Jeff council hears insurance rates, okays new rules for city facilities

~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

A hidden cost in trash collection – one the city of Jefferson hopes to minimize going forward – was brought forward at the Jefferson city council’s March 10 meeting by Jim Unger, the city’s property, liability and workers compensation insurance agent.

Unger provided the council with renewal information. The premium will increase from $185,862 to $210,603, or 11.75 percent, effective for the April 1 renewal. According to Unger, the increase in premium is due to a 4.1 percent increase in property values and to worker compensation claims over the past year. “Over the past 10 years, there have been five serious injuries,” Unger said. “Four were in sanitation. Three of those would not have occurred with the current equipment.”

The city last autumn put into use a new automated trash collection truck for the regular residential garbage routes. Unger said manually picking up waste had increased the possibility for injury. He suggested changes to the manual spring/fall cleanup could further reduce the possibility of injury.

The city also received a dividend check from the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities for $20,767.29. This is about 11 percent of the premium paid last year. Unger explained Jefferson is part of this association which pools premiums and losses and the difference each year is divided among the members.

The council unanimously approved renewal of the city insurance policy with Unger Insurance, Ltd.

The council also unanimously approved a facility use policy to “ensure city facilities are safe and welcoming and provide equitable access to materials and services for all facility users.” The policy covers all city owned property including Greene County Community Center, swimming pool, municipal golf course, public library, municipal center, and city parks.

The policy speaks mainly to conduct that can cause a staff member to bar individuals from using a facility. These include crimes, possessing weapons or alcohol or controlled substances, threats, trespassing, not following reasonable directions of staff, sexual activities, and harassing activity such as stalking or prolonged staring. Such activities can lead to the individual being barred from the facility.

The policy also includes a procedure for appeal to the city council if a staff member has banned an individual and that individual believes it to be unfair. The ban must be in writing, delivered personally or by mail, and the appeal must be in writing to the city council within 20 days of the individual receiving written notice of the ban.

A hearing conducted by the mayor will be scheduled within 30 days. Attorneys may be engaged and witnesses called. The proceeding can be recorded. Within 30 days of the hearing, the council will issue a written decision. This decision may be appealed to district court.

According to the policy, a banned individual “shall be considered to be trespassing under the Iowa Criminal Code” if he does not comply with the ban during the appeal stages. Theoretically, a banned individual might not have access to a banned city site for 80 days during the appeal process. There is no remedy within the policy if the city council reverses the ban on the individual. The individual would have been deprived of access for 80 days regardless.

The policy is available from the city clerk for the public to read. Since it is a policy and not an ordinance, no additional readings or public hearing were necessary before the city council voted to approve it.

In other business, Jaime Daubendiek spoke about the merger of the Chamber and Jefferson Matters: Main Street. Daubendiek said the merger will eliminate duplication, make use of resources more efficient, make less confusion with the public over which entity does what, and can become a marketing arm.

Daubendiek said a name has not been chosen for the new entity but “we will probably move to the Welcome Center.” Because of grants issued to Jefferson Matters: Main Street and networking established by them, the new entity will want to continue these connections. According to Daubendiek, in response to inquiry by GreeneCountyNewsOnline, the new name might have to be in some way reflective of Main Street in order to maintain the connections already established.

Council member Dave Sloan said he saw “a lot of duplication. This will save money.”

Diane Kennedy swearing in Patrick Zmolek as council member

Council member Harry Ahrenholtz said, “Both organizations have reserves in account. This (merger) is in a great place to start.” Members of the council agreed both entities are strong financially and one director could combine strengths into an effective new entity.

Patrick Zmolek was sworn in as council member by city clerk Diane Kennedy at the start of the meeting. Zmolek won the seat by special election last week to fill the vacancy when council member Matt Gordon was elected mayor of Jefferson.

Melody Larsen

Melody Larsen was introduced to the council, which then unanimously approved her for employment as accounting clerk and administrative assistant when Diane Kennedy retires later this month. Larsen will be paid $40,000 per year. Roxanne Gorsuch will move up to the city clerk position.

During open forum, resident Mark Lane spoke out about taxes. “Spending is out of control in this community,” he said. “How can you spend money when you’ve run out?” Lane is opposed to raising taxes.

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