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City Council of Webster City tackles a normal agenda

February 20, 2024

As regular readers know, recent meetings of the City Council of Webster City have been filled with discussion, and actions, relating to expensive and/or divisive issues. That’s the nature of government. That’s normal. But Monday night, the Council dealt with the ordinary, everyday issues that ensure the continued, smooth running of local government. While that doesn’t always happen, it seems a good opportunity to explain more fully the workings of city government.

Here’s a brief description of the proceedings.

First, as is customary, Mayor John Hawkins called the meeting to order, asked for a motion to approve the meeting agenda, called the roll of Council members to ensure a quorum — enough voting members — were present to legally conduct business; then everyone stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

In item one, citizens may address matters not on the evening’s agenda, taking no more than five minutes per person to do so. This may mean presenting a petition, submitting a request or making known a condition in the city requiring council action. These items aren’t voted on immediately; they’re held over for a future meeting, allowing city staff to research and, if required, propose an action for Council’s consideration in the form of a resolution. Resolutions are the city staff’s way of formally communicating their findings to Council, recommending a course of action and asking Council to add the measure to its agenda.

Agenda item two — Minutes, claims, reports and licenses — are presented together as a “consent agenda.” It reads: “the following items have been deemed to be non-controversial, routine actions to be approved by Council, in a single motion.” First in this list is a call for a motion for approval of minutes from Council’s previous meeting.

Next is a resolution authorizing the city’s payroll for the previous two weeks’ pay period and, for which, paychecks were recently issued. How much does it cost to run city government? One regular, recurring cost is payroll — total gross wages and benefits for city employees. In this instance, it was $186,169.22, the payroll for two weeks’ time. The most basic city services account for the largest amounts in this budget, including the police, fire, finance, line and street departments. If you want to see the amount for each, they can be found on the city’s website.

The city, like any individual or family, must pay its bills and that’s what happens in the next agenda item. You can see each of those bills, the companies and individuals being paid, and the amount of the bills on the city’s website. As a matter of interest, these bills totaled more than $451,000 for the two-week period; the largest single cost was $91,681.73, for operation of the city’s electric utility.

Next are reports from the city manager, police and fire departments, and Hamilton County Solid Waste Commission. These are full of statistical information. Here are three examples: the police department answered 874 calls; the new speed cameras issued 2,858 citations in January; and Hamilton County Solid Waste Commission showed a net profit of $15,914.39, also for January.

Item three is the general agenda, containing the council memoranda to be discussed and voted on. Before that, though, Anna Woodward, director of the Webster City Chamber of Commerce, on Monday presented highlights of the Chamber’s 2023 annual report. Among several points she mentioned: The Chamber saw a 12% growth in membership, held classes on digital marketing and artificial intelligence, saw growth in its Market Nights program, and previewed 2024 partnerships and events.

The consent agenda items are typically not discussed in detail, and that was the case at Monday night’s meeting. Citizens wishing more information about any of these items can access the city’s website at https://webstercity.com. Once there, use the drop-down menu under “government,” select “city council,” then “meetings.” It’s easy to navigate.

Now, we’ll look at each of the five council memoranda dealt with at the meeting.

First was a resolution to approve a work agreement for the Webster City Police Department. It begins on July 1, 2024, and runs through June 30, 2027. Some provisions of the agreement include an increase in maximum allowable compensatory time off for officers and sergeants from the present 80 hours to 84 hours. “Comp time” is time off with pay.

Police inspectors’ wages will increase by $0.75/hour in addition to the base wage rate. The officer responsible for K9 Officer Moab will get 3.5 hours pay, at straight time rates, per week, on top of his normal pay, for home care and feeding of Moab, the city’s police dog. Currently, 7 hours pay, at a reduced rate, is allowed.

The new agreement obligates the city to pay the premiums for straight term life insurance policies of $30,000 per employee, an increase from $20,000. Police base rate wages will increase 4% July 1, 2024; 4% January 1, 2025; 4% July 1, 2025; and 4% July 1, 2026. These are comparable to increases in law enforcement compensation being implemented across Iowa.

Webster City Police are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees of Iowa, Council 61, of Des Moines. This is a labor union representing not only police, but many other workers involved in public safety and welfare, including: nurses, school cafeteria workers, home health care workers, and alcohol and drug abuse counselors.

The Council passed this resolution unanimously.

Next, the Council considered a resolution rescinding a temporary construction easement approved in 2002, pertaining to construction of Virginia Parkway in the Gourley’s Minor Subdivision. As construction and maintenance of the utilities serving the neighborhood are complete, the easement has served its purpose and can now be released. This, too, was unanimously passed.

A resolution seeking up to $25,000 for demolition of an unsafe property at 614 First Street, acquired by the city in November 2023, was the subject of the next council memorandum.

Bids for the work will be opened March 22, and awarded to the responsible firm submitting the lowest bid. Council passed the resolution unanimously.

Greg Fritz, chief executive officer of North Iowa Municipal Electric Cooperative Association, (NIMECA), power supplier to 13 municipalities in North Central Iowa including Webster City, presented details of a memorandum recommending the city sign a three-way letter of agreement between itself, Corn Belt Power Co-Op and NIMECA, to begin construction of new electric transmission facilities affiliated with the new Reisner Substation in the city’s Southeast Industrial Park.

The city will pay an estimated $4,242,600 of the estimated $7,089,900 cost of Reisner Substation, and an estimated $118,600 of the estimated $5,622,900 cost of 64 kv transmission lines to serve it. The balance, in each project, will be paid by Corn Belt Power. The substation will provide upgraded electrical power to southeast Webster City, the Southeast Industrial Park, and the planned new wastewater treatment plant.

Interim City Manager John Harrenstein called the city’s arrangement with Corn Belt and NIMECA “a fine partnership.” Looking further at the financing of the various upgrades to the city’s electrical grid, Harrenstein suggested to the Council that “given the size of these projects, collectively, we recommend financing the new electric meters with loans.” The previous plan was to buy them with cash. Harrenstein further noted, “The meters have a warranty period of 15 years, so it’s appropriate the bonding term be of the same length.”

The measure passed unanimously.

In another related resolution, Adam Dickinson, Electric Utility supervisor for the city, asked the Council to authorize execution of a purchase order for $292,146 to Dakota Supply Group, of Fargo, North Dakota, for three 69 kv circuit breakers for Reisner Substation. He explained that while three potential suppliers were asked to quote this equipment, only one did: Siemens Engineering. The circuit breakers will be built by Siemens and delivered through Dakota Supply, its distributor. Lead time is estimated to be 70-75 weeks from the time an order is placed. While the city will buy all three circuit breakers, Corn Belt Power will reimburse the city for two of them. This, too, was unanimously approved.

The Council then went into closed session, a confidential meeting which the public cannot attend, to discuss purchase or sale of real estate. Such meetings are closed when public disclosure of a real estate purchase or sale could increase the price demanded by the property owner, or decrease proceeds the city might receive. Following this, the meeting was adjourned.

Want to learn more about city government? Head on down to City Hall and see for yourself. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday March 4. It begins at 6 p.m.


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

Last modified: February 20, 2024

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