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Council forgives portion of sod watering bill

Former council member questions use of impact fee

SOLON– A brief agenda belied the diverse topics discussed by the Solon City Council at their regular meeting on Aug. 6.
Council heard comments from a former city council member on two topics, they forgave a sewer bill for a developer watering sod on newly-built homes, and the fire chief reported that Dennis Hansen has retired from firefighting.
Former city council member Kevin Samek addressed council during the citizen’s speak segment of the meeting.
“I’m a little concerned about the north sewer trunk,” said Samek.
Council previously indicated the city could not move forward with the north trunk sewer line at this time because of budget constraints. They were negotiating an agreement for a temporary lift station to accommodate an expansion of the Windmill Estates subdivision for developer John Schmidt and his partners.
“I was on the council at the time (Schmidt) submitted that plat. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that he was paying $3,000 a lot for impact fees, somewhere around $147,000, and the impact fees that he was paying were strictly designated to sewer and water.”
“I guess my question is, where is that $147,000?” asked Samek. “We’re looking at $100,000 for the sewer line. I guess I had some concerns. The man has lived up to what the council at that time had wanted him to do. And now I’m a little upset that the city is coming back and wanting him to pay more money or come up with some agreement.”
Samek also complimented the renovation of Main Street. “It put Solon up a couple of notches,” he said.
He noted that people have trouble backing out of the diagonal parking spaces, and suggested a lower speed limit on Main Street. He also described speed bumps used at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, offering a suggestion that council members review them as a potential solution for Main Street’s new parking design.
Council had no response to Samek’s comments.
Council forgave a sewer bill for developer Kevin Kidwell, potentially setting a precedent on how an ordinance pertaining to new construction will be enforced as contractors install and water new sod before owners move into a property.
Kidwell has not sold four of his newly-constructed properties on Windflower Lane, and installed and watered new sod. He used 229,000 gallons of water in an eight-day period, according to Public Works Director Scott Kleppe, generating a substantial bill.
In 2012, the city established a policy which allowed new homeowners a one-time forgiveness of sewer charges related to watering of new sod, but the measure excludes developers.
“This policy shall not apply to a developer/builder who does not intend to live in the house located on the premises,” the policy states.
“I believe the council’s goal was to address the cost associated with watering the sod,” said City Administrator Cami Rasmussen. “That’s the situation that we have here. Unfortunately it’s four properties, four meters, so it’s a very pricey bill. We’re outside of any policy that we have on paper.”
After discussion, council approved a motion to forgive the sewer portion of the bill through Aug. 6 by a 3-2 vote with councilors Mark Krall and Steve Duncan voting no.
In a report to the council, Fire Chief Bob Siddell reported that Dennis Hansen had retired on Monday, Aug. 4, after 34 years of volunteering on the Tri-Township Fire Department. Hansen also retired from his job as a firefighter in Iowa City this month.
“Denny is going to truly be missed– his experience and his training are second to none.” Siddell said a party would be planned for Hansen this fall.
In other fire department news, Siddell reported 204 calls since Jan. 1, which he characterized as an average amount.
He also mentioned that the firefighters benevolent association, a 501 (c) (3) organization, is going through a financial audit based on an anonymous request to the state auditor’s office. Siddell indicated the department has been complying with auditor requests for information. A ruling on the audit is expected this fall.
The Volga fire department has offered to purchase the Tri-Township Fire Department’s tanker truck when the new one arrives in March 2015.
Siddell indicated plans for an addition to the fire station building were in a holding pattern.
“We’ll probably start talking about that at budget time,” said Mayor Steve Stange. “We’ll need to get it on our capital improvements plan. We’re working on that as part of our TIF recommendations or request.”
“That’ll be a lengthy process,” Stange added. “We’ll start talking about that in January as far as a time line.”
In other business, council approved $2,500 for extending Jordan Creek flood modeling for a flood risk project initiated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They also approved a cigarette permit and liquor license for the new Casey’s General Store, and an event application for the Spartan Fund Run on Sept. 20.
Council directed Rasmussen to draft ballot language for the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) vote in the Nov. 4 general election. Council will seek to use any revenue generated by LOST to help meet infrastructure needs. The ballot language is due to the auditor by Aug. 27.
The next meeting of the council will be held Wednesday, Aug. 20, at 5:30 p.m. at city hall. The meeting will be held jointly with the Johnson County Board of Supervisors and is to be followed by an open house for the new city hall beginning at 7 p.m. Council meetings are open to the public.