Jeff council moves forward with trails project

Congratulates longtime city clerk Diane Kennedy on her retirement

The Jefferson city council conducted “business as usual”, sort of, at its regular meeting March 24. The meeting was held via mayor Matt Gordon’s Zoom account. He, council member Harry Ahrenholtz, and city staff Mike Palmer, Diane Kennedy, Roxanne Gorsuch and Nick Sorensen were present in the council chambers. Council members Dave Sloan, Matt Wetrich, Darren Jackson and Pat Zmolek, city engineer Jim Leiding, and city attorney Bob Schwarzkopf attended via Zoom.

Three members of the media and three other members of the public attended the meeting electronically.

Wetrich served informally as tech master. It took the first 20 minutes of the meeting to get the system working optimally so conversation at the council table could be heard easily by those not there in person.

With groups of more than 10 people now illegal, most public meetings are held via electronic means. This is what “attending” the Jefferson city council’s March 24 meeting looked like for GCNO publisher Tori Riley.

The meeting began with a public hearing on an amendment to the city’s urban renewal plan to add to the urban renewal area Block 33, Original Town of Jefferson (the block that includes Jefferson Telecom and the Elks lodge). With no one from the public present, no one spoke. Even when there is attendance at a meeting, public hearings are often silent.

The council approved a resolution enacting the change.

Consideration of a resolution to award a contract for the roof project at 100 E. State St was tabled. City administrator Mike Palmer explained the only bid received was for $217,370, but the city’s urban renewal plan sets a limit of $150,000 on expenditures for any one building. Palmer suggested the city council can amend the urban renewal plan with a limit of $250,000 or $300,000. If the plan is changed, it would increase the spending limit on every city project in the urban renewal area.

Changing the urban renewal plan will be on the April 14 agenda.

The council approved a contract with Tyler Technologies to provide online payment of city water/services bills, something Palmer said had been on the staff’s “wish list” for several years.

Tyler already provides technology services to the city. With the contract, Tyler will provide the needed software for online bill pay. The three-year contract is for $1,200 per year. Tyler waived the set-up fee.

The council set April 14 at 5:30 pm for the required public hearing on the 2020-21 budget. The hearing was originally set for a special meeting March 31, but the city’s official newspaper, The Jefferson Herald, failed to publish the legal notice of public hearing for that date.

Cities usually must certify their budget to the state by April 1. City clerk Diane Kennedy explained the deadline has been extended this year to April 30 due to disruption caused by COVID-19. “It’s a good thing our budget (deadlines) were extended because if they hadn’t been, I don’t know what we could have done,” Kennedy said.

The council set April 28 as the date for a public hearing on plans, specifications, form of contract and estimate of cost for a large project improving the city’s shared use paths.

Locations in the project include:
• Daubendiek Park – Reconstruction of the existing hot mix asphalt (HMA) trail to a 10-ft wide Portland cement concrete (PCC) trail. Estimated cost $350,000;
• S. Elm/Greenewood Road – Construction of a 10-ft wide PCC trail from Ram Drive south on the east side of S. Elm St to Grauer St, then crossing Elm and continuing on the west side to Greenewood Rd. Estimated cost $350,000;
• E. Lincoln Way – Construction of an 8-ft wide PCC trail from the Raccoon River Valley Trail head east along the south side of Lincoln Way to the cemetery entrance, and the construction of curb and gutter greenspaces along the north side of E. Lincoln Way in the same area. Estimated cost $400,000;
• W. Central Ave – Construction of an 8-ft wide PCC trail along the south side of Central Ave from N. Elm St to the west side of Walnut St, and leaving connection to a future trail built by the Greene County school district to the new school campus. Estimated cost $243,000.

Funds for the  project were included in the June 2019 bond issue.

Mayor Gordon made annual appointments, appointing Diane Kennedy as city clerk, Bob Schwarzkopf as city attorney, Jim Leiding as city engineer, and council members Jackson and Wetrich as members of the Jefferson park and recreation board.

The council then approved the appointment of Roxanne Gorsuch as city clerk effective April 1. Her starting annual salary will be $47,264.

During the reports portion of the meeting, Palmer reported that staff a city hall, the community center and the library are “holed up inside, getting caught up.” Those facilities are closed to the public by Gov Kim Reynolds’ declaration of a public health disaster.

Palmer said the staff has put “a hold” on any new applications for hotel/motel tax funds. He said the city expects a decrease in revenue from the hotel/motel tax and a decrease in Local Option Sales and Service Tax (LOSST) revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also during the reports, council member Sloan asked about staffing for the city water treatment and wastewater treatment plans should staff be infected with COVID-19. Palmer answered that public works director Dave Morlan has seen to having several employees cross-trained in city facilities. “He (Morlan) feels pretty comfortable that we’re covered with all the people he has cross-trained,” Palmer said.

Diane Kennedy

Just before closing the meeting, Palmer congratulated Diane Kennedy on her upcoming retirement and presented her with a plaque noting her 40 years of service to the city.

Palmer noted that through good times and difficult personal times, “her Number 1 priority was always the city.” He and former mayor Craig Berry both called her a “hawk on the budget.”

Berry, who had sent along written comments, thanked Kennedy for being “a team player,” and “always doing what the council directed her to do, even when she didn’t agree with it.”

Council member Ahrenholtz referred to her as “an icon, a dedicated public servant.”

Gorsuch, who was appointed assistant city clerk a year ago in anticipation of Kennedy’s retirement, explained she has learned Kennedy is caring, dedicated, knowledgeable and patient. She said she knows Kennedy loved her job, but told her, “Tis time for you to go and do what you love in a different way.”

“I’m going to miss the citizens coming in, the nice things they say and the smiles they have,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been very proud to be an employee of the city these 40 years.”

She said that after working at city hall – a public building – for 40 years, “it seems so odd that my last day the building will be closed to the public.”

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