Council sets tentative plan for borrowing
The discussion of general obligation borrowing continued during Monday’s Marshalltown city council meeting with a general plan agreed upon for the future.
When the discussion last left off two weeks ago, the council was weighing how to move forward with a slate of projects while making up ground on street repairs. Earlier in Monday’s meeting, they committed to 50 percent funding of three projects to become eligible for a Destination Iowa grant application.
If the city won the grant, the state would pay for up to 40 percent of the costs. The total dollar amount for the city’s portion of these three projects — the splash pad, trail bridge at Linn Creek and the River’s Edge trailhead — is $1.56 million.
City Administrator Jessica Kinser presented three borrowing options for the council. The first, which was discussed in some detail at the last meeting, was based on borrowing $10 million, dedicating $2.65 million to street improvements and potentially pulling from other sources to bring more toward streets.
The second involved increasing the $10 million figure to the 70 percent borrowing threshold the council agreed was its limit just a year ago. The third option would be to increase the council imposed borrowing limit to 75 percent of its debt capacity.
Last year, the city borrowed $9.45 million and put $3 million toward street repairs.
Councilor Gary Thompson was reluctant to commit to the Destination Iowa projects during the last meeting, arguing the money is better spent on streets. He kept to this position and cited his concern about how the threshold increase might be used.
“When we raised the debt capacity, the whole idea was for streets. It was my understanding all this extra money was going to go to streets,” he said. “It’s hard for me to explain to somebody who lives on a really bad street that we’re not going to touch their street this year, but we’re going to make the City Hall parking lot really nice.”
Councilor Gabe Isom echoed his previous comments, stating he does not want to sacrifice growth and progress but would also like streets addressed. Councilman Dex Walker agreed.
“It’s time to move on streets. I’m not in the camp of holding back on other progress going on in town to do that,” Walker said.
Walker went on to speak in opposition of raising the debt capacity to 75 percent.
During public comment, resident Mark Eaton questioned when the city will have funding available to address street repairs more aggressively.
“You’re talking about streets to everyone, but you’re really not doing streets. You’re only doing downtown,” he said. “There’s no money in fixing streets that are in failure now.”
The city is also awaiting the results of a street repair study from Iowa State University. Kinser suggested that the results of this study may bring some clarity on what is needed in crack sealing repairs.
The city could do a separate bond solely for streets after receiving these results, which are expected in December. Councilor Mike Ladehoff said he favored such a move to help with developing a clearer list of priorities.
Fellow Councilor Jeff Schneider agreed, and he motioned to direct staff to bond for $10 million with $2.65 million toward streets with a separate bond for streets to come after receiving the results from ISU. The motion passed with Thompson and Al Hoop voting no.
In other business
Hoop brought a discussion item to the agenda regarding property south of the fenceline from the Anson Park softball diamond. The city-owned parcel of land goes beyond the fence and has been maintained by a neighboring resident. Hoop said this was an item of discussion a few years ago, and he wanted it brought up again.
“This is not a softball diamond issue to me. There’s land — between the George house and the park that they have cared for for 55 years,” Hoop said. “What we did at the time was — to me — charge them excessively for that land. That was wrong at the time, and I still think it’s wrong.”
Thompson agreed with Hoop’s proposal, which was to sell the land to the family for $1, something the council has moved away from doing over the past year.
“This is like the Martin property where legal (counsel) advised us they had more ownership than we did,” Thompson said, citing an issue over property maintained by Patty Martin that was resolved last summer.
Attorney Steve Leidinger of Lynch Dallas interrupted Thompson to advise the council to be cautious with this matter as the property has been the subject of litigation in the past. Isom suggested tabling the issue so it could be discussed in closed session. Leidinger said he does not believe that is an option at the time.
Isom then said he opposed the idea of the sale for $1. Ladehoff, like Thompson, agreed with Hoop on selling the property to the family. Thompson motioned to bring the item back as a resolution to sell for $1, but the motion failed with Isom, Kell, Schneider and Walker opposing it.