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City Council Debates

Votes Divided

April 25, 2013
Jane Whitmore , Emmetsburg News

Emmetsburg City Council debated several issues Monday and came to conclusions with split-votes of the members.

Engineering and funding for a sidewalk/trail project, allocation of funds for the temporary clubhouse facility and a proposal to eliminate the Community Developer position had the council at odds.

The meeting opened with Councilman Bill Burdick, Jr. proposing two amendments to the agenda.

Burdick proposed amending the agenda to discuss allocations to the temporary clubhouse facility, adding $25 to single and $50 to family membership fees. He proposed the additional fees be placed in an equipment and maintenance fund, beginning 2014.

Councilman Steve Finer, who serves as chair of the Golf Board, said he would take the suggestion to the Golf Board for their recommendation. The proposed amendment to the agenda died for lack of second.

Burdick's second proposed amendment to the agenda was to suspend or eliminate the community developer position with the termination of Steve Heldt as community developer. The proposed amendment to the agenda died for lack of second.

The motion to adopt the agenda was approved by a five to one vote, with Burdick voting no.


Council representatives had three items on the agenda pertaining to a sidewalk/trail project in south Emmetsburg: contract for engineering services; set bid letting; and set a public hearing for the project. The city is working in conjunction with the Lost Island Nature Center for engineering services and bid letting.

"The project consists of replacing the existing 4-foot wide sidewalk from 25th Street to the south line of Evergreen Cemetery with a 10-foot wide, 5-inch thick Portland cement concrete trail/sidewalk," according to documents from Kruse, Cate & Nelson, P.C.

Emmetsburg council representatives were divided over the $8,000 cost for engineering services.

"If we did this on our own, would we still have to do the engineering?" questioned Burdick.

"We would need to be very careful we meet ADA (American with Disabilities Act) if we want to add to it for future projects," answered Bill Dickey, Public Works Director.

Discussion centered around the responsibilities of the engineer and ventured into the possibility of the city having its own engineer. The sticking point was the cost of $8,000 in engineering fees for the sidewalk/trail.

On a vote to consider approval of the contract for engineering services with Kruse, Cate & Nelson for the Cemetery Sidewalk/ Trail project, Councilmen Campbell, Malm, Finer and Kauten voted in favor; Councilmen Gramowski and Burdick voted against.

Bid letting for the sidewalk/trail project was approved on a split vote. Councilmen Campbell, Malm, Finer and Kauten voted in favor; Councilmen Gramowski and Burdick voted against. Bid letting is Wednesday, May 1, at 3 p.m. at the Lost Island Nature Center.

A public hearing for the Cemetery Sidewalk/Trail project was set, again on a split vote. Councilmen Gramowski, Campbell, Malm, Finer and Kauten voted in favor; Councilman Burdick voted against.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Councilman Burdick made a motion to reconsider the vote approving $8,000 for engineering services.

At the conclusion of further debate, Council representatives voted to approve the contract for engineering services. Councilmen Gramowski, Campbell, Malm, Finer and Kauten voted in favor; Councilman Burdick voted against.

Temporary Clubhouse

Additional funds were requested for the Temporary Clubhouse Facility at Five Island Golf. The council was asked to consider appropriating an additional $7,500 for paving a sidewalk and air conditioning. Cost for the air conditioning is $1,500 with the remainder for paving.

"We were going to use the old (air conditioning) unit, but it was shot," said Councilman Finer.

City Administrator John Bird recommended that the funds should come out of the $17,000 remaining in the Palo Alto County Gaming Development allocation. "You have to spend that money before December and tell Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation where it was spent," he told the council.

"Where did the original $99,000 come from?" questioned Burdick. "Was that part of the $500,000 designated for the community center?"

"All of it is coming from our annual allocation from PACGDC and we got their approval to set the money aside," answered Bird.

"I was just wondering if we had an open checkbook out there to continue funding out there or is there a set limit?" added Burdick.

Councilman Brian Campbell pointed out, "A portion of the $99,000 will be recouped through operation of the golf course as long as it takes, plus rental for golf carts to take place for the life of the building."

On a split vote, the council approved allocating an additional $7,500 in funding for the Temporary Clubhouse facility for pavement and air conditioning. Voting in favor were Councilman Gramowski, Campbell, Malm, Finer and Kauten; Burdick voted no.

Community Developer

Emmetsburg City Council went into closed session, pursuant to Iowa Code Section 21.5 (i) "to evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring performance or discharge is being considered when necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to that individuals' reputation and that individual requests a closed session." The council considered eliminating the Community Developer position.

After more than an hour in closed session, discussion continued when the council returned to open session.

"There are two ways we can approach this," said Councilman Campbell. "We could move to eliminate the (Community Developer) position and at a later time set the date, or we can do the whole thing at one time."

"You could talk either approach," said City Attorney Brian Thul. "It would be best if it had an effective date, but you could say there would be more planning necessary before you could implement the elimination."

"Emmetsburg needs an economic developer so I don't see any reason to eliminate the position," said Burdick.

"Do we wish to table it for two weeks until we can come up with a date to be implemented?" asked Councilman Malm.

"I get the feeling it's not whether to eliminate or not eliminate the position, but when," said Councilman Campbell. He suggested the personnel committee, or a committee appointed by the mayor, meet to make a recommendation.

"I would say eliminating the position would take a meeting of the personnel committee to discuss that particular issue," said Councilman Tony Kauten.

"We could have a motion to eliminate the position with a date or to eliminate the position with no date, or we could have a motion to eliminate the position with the date to be determined," said Campbell.

When the possibility of tabling any action came up, Attorney Thul noted, "You could table until the next council meeting so that the personnel committee could meet to further solidify the motion. That might be the appropriate venue right now. "It's up to the council what direction you want to take."

Councilman Campbell made the motion to table eliminating or not eliminating the position of economic development director and assign it for review with the personnel committee. All councilman voted in favor.

Members of the council's personnel committee include the two with the most tenure, Councilmen Finer and Gramowski, and the two council at-large positions, Councilmen Campbell and Burdick. The personnel committee will meet Tuesday, April 30.



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