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Council tackles multiple issues

November 22, 2023

The city council of Webster City had a lot of business to do at its Monday meeting. In addition to important matters concerning water rates and road improvements for 2024 that were published Tuesday, council passed resolutions that:

• Authorize a contract with Karian Peterson Powerline Contracting, LLC, Montevideo, Minn., for $249,525 for phase one of the city’s Electrical System Supply & Capital Improvement Plan — concerning 69KV electrical transmission lines. This contract applies to lines that must be relocated due to construction of the new wastewater treatment plant. The 69KV electrical lines carry high voltage loads between local substations. Once at substations, electrical power is converted to 12 KV, for further distribution to homes, schools, and businesses.

• Will establish a small fund to help pay for projects seeking to comply with the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Act. Doug Getter, speaking for the board of Webster City Community Theatre, asked for city assistance in making improvements to the southwest corner of Bank Street and Willson Avenue in front of the theatre. Getter, and board members Anne Blankenship and Angela Rottering, all attested to the dangerous conditions which presently exist at that corner, especially for elderly or infirm patrons. The board asked the city to fund about one-third of the cost of improvements to the public sidewalks at the corner. WCCT itself will bear the remainder of the cost from its own budget. Getter noted this improvement will result in WCCT theatre “becoming 100% ADA-compliant.”

• Approve hiring Allender Butzke Engineers Inc, Urbandale, to obtain soil samples along the projected route of electrical power lines to the new Reisner substation, and force mains to the new wastewater treatment plant in the industrial park south of U.S. Highway 20. The samples are necessary to ensure the ground can safely support the new utilities. The two projects will be managed simultaneously to enable decommissioning of the Passwaters substation on the city’s southeast side. Passwaters will be replaced by the new Reisner substation, which will have substantially more power output. Costs of the soil sample borings, laboratory testing, engineering analysis, and a final report, are estimated to be $11,450.

• Approve a non-exclusive public utility easement in conjunction with development of a new Kwik Trip convenience store to be located at 505 Fair Ave. on the city’s west side.

. Facilitate acquisition of the residence at 614 First St., following a ruling by James C. Ellefson, district court judge of the Second Judicial District of Iowa, agreeing with the city’s characterization of the structure as “a habitual nuisance and unsafe building for the last few years with no remediation completed by the property owner.” The city must pay court costs as well as eventual demolition costs. The average cost for demolition of derelict buildings in Webster City in 2023 was $28,500 for each building.

. Allocate $209,762 to purchase a SnoGo PRO-BLAST 3000H snow blower from Murphy Tractor & Equipment Co., Fort Dodge. Street Superintendent Brandon Bahrenfuss told council the snowblower presently in the city’s fleet of eight snow removal vehicles, “is 37 years old, and no longer reliable.” He noted the city had “gotten by” in recent years of little snowfall, but the blower was pushed to the limits with snow and cold weather last winter. Downtown, and near schools, the city pushes snow into windrows in the center of streets, where the snow blower can blow it into waiting trucks to be hauled away. In residential neighborhoods, snow is simply pushed to the side of the street. Bahrenfuss was hopeful the new blower could be in Webster City by mid-December as he knew such a machine was in inventory at Murphy at the present time.

• Authorized payment of $86,337.50 to Dean Allen Gillette and Lorette Gillette for 5.77 acres through their property southeast of town for a right-of-way for two force mains (pipelines) connecting the existing and new wastewater treatment plants. This is a major step in building the city’s new wastewater treatment plant. Final design of the estimated $78 million plant will be complete next spring. Bids for construction will be let in April 2024, and if construction goes to plan, the plant could be in operation sometime in 2026.

The resignation of Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez, city manager, and Biridiana Bishop, assistant city manager, who also serves as public works director, comes at a crucial time for Webster City.

Experienced city leadership is required to manage the several complex, expensive capital projects now simultaneously underway — relocation of 69KV electrical transmission lines around the site of the new wastewater plant, construction of two force mains from the present wastewater plant on east Ohio Street to the new site, and building Reisner electrical substation, the larger replacement for today’s Passwaters substation.

The council is aware of this, and is rethinking the process of hiring a new city manager.

Councilman Matt McKinney wants an in-depth look at the culture of today’s city government to ensure a new city manager is a “good fit” with department heads and other staff. To that end, he asked staff to recommend firms capable of surveying city employees to “ensure they’re part of the conversation.” McKinney contacted two of the candidate firms, and both asked for further narrowing of the objectives and scope of the work, before quoting a price and schedule.

One possibility seems to be the hiring of an interim city manager, while the search for a longer-term manager continues. With Webster City’s recent history of city managers serving only a short while before moving on — a problem McKinney notes many cities in Iowa have experienced — it’s more critical than ever before for the city to make a good, and more permanent, hire.


View this article as it originally appeared in the Daily Freeman-Journal.

Last modified: November 22, 2023

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