City of Jefferson assumes fiscal operation of new animal shelter
By Rick Morain
The Jefferson City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 10 approved a recommendation from its animal shelter committee that the city assume responsibility to staff the new animal facility. In keeping with that approval, the council hired Hether Dobney as a part-time custodian at $12 per hour.
Dobney has been helping with the old animal shelter for several years, being paid by the local PAWS organization. Going forward, she will work under the supervision of the city. The city budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year, which begins June 1, is expected to provide for two part-time custodians at a total cost of $30,000.
Dobney’s employment begins immediately. The city will cease to pay PAWS for helping to operate the animal shelter, although PAWS volunteers will no doubt continue to offer assistance.
City employees and a large number of volunteers showed up last Saturday to help move the cats and dogs from the old shelter near the wastewater treatment plant to the new one on a site west of Highway 4 in the north part of town, on land donated for the project by Greene County Development Corporation.
REVISED SEWER RATE
The council placed on second reading the proposed revised sewer rate ordinance to take effect in fiscal year 2023-24. The revised ordinance calls for increases in wastewater fees of 15 percent in each of the next five years. An ordinance must receive a reading at three separate city council meetings, unless the council chooses to waive the second or third reading.
IN-TOWN ATV CONSIDERATION
Tim Pound appeared before the council to advocate for allowing all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on Jefferson streets. An act adopted by the Iowa Legislature last year permits municipalities to make decisions on whether to allow ATVs on their streets.
Pound asked that councilmembers take a vote on the proposal. Greene County Recorder Deb McDonald provided a letter to Pound, which he provided to the council, that states that a number of residents had told her that they would like to use their ATVs on city streets as part of the homeowner work they do.
Following Pound’s request, councilmembers Darren Jackson and Dave Sloan indicated they would like the council to vote on the proposal. Both of them had received requests from city residents that ATVs be allowed on the streets. If the council decides to take a vote, it will need to be placed on the council’s agenda for a future meeting.
• The council approved appointments of its members to various committees and organizations as follows:
- Matt Wetrich: parks and recreation, golf course, recycling, animal shelter, Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation, and Bell Tower Foundation.
- Dave Sloan: streets, Jefferson Chamber/Main Street, Highway 30 organization, and downtown buildings.
- Pat Zmolek: mayor pro-tem, police department committee, law enforcement center joint entity, finance committee, downtown buildings, and wages and benefits.
- Harry Ahrenholtz: wages and benefits, housing, Greene County Development Corporation, finance, and public works.
- Darren Jackson: parks and recreation, housing, library, cemetery, and animal shelter.
Mayor Matt Gordon’s appointments include the police department committee, fire department committee, law enforcement center entity, hotel/motel tax, and finance.
• The council approved a resolution to update the procurement policy related to Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) work. The approval had been granted at the Dec. 13 meeting, but a resolution was needed.
• A resolution was approved to set a public hearing at the Jan. 24 meeting on plans and specifications for the project to improve city hall’s entrance, including the steps and retaining walls. The project is estimated to cost about $94,000. In 2022 the city advertised for bids for the project, and received only one, at a cost considerably higher than the engineer’s estimate.
Bids this time will be due Feb. 7 and considered at the Feb. 14 meeting.
• Also at the Jan. 24 meeting will be a public hearing on the status of funded activities for the upper story apartment project for the building at 123 North Chestnut (former home of Don’s Ace Hardware). The ground floor of the building is planned to house a restaurant.
• A public hearing required by law for the annual maximum levy on proposed property tax dollar increases for the 2023-24 fiscal year will be held at the Jan. 24 meeting. City administrator Mike Palmer said he expects the dollar increases to be less than two percent above the current year’s dollar amount.
If the city’s revenue growth from those levies is to increase more than two percent, the council must pass a resolution to that effect by at least two-thirds of its members. In the case of Jefferson’s five-member city council, at least four of the members would need to approve the resolution.
• The council approved becoming a member of a joint 28E agreement with the Safety Group Central Iowa South and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities. In the past the city has to pay thousands of dollars to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements they did not know about.
The council’s finance committee had recommended the membership, which will cost between $11,000 and $14,000.
• The council approved sidewalk cost reimbursement to Ken and Sue Bose at 103 South Maple in the amount of $960.
• The council approved three pay estimates:
- Pay Estimate No. 4 of $140,884 in state CDBG funds for the upper story apartment project at 123 North Chestnut.
- Pay Estimate No. 2 of $27,412.25 to Westbrooke Construction Co. for restroom remodeling at the swimming pool.
- Pay Estimate No. 9 of $26,436.40 to Jensen Builders Ltd. for the new animal shelter.
• A Class E liquor license for Casey’s convenience store and a Class E retail alcohol license for Oly’s convenience store were approved.
• The council agreed to stay a nuisance abatement order regarding a school bus on property at 904 West Madison. Owner of the bus, Elle Parker, had requested an appeal to the council from the abatement order filed by city building inspector Chad Stevens. Stevens said that the bus was not licensed and had not moved from its spot for more than 30 days.
Parker told the council that the bus is not a junk vehicle as defined by the city code. She said she has had it since last May, when she drove it from Missouri to Jefferson. She is converting the bus to a recreation vehicle, and expects to have the project completed by June and off the property by August.
After hearing Parker and Stevens, the council decided to stay the abatement order until Sept. 15 to give Parker time to complete the renovation. Councilmembers agreed that the bus “doesn’t meet the eye test,” but that Parker can continue to renovate it if she licenses it and drives it from time to time to show that it is operable.
• During the open forum portion at the beginning of the meeting, Duane Forkner took issue with Stevens’ nuisance code enforcement procedures. He said Stevens should not be allowed to trespass on private property without asking, and should have to explain to the resident involved why he is there. He also said that Stevens has a conflict of interest in the position because he’s with a construction business.