Tied vote results in failure to appoint interim city administrator

The Bloomfield City Council approved a release and severance agreement with City Administrator Gary Boden at its Aug. 10 meeting.

Boden accepted a position with the city of Waukon in July, but had planned to fulfill his employment agreement by working for the city of Bloomfield until Sept. 20. However, the Bloomfield City Council at a special meeting on July 30 suggested a smoother transition could be made by allowing Boden to leave early.

The release and severance agreement was approved on a 3-1 council vote with Councilmen Darin Garrett, Jack Woolard, and Matt Cronin voting yes and Earl Howard voting no. (Scott Moore was absent.)

Boden’s last day of work was Aug. 9.

The agreement negotiated by City Attorney Gayla Harrison allows Boden to receive his regular salary through Sept. 22 in biweekly payments of $3,601.38 minus deductions. Boden will also be paid for five weeks and 1.5 days of accrued vacation and 50% of his unused sick leave. The city will provide health insurance coverage through Sept. 30.

The next item on the agenda was the appointment of an interim city administrator. Garrett moved to appoint Mayor Dan Wiegand to the interim position until someone could be hired. Garrett and Cronin voted yes; Howard and Woolard voted no. The tied vote resulted in someone asking, “What now?” as the council faced the dilemma of how to proceed.

The Mayor announced there was no way to continue the meeting and did not address the remaining items on the agenda: consider and discuss other interim positions; consider and discuss temporary job duties and compensation for interim positions and office staff.

Nor were the closed sessions scheduled for the end of the meeting held: 1. To discuss strategy with counsel in matters that are presently in litigation; 2. To evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring, performance, or discharge is being considered.  

The council discussed the wastewater treatment project with Matt Wildman of the HR Green Company at the beginning of the meeting. Wildman said the company hopes to get a CDBG grant for the project in December of 2019 and go to bid in January. “The cost now is coming in at $6.5 million,” he said.

The completion date for the project is set for October of 2021.

Wildman said the debt load for the project is more than the city can handle, and about $2 million will need to be paid over a 20-year period.

Once that has been paid off in 2042, he suggested the city begin working to correct SSOs (Sanitary Sewer Overflows) by starting to eliminate extraneous flows of stormwater into the system.

“When it rains, there is lots of inflow into the system,” he said. “Perhaps then the city could set up a program to replace laterals for a fee. It would benefit the whole community to start working on this.”

Wildman said on an average dry day, Bloomfield’s sanitary sewer system  handles about 350,000 gallons. Up to 2.5 million gallons of water flow through the system on a rainy day.

Wildman assured Cronin the plant’s design allows for community growth.

The council approved a resolution authorizing the filing of a Sponsored Project Application with the IDNR and the IFA State Revolving Loan fund. If approved, this application would allow 10% of a construction loan (for the treatment plant) to go for a sponsored project — for example, a water quality project — which would reduce interest costs.

Following a discussion led by Heidi Kuhl of Northland Securities, the council approved a 50/50 increase on sewer rates. This means 50% of the increase would be based on the minimum 3,000 gallons billed and the other 50% of the increase would be based on the usage rate.

The rate increase, which is being implemented in the next round of utility statements, results in a $44.97 base rate (as opposed to the previous rate of $36) and a usage rate of $10.32 for each additional 1,000 gallons. (The previous usage rate was $8 for each additional 1,000 gallons.)

Larry Stevens of HR Green company discussed the proposed 2019-2020 street improvements plan with the council and suggested doing full reconstruction on certain streets and asphalt overlays on others to stretch the funding.

North Madison Street from the intersection with Short Street to the north would be fully reconstructed as would two blocks of North Street from the intersection with Highway 63 west to Columbia Street.

Portions of East Street, North Street, Arkansas Ave., Southview, Crestview, Walnut and Chestnut Streets would receive asphalt overlays.

The council approved a pavement management plan with HR Green, allowing the company to assess street conditions and develop a plan for restoration, maintenance and preservation.

DPW Danny Simonson spoke with the council about the change in plans to eliminate the installation of a culvert on South East Street and construct a bridge instead. He said when Shive-Hattery Architects designed the culvert, they didn’t know the sewer was as high as it is.

Wiegand complained about the cost of $18,000 in design fees charged by Shive-Hattery. Simonson said Shive-Hattery has been paid and the city would have to go to “Shive” if they wanted to take legal action.

An HR Green representative also discussed a sidewalk ordinance with the council that required “curb tops to be level with the centerline of the street, which shall be the established grade.”

The representative suggested deleting that statement in the  ordinance prior to planning sidewalk construction around the square. The company representative also suggested not “piece-mealing sidewalks in.”

Simonson suggested two-inch conduit for future lighting needs be placed under any sidewalks that are constructed.

Craig and Jackie Amstutz were at the meeting to hear the council approve a 75% reduction of their tax increment (approximately $2,800 per year) for 10 years for Essential Massage. The council indicated they were not yet prepared to move forward with the utility portion of the business incentive plan.

As the meeting came to an end, Boden expressed his thanks to the staff and citizens of Bloomfield.

Aug. 16 is Ball’s last day of employment with the city and he said, “I want to thank all of you for the opportunity I’ve had here. This has been life-changing for me and I’ve enjoyed working with all of you.”