The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 25, 2014

Former City Council members speak out


The Clinton Herald

---- — We, the four 2010-2013 council members who were elected in November of 2009, feel that much of the progress in the city’s financial situation, structure and procedures, infrastructure and facilities, the community’s business and residential growth, and improvements in health and wellness have been overlooked and overshadowed by the continuous emphasis on the unfortunate events of the EMS lawsuits, the difficulty in implementation of the new solid waste system, and the need for sewer and solid waste rate increases.

We therefore have pulled together some of the successful and positive projects and events resulting from the work and decisions of the entire 2010-2013 years by Mayor(s), Council and dedicated city staff.

FINANCIAL

• Discovery of accounting inadequacies and actual lack of funds assumed available was made by the then new City Administrator, in October 2009. He began to make systems and personnel changes and corrections immediately. The situation was desperate enough that at one point money had to be borrowed from a local bank to meet payroll — but just that one time.

This administrator and the Council acted swiftly to reduce some costs immediately in 2010, and through budgeting the next three years to improve the financial situation.

• Moody’s September 2013 report shows an A2 rating with comments regarding improvement in financial status due to sale of the municipal dock and a manageable debt burden, affected somewhat by condition of solid waste funds and underfunded cost-sharing pension plan.

• The practice of allowing unlimited comp time accrual by employees was eliminated, requiring comp time to be used within a certain time or accrual of only a limited amount as in private businesses, thus eliminating large amounts accumulated over years to be paid upon resignation or retirement.

• New sewer and solid waste rates were established through the first (in known history) use by the city of professional studies to assure adequate services and accurate costs to citizens for those services. Prior inadequate billing and collection practices were replaced by new systems.

• Billing and collection of ambulance services was outsourced, resulting in guaranteed coding, accurate and timely billing and collection services

• Capital Improvement Projects planning began a framework for long-range projects

• Reorganized departments and reduced personnel.

• Outsourced sale of small real estate parcels and sold to place back on tax rolls

• Sold most of the remaining city owned property in south Clinton

• Set process for selling salvage city vehicles

CITY GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE AND PROCEDURES

• Hired contract Human Resources person

• Moved BNS from Fifth Avenue building to City Hall

• Converted Fifth Avenue building to records storage and other uses by police department

• Expanded Chancy Fire Station and made improvements to the other two fire stations making it possible to have adequate coverage in all three locations in the event of multiple fire/ambulance events or large fires such as Odeon

• Negotiated new agreement with Humane Society, reduced cost and maintained services

• Approved new downtown SSMID agreement resulting in better management and encouraging downtown development

• Appointed new fire chief, city engineer, city administrator, city attorney and Public Works director

• In hiring a new city administrator, used a new process by selecting an independent hiring committee to seek applicants, review applications, interview and choose top applicants. This committee was made up of 10 business and professionals, educators, city department heads and residents selected from a group of nominations offered by each council member.

• The Council approved a referendum for renovation of the library which was later defeated by the voters.

• With the end of the Skipper Bud’s contract, the council issued a Request for Proposals for a new Marina and RV Park Operator. The City Services Committee interviewed three possibilities, one being the city’s own Public Works Department, and recommended that Matt Prescott, who is owner of the Candlelight Inn located in the Marina Amenities building, be selected.

The full Council concurred, and the Marina and RV park saw their best year ever in 2013.

• Expanded recyclable materials to include cardboard and additional types of plastic materials

• A new franchise agreement was reached with Alliant Energy, adding prompt replacement of lighting Alliant is responsible for at their expense.

• A responsible and cost-effective contract was approved for traffic light maintenance and repair.

COMMUNITY GROWTH AND IMPROVEMENT

• Banks and Financial Institutions — The health and wealth of a city’s financial institutions is a major indicator of that city’s financial condition. Every bank in the city has expanded and improved its services either in its existing location or added locations. The same is true for credit unions and other financial institutions; a new credit union has located here within the last three years.

• Railport — Two brand new industries, RAIL.ONE and NRM, are in the process of being built within the railport.

• Lyons Tech Park — Data Dimensions has moved to the Lyons Tech Park and doubled its size in a new facility.

• Industry — Most of Clinton’s large industries continue to update and expand their operations.

• Business and Shopping — There are several successful new businesses downtown, and the Lyons shopping area is on the brink of many updates, including a “green” streetscape. The Lincolnway area continues to grow and change with the addition of the Hampton Inn, the new Urgent Care Clinic, and Clinton Auto Group, among others.

• Residential — The new Village Cooperative for seniors is filled nearly to capacity, and West Heights Town Homes, the new CHI-built apartment complex in the same area, is now ready to accept new residents. Building of new single family homes has been slow but steady. However, renovation and improvement of existing homes has been very active.

• Proposed Near Future — Necessary approvals are in place for the Wilson Building to be redeveloped into high-quality condos on the upper floors and office and commercial space on the ground floor as soon as the owner has all his plans in place. This project was delayed from its original start date due to issues of the previous owner and a change in the structure of the developer’s organization.

City infrastructure and facilities

 

• The new Waste Water Treatment Plant was completed and has won thus far three awards for excellence in its field, including the Governor’s Environment al Excellence Award, the Iowa Chapter of the American Public Works Association Environmental Project of the Year in the $25-$75 million category, and the 2013 All-Star Community Award from the Iowa League of Cities for Clinton’s cooperative 28-E Partnership agreements with Camanche and Low Moor which provides waste water facilities to those communities on a cost-sharing basis. The facility has been nominated for an award in May from the American Council of Engineering Companies.

