trail, and also has been in contact with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, which is interested in such projects. There are cases where the Foundation purchases the property in question and holds it until the municipality can come with the funds to complete the project.
According to REAP guidelines, cities are eligible for up to $75,000 of grant funds for such projects.
The Council approved a motion for Buschkamp to continue with his efforts, noting that the cost of acquisition must first be determined from the CN Railroad. Buschkamp said the REAP Grant should be applied for soon and may not be approved, but at least the City would have its foot in the door for possibly next year.
The City already maintains the CN line in Cherokee and has for many years, according to Cherokee Parks Superintendent Duane Mummert. Mummert said if the line was purchased and the tracks and ties removed, it would be much easier to maintain as a pedestrian trail.
The Council also approved its annual tool lease with Mummert at the same $1,000 per year. Mummert supplies many tools and various equipment he owns for the City to use when needed, which prevents the City from having to purchase them.
Mummert also advised the Council that FEMA representatives will again be visiting Cherokee in 10 days regarding more flooding issues in the City.
Eikmeier also asks residents to assist the City by cleaning up and taking their yard waste to the landfill. Due to the frequent flooding, City crews have been very busy spread out to many duties.
"Because of economics, we have skeleton crews to begin with and they have really been challenged with all the storms, wind damage, and flooding," noted Eikmeier."
Eikmeier also mentioned the frequent rains and hot temperatures have taken a toll on keeping Oak Hill Cemetery well-manicured. Juggling City staff to other areas of need due to the storms have only exacerbated the problem with extra grass clippings and longer grass visible at Oak Hill.
"We've had complaints about the cemetery and it's been addressed and prioritized now," said Eikmeier. "Our staff has really been taxed and they're doing a wonderful job working hard to keep up with everything."