By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — As residents try to hold to their resolutions, members of the Clinton City Council are establishing their goals for 2014.
Four new council members, along with Ward 1 Councilwoman Julie Allesee, were sworn in on Thursday morning. At-large Councilmen Grant Wilke and Tom Determann, Ward 3 Councilman Ed O’Neill and Ward 2 Councilwoman Lynn McGraw will join Allesee, at-large Councilman John Rowland and Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman on the City Council.
In the weeks since the November election, council members have pondered what they would like to accomplish this year. Financial solvency tops the list.
“I would like to see current financial statements so we can make good financial decisions,” McGraw said.
Rowland would like to see five-year plans in order to get finances under control. Specifically, the city needs plans to deal with debt and sewer funding, he said.
Wilke, like his fellow council members, called for accountability of the city’s dollars beginning with current financial reports. While he said there are a number of areas the city needs to address, all the city’s problems are tied together by money.
“Without the dollars how do you it? And we can’t keep taking from the citizens,” Wilke said. “That’s what it’s all about. There’s not one certain project that’s more important than the other.”
As far as the city’s sewer problems are concerned, council members said they were against raising fees on residents to pay for the improvements mandated by the city’s consent decree with the EPA and Iowa DNR.
“I don’t think this council’s going to be going through raising more fees and taxes on residents,” Rowland said.
McGraw echoed Rowland’s sentiment.
“There are probably a lot of things we need to do, but we need to plan very carefully,” McGraw said. “In sewer I think we need to do what we have to do until we get healthier. I don’t think we can ask our citizens for more fees.”
Some would like to see taxes lowered.
O’Neill would like to lower the tax levy from the “outrageous” $16.74 to $14 or $14.50 within the next 18 months. By the time his term is through, O’Neill would like to see the level at $12.
He acknowledged this would be done at the expense of services and programs, but didn’t have any specifics about where these cuts would come from other than to say the capital improvements plan should be scraped to a minimum.
Allesee said she hopes the council will get control of the budget and reduce spending.
“I’d like to see us cut back in the non-essential. I’ve been a proponent of the road repairs and I think that is something we need to continue with,” Allesee said.
Teamwork was another common theme of council members’ visions for 2014.
“If I had to be with six other people, these are the people I’d be picking,” O’Neill said.
In fact, O’Neill would like to abolish the committee system where three council members meet during a weekday. Instead, he would like to add a third committee of the whole session or a work session so all council members can discuss city matters together.
Through all their teamwork to strengthen city finance, McGraw said she would like to steer clear of making snap decisions and instead focus on transparency and involving taxpayers.
“All of these citizens are paying taxes. It as much their decision as it is yours,” McGraw said.
Determann and Gassman could not be reached for comment.