Mayor Jim Robertson had to call for order several times during the city council’s Tuesday night meeting. Camanche resident Charlie Blount, apparently angered over the submission of the city bargaining unit’s initial proposals, asked to be shown the documents and asked that the citizens be a part of their discussion.
Blount, who recently dropped out of the Camanche mayoral race in favor of candidate and sitting council member Ken Fahlbeck, was instructed to wait until the public comment portion of the meeting before addressing the council. When allowed to speak at the end of the meeting, Blount took advantage of the opportunity. He called into question the integrity of the sitting city council and asked that they recuse themselves from union negotiations.
“I don’t think anybody here could give an unbiased opinion for the taxpayer,” Blount said.
Blount requested that the negotiations be handled by state authorities, whom he believed would be more objective in decision making. Council member Linda Kramer said she took offense to Blount’s assertions. Blount was reminded that in the case of an impasse, arbitration on union negotiations is conducted by the state, and that the city resorted to state arbitration not more than two years ago.
“It’s not like we just give them everything they want,” Kramer said.
On Nov. 8, city elections will take place and some positions on the council, including that of mayor, may see turnover. Blount questioned whether the council should consider contracts at all considering the potential for new faces prior to the conclusion of the process.
Robertson pointed out that the committee that will review the negotiations was comprised of the city attorney and administrator, both non-elected positions, and two council members, Gary Kampe and Linda Kramer, whose terms are not expiring this year. The only potential turnover on the committee would be the mayor’s position, but Robertson said that the mayor is traditionally part of the process. Additionally, an initial response to the union’s proposals is due at the next council meeting, before the new terms begin in January, making a delayed start to the process impossible.
The discussion grew heated occasionally. Fire Chief Dave Schutte railed against what he believes is manipulated information regarding the pay of city employees. Matt Blount, a candidate for city council, had obtained a sheet of the salaries and benefit packages of city employees. Schutte maintained that this information wasn’t being shown in its entirety, and that people had been led to believe that the value of the entire salary and benefits package for each employee was actually that employee’s wages.
Robertson pointed out that as elected officials, council members are performing their public duty by conducting the negotiations on the citizens’ behalf. He noted that the proposals are public record, though the actual negotiations are not, and that they are available to Camanche residents at city hall.
“We’re not arbitrating this here,” Robertson said. “The city of Camanche is not doing anything differently than any other municipality in the state of Iowa.”
He dismissed Blount’s suggestion that the state conduct negotiations, saying “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
In other action, the council:
• Listened to a report from city administrator Tom Roth regarding federal street repair funds obtained by the city.
Roth said the funds, which total around $500,000, will be used for projects on Third Street, Ninth Avenue and will potentially help build a recreational trail alongside Ninth Avenue.
The money was obtained Surface Transportation funding, which was distributed to Regional Planning Affiliations. The money was then distributed to cities with a population over 5,000. However, Roth said that city officials were able to find funds that they were eligible for, and even worked with other cities in the RPA to make sure Camanche wasn’t left out.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Roth said, crediting Robertson and other city officials for pursuing the funding.
Some of the money comes with a 25 percent local match, which Robertson said will be paid for through road use funds. However, Robertson said that without these funds, the city would likely foot the entire bill for the projects.
“Paying 25 percent is a lot less than paying the whole thing,” he said.
• Set a hearing date for new bids for the Washington Boulevard reconstruction project.
Though initial bids were in, the entire project was scrapped at a September meeting of the council, with members citing concern with certain costs. Therefore, the city will request new bids for the project, with some alterations to the original design, and the process will begin again.
Bids are due Dec.1 and the council will consider them on Dec. 6.