Tag: 121813

Mayor-Elect Dave Neil: Changes Needed to Fix LPC Infrastructure

After running a campaign promising new leadership. Mayor-Elect Dave Neil is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work. Neil, whose mayoral duties begin January 1, 2014, is focused on making the changes he believes are necessary to address concerns about La Porte City’s infrastructure, specifically city streets in need of repair and improving the appearance of the downtown district on Main Street. He acknowledges some of his proposed changes will not be popular.
As promised prior to being elected last month, Neil has begun the work of scrutinizing the city’s current budget, which funds city services through June 30, 2014. While the City has begun the process of building a budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014, Neil wants changes in funding to be made sooner, rather than later.
“I come with a budget perspective. We’ve only got so many dollars, so we’ve got to look at best practices to find a way to stretch those dollars,” he said.
“If we can save a dollar in January, we ought to save a dollar in January. Just because you’ve appropriated the money doesn’t mean that money can’t be moved around,” he added.
Whatever savings the new mayor can find in the city’s budget will be diverted to repairing the approximately 20 blocks of streets he’s identified that are in poor or very poor condition. It’s a job, he recognizes, that cannot be accomplished in one year.
“Every dollar we can save somewhere else will go toward that effort. That’s what I’ll be doing,” he stated.
Where does Neil expect to find the most dollars to support his plan?
“Right now, the police department,” he said, citing public safety services as accounting for approximately 40% of La Porte City’s budget.
Neil’s plan for the police department begins with reducing the number of personnel the city employs and utilizing on-call service. His review of neighboring communities has shown that other cities in the area use fewer police officers than La Porte City.
“We’ll have 24 hour service, with a portion of it on an on-call basis,” he said.
Neil’s review of city expenditures as they compare to La Porte City’s neighbors will not be limited to just public safety.
“I’m going to be scouring other cities for best practices, whether that be law enforcement, whether that be street work, whether that be building and inspections,” he stated.
Before any road repairs are initiated, Neil will look to the City Council to conduct a study to identify and prioritize streets in need of repair. He said it will also be important to determine what level of repair each street needs, as that can impact the overall cost of a repair job, particularly if the work cannot be done in-house by the La Porte City Public Works Dept.
Another issue affecting La Porte City streets are roads identified as farm to market. Neil would like to see farm traffic adhere to those streets, which he identified as Highway 218, Eighth Street, Cedar Street and Main Street to Six Corners, when coming into La Porte City from the east.
“I’m going to be asking farmers, this will be controversial also, to use the farm to market roads. Fourth Street is not a farm to market road. Neither is Third Street or Bishop. Those three streets get a lot of truck and tractor trailer traffic,” he said.
In addition to improving the condition of city streets, the new mayor wants to invest in the appearance of the Main Street business district. He believes such an investment is important in the effort to increase property values. He has asked MSA Engineers to prepare illustrations of how a renovated downtown could appear. He’d like those illustrations to be ready by the 2014 Festival of Trails Celebration, “so people can come together around a plan.”
Neil is also concerned about legislation passed last year that will reduce the amount of property taxes the City can collect from certain commercial properties. While the State of Iowa has set aside money to help cities recoup revenue it knows municipalities will lose, it is widely believed those funds will fall short of making up the difference. If estimates are correct, in eight years, the shortfall in La Porte City could be as much as $100,000. With fewer available resources on the horizon, Neil said the City needs a plan for how to do as much in the way of services with less money.
“We need to be looking around to our neighbors to see if they’ve found a better way of doing things,” he said.
As for gauging the amount of public support for the changes he is advocating, Neil replied, “I think you need to start with the [City] Council.”
“I’m always interested in community and citizen input,” he added, noting his intention to establish mayor’s office hours every Monday afternoon, in addition to also being available by appointment.
“There’s still a lot of things I’ve got to learn and I plan on learning them.”

La Porte City Audit Released

Ridihalgh, Fuelling, Snitker, Weber, & Co. CPA’s today released an audit on the City of La Porte City, Iowa.
The City’s receipts totaled $4,545,734 for the year ended June 30, 2013, a 2.1 percent increase from 2012. Receipts included $965,604 in property taxes, $658,465 for charges for services, $701,082 from operating grants, contributions, and restricted interest, $5,485 from capital grants, contributions, and restricted interest, $277,129 from local option sales tax, $2,592 from unrestricted investment earnings, $1,695,640 from bond proceeds and $239,737 from other general receipts.
Disbursements for the year totaled $4,682,224, a 78% increase from 2012, and included $461,441 for Public Works, $560,105 for Public Safety, $563,011 for Capital Projects and $2,204,916 for Debt Service. A large portion of the increase in disbursements was due to the payment of previously issued bonds for the Sweet Addition and the Family Aquatic Center so they could be refinanced at a substantially lower interest rate.
A copy of the audit report is available for review in the office of the Auditor of the State and the City Clerk’s office.

Hawkins’ Happenings – December 18, 2013

By Jolene Kronschnabel
Hawkins Memorial Library has an I Spy Christmas Tree with a list of nearly 40 ornaments to search for. Test how observant you are by stopping and participating in this fun holiday hunt.
Santa is the topic for Story Time at 10:30 AM on Thursday, December 19. Preschoolers will participate in jolly old elf stories and activities as we celebrate Christmas.
The library will be closed for the Christmas holiday on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 24 and 25. Plan ahead and choose entertaining Christmas books and movies from our seasonal selection.
Story Time will not be held on Thursday, December 26, due to Christmas break.
A Christmas Carol is playing on Friday, December 27. This movie is an animated retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.  Popcorn for munching comes with the movie.
The Fox and the Hound is the movie showing on Monday, December 30, at 1:15 PM.  In this heart-warming flick, two childhood animal friends find themselves forced to become enemies.
Ring in the season with Winnie The Pooh in the holiday adventure, Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year. This movie is playing at 1:15 PM on Tuesday, December 31.
The library will close at 5 PM on Tuesday, December 31 for New Year’s Eve, and will be closed Wednesday, January 1, on New Year’s Day.
Grab a bag of sale books for only $5.00 during December. This includes all sale hardcover and paperback books, VHS tapes, and cassette audio books.
Thank you to the many generous donors who gave trees and decorations to spruce up the library for Santa and Christmas.  And thank you to our decorators for pulling everything together. The library is still accepting donations of Christmas decorations.

Middle School Band Members Chosen for District Honor Band

Two students from the Union Middle School Band program were chosen to participate in the NEIBA Honor Band held at Oelwein High School on Saturday, December 7, 2013. Lauren Harrigan, daughter of William and Lesley Harrigan, and Joe Ruzicka, son of BJ and Janel Ruzicka, each received this honor.
Students were chosen from approximately 60 participating schools in the northeast district of Iowa and two bands of 130 players were formed of highly qualified middle school musicians. The groups rehearsed all day and presented their concert at the Oelwein High School gymnasium.
The two bands were under the direction of Mr. Randy Atkinson, director of Taft Middle School bands in Cedar Rapids, and Dr. Travis Cross, UCLA Professor of Music. This was the 50th anniversary of NEIBA and works by Iowa composers were commissioned and premiered that evening by both bands.

Classifieds – December 18, 2013

I would like to thank my friends and family for helping me celebrate my 70th birthday party and also to those who sent cards. I would like to especially thank my daughters for a job well done. Also, thanks to the band (Driscol’s) and Andy Jensen. Luella Driscol  51-1-pd
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