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Tiffin mired in pond issues

TIFFIN— As the public filtered into the Springmier Community Library Wednesday, June 13, it looked as though another contentious night was shaping up for the Tiffin City Council. During public comments at the May 9 regular meeting, residents around a retention pond located between the Rolling Hills and Woodfield Ridge Additions housing developments berated Mayor Steve Berner for his decision to suspend work on the pond.
But a council consensus was reached at that meeting, work resumed, and this month, it prompted kudos from the citizens who previously complained. While a few concerns remain, public works director Brett Mehmen said his crew had mowed, seeded and filled ruts. “It’s good to go,” Mehmen said.
With one pond just about finished, attention turned to two others: one related to The Villages, and one in the Deer View Estates development. City Attorney Steve Greenleaf said he proposed an amendment to the pending agreement between the city and The Villages developer, and received a response with additional changes.
“I’m not sure we’re on the same wave length yet, but we’re close,” Greenleaf said of the agreement. He was optimistic action could be taken either at the special meeting on Wednesday, June 27, or at the regular meeting in July. Councilman Jim Bartles said he wanted to be sure there’s no cost to the city in whatever changes are made. Greenleaf assured Bartles and the council he will seek a clearly-defined agreement, especially regarding possible future construction in the development that would impact storm water retention.
Regarding the Deer View Estates retention pond, Berner asked Mehmen if there were any dire needs for the city to address at this time. Mehmen said there weren’t, and that they’ve fixed the outflow for the pond and were trying to figure out how to remove a tree from the middle of the pond. There is limited access for heavy machinery, and one excavator that tried started to sink into the muck and mire of the pond.
Because of ongoing construction to U.S. Highway 6, the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) is requiring that the pond stay in place, but councilman Travis Weipert described the basin as “full of crap.” City Engineer Doug Frederick of Hart-Frederick Consultants P.C. advised the city was very limited in what it could do with the pond until all turn lanes and improvements have been made to the roadway. “For now the pond meets the requirements (for storm water management), but is a mess,” he said. While the city would prefer to put in drainage tile, the regulatory agencies have other ideas.
“You mean a farmer can tile anywhere, anytime, but the city can’t?” Bartles asked. “Correct,” Frederick replied. “It’s an eyesore, but wetlands are popular now.” His best assessment of the pond was that it’s functional.
City Administrator/Clerk Michon Jackson noted that while the pond has no urgent issues, there is at least one available lot abutting it for which the real estate listing says, “Pond, to be fixed by the city. Call and complain.”
While the pond was not acted upon, a sidewalk in the development was approved by a unanimous vote. Three-hundred feet of four-foot wide sidewalk will be laid adjacent to the pond. The cost is estimated at $5,100, which Jackson says is available in the City’s Road Use Tax money for the current fiscal year. This means the project could go forward yet this month.
“Otherwise I’ll have to jiggle something for the next fiscal year” Jackson said. The city is required to put in the sidewalk.

Public works department downsized
The Public Works Department received approval to change one full-time position to part time. Berner said the man currently holding the position hasn’t worked full-time in quite some time, and a part-time employee could easily cover the hours.
On the other hand, Mehmen told the council he would like to bump up public works employee Anthony Walls’ pay, as he will be taking on additional duties with the change. Councilman Chris Ball agreed, contingent on Walls getting a Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL) in order to be able to drive the city’s trucks. Mehmen also wanted the option of reinstating the position to full time if the need arises in the future. The motion was approved unanimously to change the position. As for Walls, upon completion of his CDL he will move to $14 per hour. The part-time position will be offered at $11.50 for up to 32 hours per week.

Donations sought for park bench
In other action, the council approved the purchase of two park benches, at $2,000 each, to go along the bike/pedestrian trail. Jackson said funds are available in the remaining fiscal year to make the purchase. Berner suggested soliciting donations to offset the cost and even offering a name plaque for a $500 minimum donation. The council approved the purchase and donations will be sought with a July 31 deadline.
The council will meet in a special session, open to the public, on Wednesday, June 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the Springmier Community Library.