The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

July 23, 2012

Clinton to finalize mandated sewer plan costs

CLINTON — The Clinton City Council on Tuesday will vote on the long-term control plan consent order amendment, which requires the city to spend an estimated $100 million over the next 25 years.

The consent order amendment outlines the city’s response to the mandates imposed on the city by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency to fix the city’s combined sewer overflow problems.

Jane McAllister, a lawyer with Ahlers and Cooney P.C., the law firm that has assisted the city in its negotiations with the DNR and EPA, presented the amended long-term control plan consent order at the Committee of the Whole meeting on July 10.  

The COW moved the consent order forward despite concerns from At-large Councilman John Rowland and Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman that the city does not have a financial plan in place to fund the projects.

City Finance Director Jessica Kinser and City Engineer Jason Craft assured the COW that work is being done on a financial plan.

Rowland asked if it would be possible to get an extension for the approval in order for the city to have a more solid plan in order. However, McAllister said that would not be a viable option for the city.

McAllister speculated that not approving the consent order would result in the Attorney General bringing litigation against the city as well as imposing six-figure fines.

The long-term control plan is the only resolution on the City Council’s agenda outside of the consent agenda.

The COW will vote on a variety of issues forwarded from the Rules and Regulations Committee including a red flag policy to collect social security numbers, the animal control ordinance and the noise ordinance.

The COW will discuss implementing a red-flag policy in order to collect social security numbers from select sewer users.

While the city originally discussed implementing a red flag policy in order to collect all sewer users’ social security numbers, a negative response and a new Iowa law swayed them to focus mainly on renters.  

Under House Bill 2323, cities are no longer allowed to place liens on a landlord’s property because of the tenant’s unpaid utility bill.  

This presents a problem for Clinton because it is unable to deny service and now will be unable to guarantee payment for these unpaid debts.  By collecting renters’ social security numbers, the city will be able to collect payment through a collection agency or the Iowa income offset program.  

The red flag policy the COW will vote on details the rules the city would need to enforce in order to safeguard this information.  

The animal control ordinance, which spurred a lengthy discussion during the Rules and Regulations Committee July 10, will also be discussed.  

The section of the ordinance which restricts the number of dogs, cats, ferrets or combination of the three to 10 garnered a fair amount of attention.  

While Clinton Police Chief Brian Guy called the restriction fairly liberal, Mayor Mark Vulich said he thought the number was too low. The committee also discussed a number of other issues relating to the ordinance including animal rescues, feral cat colonies and microchips.  

Guy advised that because the city only has one animal control officer, the ordinance rewrite should focus on compliance rather than enforcement.

In addition, the COW will vote on a revised noise ordinance.

The City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall with the COW immediately following.

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