An architectural rendering shows the planned Greene County Animal Shelter, now envisioned as a metal building instead of brick to save money. Even still, bids all topped $1 million, putting the project at risk of failing.

Residents urge city to save animal shelter plan

By RICK MORAIN

For The Jefferson Herald

The Jefferson city council at its regular meeting Jan. 12 instructed its bonding consultant to draw up documents to provide some city bond funding for the proposed new animal shelter.

The amount of the proposed animal shelter bond is uncertain at this point.

At last report in late 2020, private funding stood about $500,000 or $600,000 short of the low bid for the project. At that time, the council deferred on accepting a bid, and appeared to agree with project committee chair Don Orris on his suggestion to rebid the project in January or February to see if the bids might come down.

Orris also had said he hoped to continue private money solicitation, to see if the funding gap could be reduced.

At the Jan. 12 meeting, several council members said they had been urged by city residents to provide some public money to make the project a reality. 

Bonding consultant Tim Oswald of Piper/Sandler was present by Zoom at the meeting to brief the council on procedures for two already-planned bonds. The council set the regular council meeting of Jan. 26 for public hearings on both of those bonds.

One of the new bonds would refinance, at lower interest rates, up to $4 million of existing city debt from general obligation (G.O.) bonds the council had issued in 2012 and 2015. Oswald estimated that the refinancing would save the city about $284,000 in interest cost, a reduction of 47 percent, on the existing bonds between now and 2035.

The other new bond, up to $2.5 million, would provide G.O. funding for urban renewal improvements to buildings in downtown Jefferson.

The council amended its agreement with Piper/Sandler to adjust fees for the additional annual reporting required for the 2021 bond issue. The additional fee is about $1,500.

During the bonding discussion, Oswald said a loan for improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant from the state would bear 1¾ percent interest. He recommended increasing sewer rates gradually over a period of years starting now, rather than imposing a large increase later.

The city has been escrowing wastewater treatment revenues in anticipation of eventual improvement to the plant. New government standards require the improvements.

In other action, the council approved the purchase of a new computer server to replace the existing main server that stopped working several weeks ago. A short-term fix was made to it, but it is only a temporary repair. The new server will come from Computer Concepts for $9,700.

The council approved a proposal from Sebourn Video Services LLC of Jefferson to continue to provide video coverage of council meetings. When the company first started providing the service six months ago, the cost to the city was $120 per meeting. The proposal approved Jan. 12 includes enhanced views, Zoom coverage, and YouTube coverage, and will cost $230 per meeting. The agreement is for calendar year 2021.

The council approved the fire department’s request to apply to the federal Department of Homeland Security for a grant for a generator. The generator would provide back-up power for the fire department and City Hall. The city would need to provide no more than $15,000, representing 5 percent of its cost, according to Fire Chief Jack Williams.

The council by resolution approved the sale of the city-owned property at 204 E. McKinley St. to Jim and Heather Hagar for $2,000. A public hearing on the sale took place immediately prior to the resolution, at which no objections or comments were received.

The council approved an agreement with consultant Molly Myers Naumann for services to amend the city’s historic district boundaries to include buildings in the 200 block of North Wilson Avenue, the block immediately north of the northwest corner of the Square. Cost of the agreement is $500. 

Naumann is already providing services to amend the historic district to include 100 E. State, the former Angie’s Tea Garden building. Including the designated areas in the historic district would qualify them for historic tax credit funding.

The council by resolution set the meeting of Feb. 9 for a public hearing for the city’s annual maximum property levy for fiscal year 2021-22, which begins July 1. Under Iowa law, all municipalities must hold a public hearing on the property levy. 

If the city’s revenue growth from the levy increases more than 2 percent, the council must adopt its revenue levy amount by a vote of at least two-thirds of its members (in Jefferson’s case, by at least four of the five council members).

City Administrator Mike Palmer said the proposed levy growth for 2021-22 will be less than 2 percent, so a simple majority is all that will be required. But a public hearing is still required.

Committee appointments for Mayor Matt Gordon and the five council members are as follows:

Matt Wetrich: park and recreation, golf course, recycling, Grow Greene County Gaming Corp. and Bell Tower Foundation.

Dave Sloan: streets, Jefferson Main Street/Chamber, Highway 30, animal shelter and downtown buildings.

Pat Zmolek: mayor pro tem, police department committee, law enforcement center entity, finance committee and downtown buildings.

Harry Ahrenholtz: wages and benefits, housing, Greene County Development Corp., finance and public works.

Darren Jackson: park and recreation, housing, library, cemetery and animal control.

Mayor Matt Gordon: police department entity, fire department, law enforcement center entity, animal control, hotel/motel and finance.

At the end of the meeting, a group of three disc golf enthusiasts presented a proposal for an 18-hole disc golf course at Daubendiek Park west of the wastewater treatment plant. 

Their handout estimated the cost of the course would be about $23,330.

They said it could be built without cost to the city, with privately raised funds and in-kind labor and equipment. The council took the proposal under advisement.

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Jefferson, IA 50129

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