By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN–Tiffin City Council members changed their minds on two long-debated items at recent city council meeting.
One will gain the city revenues, and the other will spend them.
On Feb. 12, council member Jo Kahler asked for the council to reconsider whether or not to grant permission for Verizon Wireless to rent space for a cellular antenna on top of Tiffin’s new water tower. The council voted 3-2 against the $1,800 monthly rental contract in January, citing the safety concerns of nearby residents and perturbed that nobody from the cellular company showed up at a January public hearing to answer questions.
“We received more information on the lease agreement, so it has come back to the council for consideration,” said Tiffin Mayor Steve Berner.
“What information did we get other than the fact that Verizon won’t come talk to us?” countered council member Peggy Upton.
Kahler, who originally voted against the contract along with Upton and councilor Mark Petersen, asked for the item to reappear on the council agenda this month.
“My feeling is why not the City of Tiffin take the $1,800, because if we don’t take it, someone very close will. We are going to have the tower, so I feel we should approve it,” said Kahler.
City Administrator Michon Jackson noted that the previous council paid $5,000 to wire the water tower to house cellular antennas.
“That was the intent in the original design,” said Jackson. “We paid extra so we could have income coming in.”
As per an existing contract with another cellular service provider, an antenna on the old water tower has to be moved to a new location– most likely, the new tower.
“There is already going to be an antenna up there, and the conduit was designed on the tower specifically for that use,” added Berner.
It didn’t take any further convincing for the council to unanimously approve the contract for Selective Site Services, representing Verizon Wireless, to place a new cellular antenna on the new water tower located off Jasper Avenue on Tiffin’s southeast side.
There was a bit more debate on the request from business owner Jon Schneider for an additional $7,500 in compensation for the impact to his business from the Ireland Avenue extension project.
On Feb. 12, the council and administration was convinced all the easement and right-of-way purchase agreements were final pending signatures, which would allow the city to proceed with completing the extension to run north from Railroad Street to Highway 6. The drive and parking area at Jon’s Ice Cream shop will need modifications to allow the extension, and the city council already agreed to give Schneider $150,000 to construct a retaining wall and make other necessary adjustments.
But last week on Feb. 26, the devil was in the details.
“After consulting his attorney, Jon noticed some items he felt he was not being reimbursed for,” explained Berner. “He wants another $5,000 to cover his attorney fees because the $15,000 we offered is not satisfying (the costs).” It would also help pay for future maintenance on the retaining wall. Scheinder also asked for and $2,500 in construction permit fees. The additional request totaled $7,500.
While all of the council members expressed exasperation at the new counteroffer, they were most concerned about the timeliness of the project. Ireland extension has been nearly seven years in the works. Petersen suggested the acceptance of Schneider’s counteroffer contain a deadline.
“It needs to say if this is not ready by Friday the deal is off because I’m not going to vote for it otherwise,” Petersen said.
Councilor Mike Ryan tried to keep the group focused on the outcome.
“We have to see beyond the next 10 minutes. It’s an irritation, but we need to get this street built,” said Ryan. He moved to give Schneider the additional $7,500 with the stipulation that the agreement details be finalized and in writing by Tuesday, March 4. Otherwise, the council agreed, the city would immediately begin condemnation procedures.
“We’re comfortable Jon and his attorney are ready to settle,” said Berner.
If condemnation were pursued, the price for Schneider’s property would revert back to its IDOT appraised value of $31,2200.
The council unanimously approved Ryan’s motion.