New city administrator appointed

Jessica Kinser of Clinton is Marshalltown’s new city administrator.

Kinser was formally approved by a 6-1 vote at Monday’s city council meeting.

Voting no was first ward councilor Bob Schubert.

He has voted no on other city manager appointments over the years.

Schubert’s objections are not against the appointee, but believing funds allocated for city administrator salary and benefits could be more effectively used in other ways to support department heads.

The Marshalltown city administrator salary range posted in advertisements was $125,000 to $150,000.

Kinser is also eligible to receive certain benefits alloted to other non-union city employees, such as insurance.

She succeeds former city administrator Randy Wetmore, who resigned in mid-July to take a similar position in Statesboro, Ga.

“I would say it is rare for us to have so many agree on something like this,” said second ward councilor Joel Greer.

“That is why we wanted to speed up the (hiring) process. I expect good things from this person (Kinser).

Storm sewer rate ordinance debated

Marshalltown storm sewer users may know Oct. 10 if their rates are going up.

At Monday’s meeting, the council voted 6-1 to put the item on the agenda for the Oct. 10 regular meeting.

At-large councilor Leon Lamer voted no.

He said he had not received an answer to a question about the proposed rate increase.

Marshalltown Public Works Director Justin Nickel said he would provide the information.

Nickel was following up a presentation from the Sept. 12 meeting, where he and Senior Environmental Engineer Deb Mathias of Stanley Consulting of Muscatine, said the council needed to bolster its reserves to pay for storm sewer related equipment, debt service, anticipated expenses and other costs, or significantly begin dipping into reserves.

Mathias said the storm water rate reserve would be solvent until 2019, then it would be depleted

It was her second presentation about the pressing issue in several months.

However, at the Sept. 12 meeting, a proposed ordinance to amend the rate structure and storm water rate, first reading, was tabled by a 5-2 vote after lengthy discussion.

At the Sept. 12 meeting, Nickel suggested the council increase rates for one year to help bolster the reserve fund, and then study the matter more.

However, the council did not follow his recommendation.

At issue are the amounts paid by residential and agricultural users.

Based on comments from the Sept. 12 meeting, Mathias had put together a new rate scheduled that took into account some questions and concerns from the council.

On Monday, at-large councilor Bill Martin, and third ward councilor Mike Gowdy, said they had serious concerns about implementing another increase in user fees.

But with reserves being depleted, they indicated they might consider an increase.

Fourth ward councilor Al Hoop said the state was forcing mandates on the city without providing funding mechanisms.

Nickel said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Administration want Marshalltown to increase the height of its levees along the Iowa River, from a couple of inches to two feet in some places to hold back floods.

That project could require $5 to $7 million dollars.

“Maybe you ought to tell the Corps of Engineers to go home,” said Lamer.

Said Nickel: “I am not sure that conversation would go over so well.”

Nickel again asked the council to approve a one-year rate adjustment to strengthen the reserves, which would allow dredging of the settling ponds along 6th Street, as well as improvements scheduled for Marion and Swayze streets.

“Those projects would likely be postponed until we worked out another revenue stream,” said Nickel.

Supporting Nickel was interim city administrator Mark Stevens.

Martin said the council and public works department had done a lot over the years to remedy storm water run off problems.

“It has not been cheap, and I know more needs to be done,” he said. “Our problem is our revenue meeting our expenses, we are cutting back on expenses and amortizing them out. Regrettably we are looking at a rate increase.”

Third ward councilor Gowdy, as he did at the Sept. 12 meeting, expressed strong regret about going to the public for a rate increase.

“As much as I have studied this, and I know we are financial stress, I would support this up to a point to get this fund built up,’ he said. “But after that point, we should study the projects we do. Every time we do this, we have to ask the public for more money.”

Closed session

The city council voted unanimously to enter into a closed session pursuant to the Code of Iowa, concerning strategy meetings of the public employer for collective bargaining purposes with union employees. The city has an attorney-client relationship with Michael Galloway, Ahlers & Cooney, PC, pursuant to an engagement letter of July 1, 2011.

The next regular meeting of the city council is 5:30 p.m., Oct. 10, in council chambers, Carnegie Building, 10 W. S. State St. For more information, contact 641-754-5701, or visit ci.marshalltown.ia.us.

Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com.