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Council passes resolution to create telecom board of trustees

By Kelly Terpstra, kterpstra@charlescitypress.com

Charles City residents went to the polls 14 years ago and approved a referendum that gave the city authority to establish a telecommunications utility, including a board of trustees to oversee the operation.

On Monday, that board became a reality.

“This is the official resolution that really takes a firm step forward in the fiber-to-the-home project,” said City Administrator Steve Diers.

With the 5-0 vote on Monday to approve the creation of the five-person board, the City Council placed one of the final pieces of the $15 million broadband puzzle into place.

Now the next step will be to transition from the design/engineering phase into complete build mode. It may make take as long as 18 months to lay fiber in the ground and offer any combination of internet, television and telephone services to every Charles City resident or business that wants them.

The board of trustees will establish by-laws, rules, ordinances and resolutions as needed to become an operating body. The city, along with the Broadband Commission, will continue to assist the utility board for the foreseeable future.

Members of the telecom’s board of trustees are Cheryl Erb, Dick Herbrechtsmeyer, Lydia Johnson, Jeff Marty and Danny Wilson Jr. Erb, Marty and Wilson Jr. are also members of the Broadband Commission.

The board members were appointed by Mayor Dean Andrews. Terms on the board will be for six years, but will be staggered initially to avoid electing an entire board in any single year.

Erb’s initial term will expire Dec. 31, 2021. Herbrechtsmeyer’s term will expire at the end of 2022, Johnson’s in 2023, Marty’s in 2024 and Wilson’s in 2025.

Last week Monday at a special meeting, the council also passed a resolution to approve a $2,000 option to purchase property at 808 North Main, currently the location of Cal’s Auto Repair. The city plans to use that property for the telecom’s “nerve center” and/or office headquarters.

Also at the meeting Monday evening, a motion was passed unanimously by council members to not proceed with a petition that was presented to the city by three residents of 195th Street to begin the process of de-annexation from Charles City.

The petition states the city is incapable of providing city services such as water, sewer and snow removal to the properties owned by Samuel and Julie Offerman, Shirley Keiser and Casey Mallory, and asks that they be taken off city property tax rolls.

The city referenced a prior court ruling that determined avoiding municipal taxes is not enough reason for de-annexation.

“Aside from not having water service out there, we feel they’re receiving all the other city services,” said Diers. “From a staff level we don’t know that de-annexation is the right way forward.”

“It’d be our opinion that if council denied the petition it’d be on firm legal ground to do that. You’re not required to provide every city service to every property,” said City Attorney Brad Sloter. “We were looking for some direction from council tonight, so this will be back on the agenda with a formal resolution at the next council meeting.”

According to city code, new wells are allowed to be used by those in the city limits who are not within 200 feet of the city water system.

“This motion was not to proceed with further investigation of the options,” said Mayor Andrews. “We still have work to do as far as looking at the Maple Heights agreement and the potential of providing water to that area at some point in the future.”

Council members approved a resolution that allowed the issuance of an amount not to exceed $2.5 million in TIF revenue bonds that will go toward funding the purchase of the Avenue of the Saints Development Park. The city also approved an amendment to the South Grand Urban Renewal area to include the state-certified site project.

The industrial park is located on South Grand Avenue and the Charles City Area Development Corporation will maintain, market and attempt to sell the property after receiving $2.156 million from the city to be able to purchase it.

The site was certified last month and represents just over 75 acres that could be prime real estate for an industrial park that could potentially provide hundreds of jobs for the Charles City area.

The Charles City Police Department also welcomed a new officer onto the force as Jordan Smith was sworn in by Mayor Andrews in the council chambers at the start of the meeting.

Also at the meeting:

• The preliminary plans and specifications for the 2020 Sanitary Sewer Lining project were approved after a resolution was passed. Jan. 14, 2020, was set as the bid date and Jan. 20, 2020, was set as the time for the hearing on the final plans, specifications and form of contract.

The project will use trenchless technology to rebuild almost 10,000 lineal feet of sanitary sewer lines on Clinton, Cedar, South Jackson Street, as well as Highway 18 from Clark to J Street.

• A recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission to amend an ordinance regarding the placement of accessory structures on lots without principal structures inside the city limits was approved for a second reading. The current zoning ordinance does not allow accessory structures to be built on a lot without a principal structure.

The ordinance change would allow accessory structures such as a garage to be constructed on an empty lot if the lot is adjacent to the owner’s principal residence.

• A change order for work in the amount of $12,000 and an increase in cost of $4,000 for the Clark Street Trail Project was accepted by the city. The total cost of the project was $118,000 and the city will be responsible for 20 percent of that cost or $23,000 after reimbursement from federal funding.

• A first reading was approved and a public hearing date of Jan. 6 was set to vacate a portion of the alley in block 1 of the Bartz Addition.

The next council meeting will be a planning session at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11.

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