DeWitt council explores student loan payback program

DEWITT — A proposed publicly funded student loan repayment plan for new county residents received some feedback from DeWitt council members when discussed last week.

The plan has been fronted by the Clinton Regional Development Corp. and the county, and would include a 28E agreement including the city, county, and potentially area school districts.

At least that’s the idea.

Right now, Andy Sokolovich with the CRDC is asking municipalities around Clinton County to explore the idea. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker created a draft for the 28E agreement.

The program would be administered by a third party — called Peanut Butter — and encourage people to move to Clinton County by having public entities pay $1 per day against the principal of their student loans.

DeWitt City Administrator Steve Lindner said if cities jumped on board also, it could increase that amount to $2, which would be $1 from the county and $1 from the participant’s city. Public schools could also become involved to add more incentives. The money would help pay for loans of all education levels, including associate’s and master’s degrees.

The DeWitt City Council approved its 2019-20 budget already, which did not include any mention of the program.

“We didn’t budget anything for it; they want to have it up and running by July 1, but I don’t know if that will happen,” he said.

Lindner said Clinton County budgeted $20,000 in its 2019-20 budget for the Peanut Butter program. That money includes the coverage of administrative fees.

“There’s a one-time fee to be a part of Peanut Butter, and we’re negotiating what that is, and that’s the reason why we are trying to consolidate into one,” Lindner explained.

Peanut Butter also will offer debt counseling for the participants.

DeWitt councilmembers reviewed the idea at last week’s council meeting.

Councilmember Luanne Smith voiced her support of the idea.

“It doesn’t sounds like it’s a lot of dollars, but it sounds like it would be a draw," she said.

Councilman Kurt Ketelsen questioned the length of the program.

“You want it to be some time,” Lindner said. “You want people to come here long enough, with these types of incentives, that they have to have a job. Once they live here, we think, you’re going to become ingrained in the community and want to stay.”

Linder said details are still being ironed out regarding the 28E agreement and he would provide the council’s feedback to the CRDC and those organizing the 28E agreement.

In other business, the council:

– Approved a motion to increase the wages of non-union city employees by 2.95 percent.

– Approved a price increase for burial lots at Elmwood Cemetery. The new price for a lot in the cemetery is $650, up $25 from the previous price. The rate will take effect July 1.

– Approved the purchase of an aerial boom truck at a cost of $40,900 from Steffen Truck Equipment in Sioux City. The truck has 72,300 miles on the odometer and has a 51-foot boom. The sales price was originally $41,940, but a lower price was ultimately agreed upon.

– Approved a uniform allowance increase for the chief of police and captain. The allowance was increased from $800 to $900 and will be reflected in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.

– Authorized DeWitt Building Official TJ Appleby to purchase a new truck for the department at a cost not to exceed $32,000. That amount was included in the city’s 2019-20 fiscal year budget. The city will not purchase the truck until it is delivered in July.

– Heard a quarterly report from DeWitt Public Works Director Matt Proctor. He said the city will need to replace eight mailboxes that fell victim to snow removal efforts this winter. Public works officials have also begun flushing fire hydrants throughout town in an effort to keep water mains free of buildup.