The Cherokee City Council last week approved the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year budget totaling $9.55 million and carrying a property tax levy of $17.95 per $1,000 valuation.
The new budget is approximately $2.4 million less than the FY 20011-2012 budget of $11.9 million, but 50-cents per $1000 more in levy rate due to adjusted property valuations. The last FY budget included the West Cherry Street and North 11th Street reconstruction projects that account for most of the differential in the new budget.
City Administrator Don Eikmeier summarized the proposed new budget prior to the published Public Hearing last week at the March 13 City Council meeting. No citizens attended the Public Hearing and the Council unanimously approved the budget after discussion following Eikmeier's summary. The City formulates the budget during a series of budget workshops and hearing requests from all City Departments.
In other business last week, the Council voted unanimously to condemn a house at 116 E. Maple St. owned by Fred and Linda Springer. According to the City, the Springers have salvaged "everything" of value from the house, including siding, doors and windows, and interior woodwork, fixtures and furnishings, and left it in an unsightly and dilapidated condition.
According to the City, repeated contact has been made with the Springers and their attorney, and the property's Tax Certificate Holder, with no resolution to the problem forthcoming. Eikmeier said the Springers indicated interest in deeding the house to the City, but that the City has no interest in the house or lot.
The City maintains that Springer is liable for the property and the Council agreed last week to condemns the structure, raze the house, and assess all costs for the demolition to the property owners.
In addition, the Council approved issuing the Springers a municipal infraction citation which will require Fred Springer to appear in Court and subject him to a fine and possibly jail should he not comply with the Court's order to demolish the property.
The Council also heard a report from Eikmeier concerning the Cherokee Fire & Rescue Department's purchase last year of a $260,000 pumper truck that has become problematic to drive due to hazardous lurching and shaking allegedly attributed to faulty design, electronics, and inadequate framework.
Eikmeier said the pumper can be used, but the drivers need to be extremely careful while driving it to and from the fire scene. Truck-maker Freightliner continues to evaluate the problems and a new computer is on order to better regulate the fuel flow to the engine. It is also thought the frame is too light for the truck, a matter which Freightliner does not concur, according to Eikmeier.
The problems are under warranty, according to the City, but the length of time resolving the problem has placed a hardship and frustration on the Fire & Rescue Department and the City.
The pumper was a demo when purchased and the cost was added to a General Obligation Bond issued for the West Cherry and North 11th Street reconstruction projects.
In other business last week, the Council authorized a contract with Jerry's Tree Service of Storm Lake not to exceed $5,000 for tree trimming in the City's greenspace and parks to be used for camping areas for RAGBRAI XL stopping overnight in Cherokee Sunday, July 22.
Many existing trees in those areas have hangers or dead branches that could fall to the ground during high winds and pose a hazard to RAGBRAI campers.
The City's action is in response to its insurance carrier and RAGBRAI organizers requests that questionable trees and their branches be pruned to avoid a possible calamity such as a similar fatal episode several years ago in Sheldon when a storm struck that city during the night.
The City park crew will work with Jerry's to help maximize the amount of trimming that can be done prior to RAGBRAI hitting town.
The City also plans on utilizing prison inmates to complete a more thorough clean-up, spruce-up of the City's greenspace, parks, and school grounds targeted for use during RAGBRAI here.
In past years, the major RAGBRAI campground has been on the Mental Health Campus, but those ample grounds are no longer available primarily due to the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders (CCUSO) now established there.