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Council approves purchase of equipment for home livability pilot project

By James Grob,

Older residents living in about 13 homes in Charles City will be a part of a test project to see if modern technology can make those homes livable for a longer period of time.

At Tuesday’s Charles City Council meeting, members unanimously approved a $100,000 purchase — which will be reimbursed — of Smart Home Pilot Project equipment from Teltex Inc. as part of a nationwide in-home livability project for seniors.

“When we were nominated and became the AARP’s first age-friendly community in rural Iowa, we wondered what some of the things were that we would get out of this,” said City Administrator Steve Diers. “This is one of them.”

Diers explained that recently AARP was approached by Apple Computer about doing a pilot project that consisted of working with a selected community to implement their “SmartHome” project. The concept of the project is to provide in-home devices that would help monitor and communicate with older age homeowners to help keep them safe and effectively living in their own home longer.

“It sounds like it’s going to be a pretty neat thing,” Diers said. “Charles City will gain additional service to some of its citizens who otherwise would not be able to stay in their homes. Ultimately, we might get some regional and national recognition as this moves forward.”

AARP contacted Charles City about being the pilot community, and together with Teltex, Apple and funding through the state of Iowa, the city will receive a grant of $100,000 to go toward purchase of the equipment.

“Since we are an age-friendly community, they thought that Charles City would be a good match for this,” Diers said.

Additionally, the Area Agencies on Aging (Elderbridge) are working on identifying who the recipients will be. Once identified, Teltex will arrive in Charles City to install the equipment.

The $100,000 grant provides for service to be offered for three years, after which time the homeowner can choose to continue the service for the respective fee.

“People want to live in their homes for as long as they can, and this project can help facilitate that,” Diers said.

Likely about 13 homes in the community would be set up at that price. There are three different service levels at three different costs for the homeowners to choose from, so the total number of participants could be higher or lower, depending on which service levels people choose.

Diers said he doesn’t know the timeline as to exactly when Charles City will be compensated the $100,000, but he was certain the community would be.

In other action Tuesday, the council approved the Charles City Public Library’s permanent story walk, which will be located in Whitewater Park on the upper portion of the trail. Angled aluminum posts will be anchored into small 2-foot-by-2-foot cement pads, spaced 20 feet apart.

The story walk is a permanent display for the library’s book walk, which the library has been presenting on the trail for years. A book is dismembered and presented page by page along the trail. The library has raised money through grants and private donations to complete the project.

The council also approved a resolution approving final plans and awarding contract and bond for for the Charles City Housing and Redevelopment Authority (CCHRA) NCT Electrical Project, specifically electrical, security camera and lighting upgrades to North Cedar Terrace.

The existing switchgear for the entire complex will be removed and three new transformers will be installed along with new secondary wiring housed in conduit to each of the 14 buildings at North Cedar. The exterior site lighting will also be improved for safety and security purposes.

One bid was received for the project, from Stanton electric of New Hampton, in the amount of $471,918. The project is budgeted to utilize 2020 and 2021 capital funds. Should the project exceed the capital funds available, operating reserve funds will be used to cover the remaining costs.

In other business on Tuesday, the council:
— Approved a request by Tellurian Brewery to close the alley behind the establishment on Saturday, Sept. 18, from 9 a.m. to midnight, as a place to park food trucks during the business’ Chucktoberfest celebration.
— Approved the reappointment of Bev Foxen to the Board Of Adjustment.
— Approved the reappointment of Chuck LeMaster to the Planning And Zoning Commission.
— Approved a proclamation for the 125th Anniversary for Immaculate Conception School, to be celebrated next week.
— Approved a proclamation for Charles City Peace Day, to be Sept. 21.
— Approved a proclamation for Charles City Clean Up Day, to be Sept.18.

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