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CITY NOTES: Updates on Charles City projects and issues

Hello everyone.

Here are some updates on some projects and issues Charles City is interested in.

• Snow — Enough is enough already. Spring can’t come soon enough. Street crews are running out of locations to store snow and everywhere else is about as full as it can be. So let’s focus on spring and summer.

Right-of-way trees and trimming — The City Council has had quite a bit of discussion around the trimming of trees that are city trees in the right of way or easement in front of homes and businesses by the street. There are approximately 2,800 trees that need to be trimmed and so we’ve been discussing a way to effectively get this done.

Steven Diers
Steven Diers

City Code states that abutting property owners are responsible for the trimming of trees (15 feet on street side and 8 feet on the opposite side) but City Code also states that to do trimming in the right-of-way you must be licensed and bonded.

For many instances this is intended for tree trimming businesses that will hire out their services to trim trees, but abutting property are not exempted from this requirement currently either.

There is benefit in allowing abutting property owners to trim these trees, so soon the council will be taking action to allow abutting property owners to trim these trees by themselves. We do ask that if the tree is beyond your ability to safely trim that you contract with a licensed professional to do the work.

With the 2,800-plus trees that need to be trimmed now, it was beneficial to get quotes on this work and do it as a city project. Based on the low quote received we should be able to get all of the trees trimmed this 2019 season and plan to do so as a city expense paid by Road Use Tax funds.

For future trimming we will be inventorying one-fourth of the town each year and then notifying those abutting property owners that they will need to trim the trees as required by City Code.

Broadband fiber to the home project — Business planning and engineering is nearing completion. The late winter was a benefit for our fiber to the home project engineering. Crews were able to get all of the community mapped out to see how and where fiber and equipment would be placed.

The remainder of this phase of the project will be to finish the business plan to see how much the project will cost, and if that estimate is close to what was projected in the feasibility study that has led us this far.

Ultimately the City Council will need to make the big decision as to whether we are going forward with this project. Right now, the project is expected to cost about $11.5 million. The vast majority of these costs would be funded by revenue bonds — these bonds are paid by the revenue generated from the sales of internet, phone and tv.

Some of the next steps in this process will be determining a location for the telecom utility office and equipment as well as starting steps to appoint the telecom board.

When the citizens of Charles City voted to approve the telecom creation, it was also voted that when this is created that it be governed by a separate telecom board. Board members will be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Look for more discussion and coverage of this project over the next several months.

Charley Western Trail Bridge — Plans are moving along for replacement of the Charley Western Trail Bridge. We are looking to install a bridge that is focused on a recreation trail but has the ability to handle occasional larger vehicles and equipment during times of flood or another emergency.

Current estimate is $1.3 million, which would install the bridge and allow for some lighting and trailhead enhancements. Various grants have been applied for and approximately $280,000 has been awarded to date.

We plan on funding the bridge project with a combination of grants, hotel/motel tax funds, general obligation borrowing, local fundraising and other city funding sources. Current timeline is to let the project for bid in January 2020 with construction occurring in the 2020 season.

New sewer plant rates — As you likely have seen, sewer rates are going up by 20 percent effective with March usage, meaning you’ll see an increase on your April billing. This is for sewer only, none of the other items on the monthly bill.

I’ve put together a few different examples to show how this rate change would impact different usage levels. A fairly heavy user at 6,000 gallons per month would see an increase of $7.75 per month.

The need for this increase is based on the needs for construction of the new sewer plant which will be called a water reclamation recovery facility (WRRF).

Water reclamation recovery facility construction — We’ve been working for a couple of years on designing a facility upgrade for the Shaw Avenue Plant. There are several reasons we are building a new plant:

1) The plant is 52 years old and while it looks brand new, there have been many changes in sewage treatment over the years. We’ve upgraded to do some, but our current plant does not treat nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

These two nutrients have been identified in the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy and the reduction was listed as a requirement to meet new standards under our most recent permit issuance in 2014.

2) Handling water discharge — As many of you can remember in 2008 and actually more impactfully in 2016, our plant went offline due to over-inundation of the plant. With our project we will be building an equalization basin which will handle these heavy flows and prevent the plant from going off line.

3) Reed bed installation — The “stuff” left over from treating the wastewater is called bio-solids or sludge. Currently we store this sludge and then a couple of times a year we use our three-wheeled injector to haul sludge to area farm fields to inject the sludge into the ground.

Ground is getting increasingly difficult to find and more and more costly to haul and inject. With that we are installing reed beds.

The bio-solids will now be placed into the reed beds and the reed plants will naturally dewater the sludge and then in a couple years it will be a dry compost material that we can easily and affordably remove.

4) The new plant will also allow for more growth in the community. Our demand for additional housing and from industry is for more capacity. The new plant will better handle both flow and the loadings in the wastewater to effectively treat the water to meet IDNR requirements as usage grows.

Unfortunately, our project has seen some delays, but we are now at a better place for completing the project in a more cost-effective manner. Current timeline has the project being bid out this summer with construction starting this fall. The new plant should be online by summer of 2021 and all work completed by spring 2022.

• Garbage/recycling program and spring cleanup — We’re going to be trying to do something new this year where we are coordinating with the Charles City Press and citywide garage sales immediately followed by Spring Cleanup. That way, whatever doesn’t sell at the garage sale can go out to the curb for pickup. Would seem to be the natural progression. Look for announcements coming, but looking for the end of April into early May for these events.

• City Facebook page — CharlesCity50616 — If you haven’t already, be sure to follow and like the city of Charles City Facebook page. Is it updated for various happenings with the City.

Have a great day everyone!

— Steve