At the request of two North 11th Street property owners, the Cherokee City Council last week again revisited the City's proposed, already approved $346,000 North 11th Street reconstruction project from West Cedar Street to just north of West Bluff Street.
In December, the property owners abutting the North 11th Street project had each been provided a copy of the project costs, the estimated assessment for their respective properties, and notice of the Public Hearing. Those so inclined then attended the Public Hearing for the project on Jan. 25 and, after fielding the property owners' input and comments, the City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the project by approving Resolutions adopting resolution of necessity, directing preparation of detailed plans and specifications, form of contract, notice to bidders, ordering bids, and approving plans, specifications and related matters.
The North 11th Street project - consisting of new curb and gutter, street pavement, and an extended new water line from Cedar to the 11th Street water tower - will tie in with the already scheduled West Cherry Street project and a Federal Grant issued through the Iowa Department of Transportation will fund 80 percent and property assessments will fund the remaining 20 percent.
At the Public Hearing Jan. 25, some property owners questioned why the $208,000 Federal Grant applied to the project because the street is classified as Farm-to-Market was not solely applied to the North 11th Street project, instead of the non-assessable share of the total construction costs.
As explained by City Administrator Don Eikmeier, total construction costs are estimated at $345,866. The City's share of these non-assessable costs is $257,347. To maintain consistency with landowners assessed for upcoming street/utility reconstruction improvements on West Cherry Street set for this spring, the completed West Cedar Street project done several years ago, and prior street improvement assessment projects, the City decided that all of the 80-percent Federal monies be applied to the non-assessable share of construction costs. In this manner, all City property taxpayers benefit from the 80-percent Federal contribution, not just the 11th Street property owners.
Cost estimates for 11th Street assessments are estimated at $55.90 per running foot of lot frontage - the same assessment as those for the West Cedar and West Cherry Street projects.
Also, if replacements are required, water service costs will be in addition to the pavement assessments, with the property owner responsible for the cost of the curb stop and valve box not to exceed $120.
Driveways will be replaced up to the sidewalk unless the existing or proposed street grade is too steep. Grading will occur beyond the sidewalk to provide a reasonable slope. Driveway costs are a City cost. Sidewalks will be replaced only at the intersections at City cost. If a property owner wants other sidewalk improvements, they will be done at a unit cost involved with the project.
Norm Rupp and Pamela Rupp, North 11th Street property owners, have continually objected that the Grant monies were being applied to all City taxpayers and not just to those taxpayers involved in the North 11th Street project. As they had at the Public Hearing, they attended last week's City Council meeting to reiterate their claims and to seek clarification of the matter.
Mayor Mark Murphy read a prepared statement regarding the project and referencing the Rupp's concerns. Murphy said 11th Street property owners with continuing questions can contact City Hall and speak with Eikmeier for clarifications. He also explained that if the bids for the project come in under estimates, that the City has the option to pass on the proportionate savings through reduced assessments to the 11th Street property owners involved in the project.
Last week, Rupp also reiterated his question of why the City had not contacted the County for possible shared funding for the project as 11th Street is classified as a farm-to-market road. John Meis, engineer involved in the project, told Rupp counties do not take care of farm-to-market roads inside the corporate City limits.
In other business and with little notice or fanfare, the Council approved the purchase of a $260,000 used "demo" fire pumper truck for the Cherokee Fire & Rescue. The matter was not included in the original meeting agenda and was later attached for those only receiving e-mailed agendas.
Fire Chief Gary Chase, and volunteer member Roger Frisbie were present to request authorization to purchase a new fire pumper to replace the 1967 vehicle, the oldest of the four pumpers in the department. Chase and Frisbie said the department needs to have three dependable, functioning pumpers.
Frisbie said they have worked with several vendors and found a demo truck through Danko for $255,000, plus a few extras. Toyne has also given them a price of $376,000 for a new truck. However, this truck wouldn't be available for about 390 days because after it is built, Toyne would use it as a demo model for 30-60 days before releasing it to the City. Frisbie said the Toyne model is a better truck as it has a stainless steel body and custom cab.
Eikmeier indicated that State Code doesn't regulate public bidding for vehicles like it does for construction. He said the City would normally take bids on this vehicle, but the demo truck from Danko recently became available and the City has the opportunity to take on additional debt at this time without increasing the debt levy.
City resident and former Council Member Dwight Varce asked how much the pumper is used, and if there was enough room in the station for this truck, or will the City have to expand fire department facilities?
"Are we relying on what the firemen need or what they want?" asked Varce. "Are there other companies that can provide bids?"
Varce was told that no expansion to the station would be needed for this new truck.
Council Member Linda Burkhart asked what features the Toyne truck has that the Danko doesn't. Frisbie indicated that it is a more custom truck, has a stainless steel body (rather than aluminum), scene lights, 6" intake port at the rear, and more modern unit for the SCBA gear. The safety features are the same in both trucks.
Eikmeier said that if the Council is leaning toward the Toyne truck and there is a wait of 390 days, he suggested the Council take no action at this time and solicit bids for a new truck.
Council Member Mick Mallory said that if the City can make the $376,000 work it might be better in the long run. An established fire department proponent, Mallory said he agrees they need a new truck.
Chase said that if they go with the Toyne truck, it would require $170,000 up front for the chassis, and Frisbie said the department could make the Danko truck work if Council so desires.
A motion by Dan Morrow, seconded by Burkhart, was unanimously approved for the department to purchase the Danko truck at $257,000 or less.
In other business, Eikmeier reported that a resolution is needed to set a Public Hearing on the issuance of not to exceed $2,600,000 G.O. Capital Loan Notes to fund W. Cherry St. Improvements, N. 11th St. Improvements, Lake St. Improvements, and the new fire pumper. Over the next three years, the City will retire sufficient debt to allow this additional debt without increasing annual debt costs, according to Eikmeier.
A motion by Morrow, seconded by Mallory, was then unanimously approved adopting Resolution No. 11-7, setting a Public Hearing on the City not to exceed $2,600,000 G.O. Capital Loan Notes for March 8th at 7 p.m.
Eikmeier also reported that a resolution is needed to set a public hearing on the issuance of not to exceed $50,000 G.O. Capital Loan Notes to fund the City's share of the Spring Lake Park Trail.
A motion by Morrow, seconded by Mallory, was unanimously approved adopting Resolution No. 11-8, setting a Public Hearing on the City not to exceed $50,000 G.O. Capital Loan Notes for March 8th at 7 p.m.
The Council also unanimously approved a resolution prohibiting firearms in City-owned buildings, including City Hall, Library, Fire Station, Police Station, Community Center, and Bacon Aquatics Center.
Cherokee Police Chief Steve Schuck said that the change in gun laws that went into effect Jan. 1, 2011 has forced many cities to pass resolutions prohibiting firearms in public buildings. Those violating this law will be arrested.