By Jerry Joerger, Charles City Councilman
First of all, welcome aboard, Mayor Dean Andrews.
We, as a council, as well as the city staff, look forward to working with you in the coming years.
At the same time, thanks to Mayor Erb for the 22 years of service you provided to Charles City. You have faced significant challenges and offered leadership to our city internally and throughout the state of Iowa.
As we now start the new calendar year, we face the annual task of putting together the budget for next fiscal year ending June 30, 2019.
In December and January our department heads are working hard with the city administrator putting together requests and forming budget figures to be reviewed.
Then in January and early February we, the council, Administrator Steven Diers and the city clerk will be finalizing the numbers.
If you, our citizens, have any immediate requests or concerns, now is the time to talk to our department heads or councilmen regarding such.
Overall, the city is in pretty good financial shape. We are well within the state guidelines with our bonding indebtedness. We are watching this closely.
While we are paying off bonds, we have projects (streets, sewers and equipment) projected that will make it necessary to issue some new bonds for waste water treatment upgrades and possibly fiber broadband, but we will strive to maintain (or improve) our financial position.
We have room to expand some, if we feel it is justified.
The city staff and council have our hands full maintaining and trying to improve our existing city operations. Then there are items “outside the box” that need our attention and observation as well.
These are always quite challenging, such as:
• WALKING PATH/ RAILROAD BRIDGE — The city inherited the vacated Charley Western railroad (including the bridge over the Cedar River) that surrounded Charles City, years ago. The city developed this into a walking path which has been a fine addition to the city’s amenities.
However, we did not ask for the bridge to collapse. We are now faced with the project of tearing down the bridge and replacing it. This is anticipated to be a very costly project. Plus, we have to get the Feds and state officials involved. Seems like we have to protect the “wood turtles”!
At this point, we are hopeful of getting the bridge torn down yet this winter and have started planning for a replacement. We are working on grants, etc., to help with the financing of this project.
The city owns a 100-foot right-of-way (ROW) adjacent to the walking trail. We are looking at the possibility of a new street on this ROW, with a bridge, that would go from South Grand Avenue, across the river, and end at Clark Street at the Comet Drive intersection. Depends on the $$$$.
With the street we are hopeful of being able to get better assisted financing, plus, this would give much shorter distance for people to go from the south to the east side of town.
Maybe we could name the Street “Wood Turtle Drive” (my joke)!
• LAW ENFORCEMENT CENTER — The county is studying the possibility of a needed jail and sheriff office facility. We (the city) originally were interested in looking at this with them, adding our police offices. However, we decided that this addition and expense would not provide enough added benefit to justify the expense.
We are still working with the county to come up with the best location for the dispatch center to be jointly operated for the city and the county. At this date, the location is in City Hall.
• MIDDLE SCHOOL 500 NORTH GRAND — This building belongs to the school system. Now with the addition of the new middle school, the building is quite under-utilized, although the school still has offices and some other specific uses of the building.
The building is a real community asset and I feel we need to keep it active in the community. We are working on ways that there can be some joint cooperative sharing to accomplish this goal. With the school, city, county, YMCA and private enterprise, something could work.
Keep the door open, and provide us with any potential workable options or suggestions you may think of.
• HIGH SPEED FIBER OPTIC NETWORK — While I am not directly involved on this committee, I understand that we are making significant progress and should have some feasible proposals coming to us in 2018. This will be a real challenge to the city to implement and should be a major benefit to our citizens and businesses. Keep your ears open.
There are many other items churning through the city all the time, but these are a few of the items that I prioritize at this point.
If you have anything specific in mind, please let me (or any of the councilmen) know. (“No. Jake!!” I don’t think that is a good idea.)
Have a very good, positive new year.