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Council considers potential parade routes

By Travis Fischer,

The Charles City Council talked parade routes, Main Street, and public comment policy during its workshop meeting on Monday, May 15.

At the meeting, the council met with Community Development Director Mark Wicks about potential Independence Day parade routes.

Due to the ongoing construction on Main Street, the annual July 4th Parade will not be able to run through its traditional route, forcing alternative ideas to be considered, none of which are ideal, officials said.

“This has been an adventure this year,” said Wicks. “There’s no easy answer for this.”

One idea is to run the parade down Clark Street, utilizing the Elks Lodge as a staging ground and ending at Brantingham Street/200th Ave. While this route will be relatively feasible, Wicks expressed concerns about limited seating and parking availability along the route, along with the impact that moving the parade away from downtown will have on attendance for the activities in Central Park.

Another route proposed would be more similar to the traditional route, starting on North Grand Avenue and running around downtown while avoiding planned construction areas. However Police Chief Hugh Anderson said that the number of officers required to close off the additional streets for the route exceeds their personnel.

“We don’t have 29 officers to safely do that,” said Anderson.

Wicks, the council, and even members of the audience contributed to an impromptu brainstorming session about ideas of where to stage floats and how to maneuver a parade around the downtown construction, but ultimately agreed that it would be up to Wicks and Anderson to find a viable plan.

“There’s going to be a parade, we just need to figure out how in the Sam Hill we’re going to do it,” said council member DeLaine Freeseman.

Speaking of Main Street, the council reviewed the first change order for the Main Street Rehabilitation Project. The change order is a value engineering proposal initiated by Heartland Asphalt, which is proposing that the asphalt portion of the project be done all at once after the concrete curbs and gutters are down, rather than in phases.

Doing so will result in a $46,000 savings for the project by reducing mobilization costs and provide a smoother surface for the finished street. However, while one-lane traffic will be able to continue as planned, this method will result in a longer concurrent period of parking interruption on Main Street, rather than multiple shorter interruptions.

The council agreed that the cost savings benefit would be worth the change.

“It’ll still be inconvenient no matter when they do it,” said council member Keith Starr.

Continuing a discussion from last year, the council met with Charles City Housing Director Katie Nolte to revisit the idea of making changes to the way the Public Housing Department relates to the city, with Nolte asking the city to allow her department more autonomy in its finances to reduce redundancies in oversight.

As it stands, the Housing Department has to abide by both federal HUD reporting regulations along with city reporting regulations, which while similar are not always easily compatible, resulting in doubling up of some accounting and auditing work, she said.

Council members Patrick Lumley and Phoebe Pittman said they would be fine with figuring out how to reduce the administrative workload for the department.

“It just seems like there’s enough checks in place,” said Pittman. “It seems there’s still clear oversight.”

Meanwhile, Starr and Freeseman wondered if it would be better to completely decouple the department from the city.

“If we’re going to do this, I’d prefer to be 100% done,” said Starr.

Starr asked City Attorney Brad Sloter to take the lead on determining what the auditing requirements are for the department and what a decoupling would entail.

In other business, Police Chief Hugh Anderson presented the council with a request to contract local attorney Ann Troge to serve as the ticket hearing officer to mediate contested tickets from the city’s new automated camera system.

As part of the ordinance for automated traffic enforcement, the city has to establish a process for an administrative hearing for contested citations. A former magistrate judge in the community, Troge would hold this hearing, likely once a month, to uphold or dismiss these citations.

In other policy discussion, the council discussed the public comment procedure for City Council meetings. City staff members have discussed updating the meeting policy regarding public comments, limiting comments to the designated public comment period at the beginning of the official meeting.

While this is a practice held by some government boards, public comments are generally left up to the discretion of the person in charge of running the meeting. In this case, Mayor Dean Andrews expressed his preference for a less strict policy, allowing community members an opportunity to comment on items throughout the course of a meeting.

“As the one that controls public comment, I would be totally opposed to that,” said Mayor Dean Andrews about the proposed restrictions. “I think we get much better public comments if we let people speak on the item at the time.”

Andrews and the council unofficially settled on continuing to allow per-topic comments during meetings, though did agree to set written limits on time and rules to ensure that comments stay on topic.

Meeting with Sarah Merrifield from ISU Extension, the council reviewed a request for a Façade grant, asking for $4,230 which would pay for half of the cost of installation for a new ADA compliant door for the Main Street-facing side of the building.

Water Superintendent Dan Rimrod also approached the council, asking to fully replace a pump at the 11th Street lift station. While the original plan had been to rebuild the pump, which has been in use since 1995 and was last rebuilt in 2008, the parts supplier has instead recommended buying an entirely new pump as the cost of rebuilding the nearly 30-year-old pump is almost half of what it would cost to buy new.

The council also reviewed the new three-year agreement to lease the Carnegie building to the Charles City Arts Council and looked at an amended contract with Dixon Engineering to hire the company for engineering services for the 2024 Water Tower Painting Project. Dixon Engineering was already contracted for design services for the project, the engineering work would be done for a fee not-to-exceed $71,120.

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