Long Term Control Plan — The LTCP is an agreement reached between the City of Clinton and Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 2012 for compliance with the Clean Water Act. Requirements are specified in a District Court “Consent Order, Judgment, and Decree” which is commonplace for most if not all combined sewer communities in the U.S. Clinton was fortunate to be awarded a 25 year period to implement this schedule. Clinton’s LTCP will limit combined sewer overflows to 4 to 6 times per year. Four to six overflows allowed in a year means a more affordable LTCP than if none were allowed. Initially the cost of these projects was approximately $130 million; over the past two years, however, research efforts and results of the projects already completed or in progress seem more likely it will be around $80 million. City staff will continue to complete projects under budget wherever possible and provide adequate yearly reporting to the Iowa DNR and EPA, while achieving all of the water quality goals stipulated by current and future discharge permits.

StreetsSince 2010, a total of $8.4 million dollars has been spent in reconstruction of city streets. This is the first major emphasis on street improvements in possibly 40 years. Every effort was made to split the total evenly in each section of the city by Ward, 25% to each. In 2010, we were able to do only $1.3 million worth of street renovation; since then, in 2011, $2.3 million went into streets, followed by $2.0 million in 2012 and $2.8 million in 2013. The major portion of these are curb and gutter streets. Total miles reconstructed totaled 23, not including 19th Ave North, Liberty and Camanche Avenues(Hwy 67/30.) Liberty Square, the space between Liberty and Camanche Avenues, is complete with infrastructure and an existing overlay plan and ready for development to begin whenever the DOT process is completed. The Prospect-Chancy Wallace-Sabula Ave. area was transformed by reconstruction from 23rd Place to South 14th Street, Over 5,000 feet of these streets is now curb and gutter except for the one block each of Chancy and Wallace Streets and Sabula Avenue where residents preferred the original style. At the same time, the combined sewer system was separated by 3 runs of new storm sewer from Prospect Avenue to the Camanche Avenue sewer system.

• 38 miles of our worst streets remain to be done over the next six years; in order to do this, however, the planned $2.8 million each year for the next five years and $1.8 million for the sixth year must be continued. After that, the city would be able to focus on a yearly resurfacing and maintenance plan with the goal of maintaining streets, rather than having to repair them.

Discovery TrailIn addition to the streets in (c) the Discovery Trail was also resurfaced. Lights and security cameras were installed in the interest of safety for users of the trail. For the convenience of dog owners, waste stations with plastic bags were placed at various points on the Trail, Riverview Drive, and at the dog park.

4th Street viaduct pavement was reconstructed to handle the heavy truck traffic over the coming ten year period, and will be maintained as needed through and possibly beyond that length of time.

New Jib crane approved for faster reaction in placing or removing flood gates as needed, rather than using large traveling commercial equipment which was destructive to the Discovery Trail surface

The airport is building a long-needed new hanger and terminal this year. These improvements are funded to a major extent by grants. Our several large corporate operations frequently fly management in using their corporate jets to our airport, and need adequate landing, fueling, and overnight storage for their planes.

The Marina storage facility was enclosed with security fencing and cameras to provide better security for expensive boats stored there through the non-boating months. There are plans for added boat slips to accommodate boat owners on a waiting list for seasonal slip rental.

• Three new pads for RVs will be installed in the RV park this season. This will use the remaining space for the RV park as it is currently designed.

• Wi-Fi services were installed at the Marina and RV Park as a convenience for boaters and campers.

The lbrary’s use of space has been very much improved. However, repairs to the existing building and systems are still desperately needed, as well as more space.

• Approved updated ADA required handicap accessible spaces on Riverview Drive and marina area

Swimming PoolThe interior of the bathhouse was almost entirely renovated. The shower and restrooms were made handicap accessible, fixtures replaced, the entire interior was painted, The women’s shower room is completely finished; the roof over men’s shower/restroom was replaced with remainder of ceiling and finish work to be completed before opening this season.

The Bandshell will be basically rebuilt in time for summer 2014 events.

The Showboat is expected to have new soundproofing to reduce the sound competition between their stage and the bandshell events.

The Lumberkings Baseball Field office floor and walls have been improved to lessen the impact of flooding during heavy rain events.

HEALTH AND WELLNESS

 

The council began a policy to budget $100,000 annually to demolish burned-out and abandoned houses and buildings to improve neighborhoods.

The burn ordinance was finalized and adopted, and has resulted in considerable improvement of air quality in the city.

Council members set an annual clean-up day in which they picked up and cleaned designated areas (parkland around the Ericksen Center, 400 block 8th Ave South, Lyons and Downtown business areas, City Hall and parking lot area on S 3rd St, etc.) The community was invited to participate by choosing an area (neighborhood, a park or playground, etc.)

The Council supported the Blue Zones Health and Wellness competition between cities. Many restaurants and the schools began to offer healthier menus; many new opportunities for physical activity began. We did not become a Blue Zones city, but the attitude toward health and wellness seems to have improved considerably.

As a result of savings in the changes to the Humane Society contract, the city was able to make a donation to the Domestic Violence Crisis Center at the YWCA.

This is a long list, but by no means a complete list of work the 2010-2013 Mayor(s), Council, and City Staff completed. Nothing was intentionally omitted, it is simply impossible to recall the many decisions and projects we have dealt with over those four years. It is our hope that this will give the community a more complete picture of our work on your behalf, and an understanding of the sometimes overwhelming tasks and responsibilities elected officials and city staff must handle every day, 24-7, that affect in some way every person in the community, ourselves included.

We thank you for your understanding, your patience, and most of all, your friendship and support. This job was both a privilege and a heavy burden at times. We are pleased to have been chosen for this service over the past four years, and we hope these words will give you a bigger picture of all the good that is happening behind the scenes in this, your home community.

Jennifer Graf, former at-large councilwoman

Bev Herman, former Ward 3 councilwoman

Maggie Klaes, former Ward 1 councilwoman

Charlie Mulholland, former at-large councilman