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City councilor ‘I think the city is spending too much money right now’

In response to borrowing proposal

T-R FILE PHOTO The local 12th Avenue railroad crossing would be used as a model to reconstruct other railroad crossings in Marshalltown should the city council move ahead with borrowing a not to exceed amount of $600,000 to replace existing crossing gates in establishing quiet zones.

Fourth ward councilor Al Hoop said “I think the city is spending too much money right now,” at Monday night’s regular city council meeting. “I think we need to slow down.”

Hoop was specifically referring to a resolution to fix a date for public hearings on loan agreements in a principal amount not to exceed $9,730,000.

Of that amount, $8,830,000 is proposed for constructing improvements to streets, sidewalks, storm sewers and municipal parks; replacing the Timber Creek bridge; and more.

Also to be borrowed is a maximum of $300,000 for entering a cooperative agreement with the Marshalltown Community School District. The money will be used to pay a portion of the tennis courts construction on property next to Marshalltown High School.

In addition, a maximum amount of $600,000 will be borrowed for the purpose of paying a portion of Union Pacific Railroad project costs. The project will reconstruct certain railroad street crossings and replace existing crossing gates to establish Quiet Zone.

Hoop’s comments were preceded by those of at-large councilor Leon Lamer.

“All of the projects have merit,” Lamer said. “There are a few that are ‘so-so.'”

Lamer said he believed the borrowing would put the city at a self-imposed borrowing limit.

“I don’t think all of these need to be done this year,” Lamer said. “I want to make sure we get all of the tornado-related work done and get the downtown going as it should be. I am going to be voting no. If we need $1 million to help somebody downtown I want to be able to go out and get it. And if we do this project we can’t do that.”

However, City Administrator Jessica Kinser clarified that remark, saying the city would only be at its borrowing limit from now to Dec. 31.

That limit would not be in effect Jan. 1, 2020.

“Jan. 1 starts a new clock,” Kinser said.

After the discussion involving Lamer, Kinser and City Finance Director Diana Steiner, Lamer said he understood the city would not be at the maximum limit.

But that did not change his thinking.

“I still feel the same way,” Lamer said. “I think we should keep some capacity if we have to do something serious downtown. That is my comment.”

At-large Councilor Bill Martin said he wants the city to keep its stellar AA2 bond rating.

“That is very high,” he said. “I want to maintain it. It saves the city and its taxpayers a lot of money.”

Resident and educator Anna Wolvers, a frequent city council meeting attendee, expressed her concerns about the city spending during the public comment portion.

“Again, I echo and appreciate your thoughts about being conservative,” she said. “But I have lived here 14 years, am a taxpayer, and my taxes keep going up. But our streets are in dire need of repair, sidewalks are an issue regarding accommodations. As far as Americans with Disability Act, I know we are working on it. It is impressive to see Center Street get more accessible.”

Wolvers cited a survey in which she claimed 55 percent of participants were opposed to the creation of Quiet Zones.

“Why are we funding money to something the majority of people that vote you guys in are opposed to ?” she said.

The councilors voted 4-3 to set three Oct. 28 public hearings on the issues.

Voting yes were first ward councilor Sue Cahill, second ward Councilor Gabe Isom, at-large councilor Bethany Wirin and Martin.

Voting no were Hoop, Gowdy and Lamer.

Hoop is up for re-election but is unopposed.

Visit www.marshalltown-ia.gov for a complete agenda packet.

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