Monona Council outlines plans for 2019

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

With the $2.7 million sale of Garden View Senior Living completed last week—the culmination of the city’s extensive list of 2018 goals—mayor Lynn “Marty” Martinson and the Monona Council now have their sights set on an array of proposed city improvements and activities for 2019. 

One of the biggest projects Martinson suggested is the outsourcing of Monona’s garbage collection services. With the potential retirement of one of three city workers, he thought it might be best not to refill the position, leaving Monona with a two-man crew and around $50,000 in savings. Down the road, Martinson said the city could also save money on equipment costs, by not having to replace a garbage truck/packer.

Although some duties, like clearing the streets of snow, may take longer with a smaller team, Martinson said public works director Randy Evanson has assured him two men could handle it. A part-time position could always be filled in the summer to help with lawn mowing and other duties, he added.

“I feel it’s my responsibility to look at places we can save money,” Martinson told the council at a meeting Jan. 7. “We have an opportunity to look at this. I know you’ve looked at it before, and it looked pretty good.”

Monona is one of few cities still responsible for its own garbage collection, Martinson noted. And while the service generates around $200,000 in revenue for the city each year, and the operating fund is currently $6,000 to $7,000 in the black, city administrator Dan Canton said equipment repairs, paired with operating and landfill fees, haven’t allowed the city to sock away enough money for a new truck.

The money that’s already been saved, said Martinson, could go toward other equipment. The truck and packer, along with the dumpsters, the city already owns still have some value and could be sold.

On a vote of 4-1, the council agreed to seek proposals for residential garbage collection. Dan Havlicek, Andrew Meyer, Heather Lange and Preston Landt voted in favor of the idea, while Doug Bachman voted “no.”

Paired with this discussion was a review of Monona’s current lawn mowing situation regarding city parks and other city-owned parcels. The city’s mowing contractor recently cancelled the contract, prompting the city to consider whether to seek a new contractor or purchase a new mower and hire someone part-time to complete the task.

Council members seemed to favor purchasing a mower and hiring an individual, but agreed to bring mower costs, as well as bids for mowing services, to an upcoming meeting to compare the two options.

Another large project Martinson brought up was the removal of Monona’s vintage water tower.

“Every year, it deteriorates, and it’s getting to the point where it could be a hazard. It has to be torn down someday,” he said. “The theory is to take care of things we haven’t had the money to do.”

With proceeds from the Garden View sale, the city now has some money, he added.

Canton said the project won’t be easy, based on the water tower’s location. There are overhead wires, and it’s near the railroad right of way. The water tower is 110 feet tall and weighs 28 tons.

“It’s a dangerous deal,” he shared, and the contractor must have “the ability to do it without wrecking a bunch of stuff.”

The council agreed to research potential companies the city could get bids from for the project.

Moving across town, Martinson offered ideas for improvements at Gateway Park: constructing bathrooms and upgrading the RV campground site with water and sewer. He’d like to see the improvements completed this summer, and suggested a committee be formed to develop plans.

Martinson said this project, along with the community visioning committee’s plans to build a playground at the park, will hopefully aid the city’s efforts to receive another REAP grant for continuation of the Butterfly Trail from Gateway Park to Spruce Street.

Some other projects Monona hopes to tackle this year include replacing 10 old fire hydrants with new hydrants, replacing the community center roof shingles and removing the city-owned former Interstate Power Co. building on North Page Street and creating cold storage space in that location.

Fundraising activities can begin for Gateway Park playground equipment

At Monday’s meeting, the council approved a resolution authorizing the visioning committee to initiate fundraising activity for the proposed purchase of playground equipment for Gateway Park. The formal resolution shows the city’s support of the project and is often a requirement when applying for grants. Although no official designs or pieces of equipment have been selected yet, visioning committee members—at the last council meeting—anticipated project costs to range from $25,000 to $30,000.

City property is back on the market

An offer for the city-owned property at 605 S. Main St. has fallen through, prompting the city to reconsider its options for the space. 

“The city’s options are to do nothing, do something on our own or advertise it for sale and allow someone to fix up that building,” Canton said.

The city originally asked prospective buyers to tear down the existing structure on the property and provide plans for development of the site, which is currently zoned residential, but could potentially be zoned commercial. 

Now, though, the council is open to a buyer rehabbing the structure, as long as a clear plan is outlined and the project is done well.

“They can buy it and tear it down or buy it and clean it up to code,” Martinson said. “We should get it back on the market with the right language.”

Canton said he would bring an updated purchase agreement for the council to consider at the next meeting. 

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