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Stratford council denies flower variance

September 24, 2012
Billie Shelton ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

When the Stratford city council met for their regular monthly session on Sept. 10, they discussed a request from the Stratford Community Development Corporation for a variance of the ordinance against flowers beside the Agri-Education building.

The matter received a lot of attention at their August meeting, when over 40 citizens were present to air their opinions, most of them in support of building owner Keith Carlson. At that time, action was tabled so that Travis Sonksen, new city council member, could become familiar with the situation.

At Monday's meeting, council member Brian Wilde reported he had discussed with Carlson the possibility of an easement for this area and suggested that Carlson attend the September council meeting. Carlson was not present at the meeting. City Manager Rachel Cahill also said she had a discussion with Carlson on the possibility of an easement to the property. Carlson appeared agreeable but said there was never an easement. Sonksen said he had also visited with Carlson, but Carlson did not want an easement granted and again stated there had never been an easement.

Council member Amber Shroyer indicated that this issue does not need to keep coming up and noted that the council voted on the issue in May. Carlson had until September 15 to comply with the council's ruling to remove the flower bed.

In the end, the council voted to deny the request from the SCDG for variance to the ordinance against Carlson having flowers next to his building at 801 Shakespeare Avenue. The vote was unanimous, with Wilde abstaining.

In other agenda items, the council discussed the Downtown Revitalization Faade project. Because this grant is federal dollars from Housing and Urban Development, slum and blight issues must be addressed. Iowa Economic Development Authority says that this is the city's responsibility to review what should or should not be included in the project. IEDA has also asked that any strategy be approved by IEDA. The council agreed to have Cahill and Hamilton County SEED director Catherin Bergman review this inventory list and discuss this review with the property owners.

The council reviewed several projects that are pending for the city: a water main project, a project to strengthen the sanitary sewer system, and purchasing a new ambulance by the Stratford Rescue Unit. The cost of the ambulance is $140,950, which the rescue department hope to purchase using current cash balances.

Scott Stevenson of Ruan Securities was present to review with the council a series of financial options available for city projects. The council authorized entering into a letter of engagement with Ruan Securities.

Looking at the summer, Cahill reviewed the 2012 pool season. Fee revenue increased 11 percent due to attendance that was 15 percent higher than 2011. Pool wages were up because of an additional lifeguard on staff. The operation of the pool resulted in a $12,172 draw from the general tax levy.

Two requests related to special events in Stratford this fall were approved by the council. One is for ATV's on the city streets on Thanksgiving morning to mark the course and marshall for the third Turkey Trot. The other is for the use of four-wheelers to cordon off city streets for the Cruise to the Woods on Oct. 7.

Other business on Monday included:

Setting a public hearing on the application for a Community Development Block Grant for the sewer project for the October council meeting.

Approving entering into a Water Main Improvement Engineering Services Agreement with Bolton & Menk for $28,600.

The meeting ended with council going into a 17-minute closed session for the purpose of city manager evaluation.



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