Several members of the Webster City City Council and candidates in today's council election addressed the board on matters concerning the Hamilton County League of Women Voters forum held last week.
Mayor Janet Adams said she wanted to clear the record on several things during time for public information at Monday's council meeting. Addressing local electric rates, Adams said Webster City is in the middle of the pack compared to similar areas in Iowa and with the Corn Belt Power Cooperative. The structured rates have not changed since 2007 which according to Adams was proposed by Mark Gillette.
Gillette, who was in attendance, addressed the council. He said he did not propose the electric rate ordinance when he was on the council in 2007.
This scanned exerpt from the City Council meeting minutes from March 5, 2007 shows the voting recording of councilmembers during the adoption of the most recent Webster City electric rate ordinance. Council candidate Mark Gillette denied at Monday’s city council meeting that he voted in favor of the rates.
"That was not my idea, so that's been corrected. You can check the records. It went up for a vote, it was a three-to-two, I voted against what the rates are now," Gillette.
However, in the City Council Agenda from Feb. 19, 2007, item C9 lists the first reading of the electric rate ordinance as "Councilman Gillette's Proposal." The City Council meeting minutes from March 5, 2007 includes the adoption of the ordinance after its second reading. The minutes state that it was moved by Gillette and seconded by Foster that the third reading of the ordinance be waived. The roll call vote to adopt the ordinance lists Gillette, Gray, Adams and Foster voting aye with Kloberdanz abstaining.
At Monday's meeting, councilmember Jerry Kloberdanz said that electric rates are an ongoing issue that is difficult to solve completely.
Former Councilman Mark Gillette did indeed propose and support a rate structure change in February and March of 2007 which would help subsidize local industries. According to a Feb. 20, 2007 Daily Freeman-Journal council account, the measure "shifts $300,000 from large industrial to residential and commercial customers as a subsidy to aid those industries who may feel the strain of the rate increase the most." Several local industry representatives spoke to the council at that meeting, detailing how the proposed 14 percent Corn Belt Power Cooperative increase would affect their businesses. The City Council passed the measure.
In December 2007, the City Council passed a measure that would increase base rates but decrease the kilowatt hour charge. The ordinance had a three-year implementation process with the base rate increasing in order to lower the kilowatt per hour charge and pass on that rate directly from Corn Belt. Gillette and then Mayor Gene Gray did vote against the change on the third reading Dec. 19, 2007.
"Everybody, regardless of what council you're on, they're trying to do the best job they can with utility rates," Kloberdanz said. "It's not an easy subject."
Adams also said that all members of the council, except for councilmember Geary Meyer who was out of town on a business trip, were at City Hall for the forum. The reason the council members were watching the forum in the city manager's office was, according to Adams, due to space and seating limitations in the council chambers where the forum was held.
Councilmembers also spoke about the city's recent purchase of land. Adams said every council candidate has received a housing assessment which compiled information from companies, professionals, citizens and more. She said the results were clear.
"It's very obvious that the communities surrounding us do have a need for more and more housing," Adams said.
She continued, saying the city has lost two high profile companies moving to town because Webster City lacks additional housing for employees. She said other cities have purchased land as Webster City has to incentivise businesses to come to town.
Council candidate Jim Talbot also spoke to the council. He said that in his Daily Freeman-Journal candidate profile, he asked why the companies that have passed over Webster City had done so. In a Kiwanis Club discussion, Talbot said he was told there was no reason why those people aren't coming to town, though he did not disclose who made those remarks.
"There seems to be some disjointed information on what is and is not happening," Talbot said.
He said he is looking for full and complete disclosure on the matter.
Councilmember Geary Meyer was the last to address the council during time for public information. He said he was the topic of discussion on Facebook over the weekend concerning campaign contributions to Matt McKinney and Heather Kierzek. He said the contributions were personal contributions and were less than three percent of what he gives to Webster City each year anonymously.
"When I ran for council, I committed to represent the community and give back to the community. I am not interested in any type of organization, group or function railroading our community," Meyer said.
Other contributions Meyer mentioned included the Police and Fire Departments, Crimestoppers and Briggs Woods.
"I love this community, and I hope to represent it for a long time," Meyer said.
New city website
Councilmembers and meeting attendees were also given a preview of the new Webster City website. IT Director Kirby Winter said the website which includes aesthetic changes and easier access to public records is set to go live on Dec. 2, five months ahead of schedule.
The website currently features large photos of RAGBRAI in Webster City which scroll from one to the next. Under that is a news banner that can contain notices from snow closing to events and more. A calendar, quick links and a dropdown banner are also featured. The site also contains links to other local institutions such as the Kendall Young Library. It retains functions such as applying for city jobs online, and adds better accessibility to platforms including smartphones and tablet computers.
The website will also contain the permanent storage of city public records. Users can search by dates, types of documents and more records dating back to 1879 according to Winter.
"Instead of us having to maintain storage and maintain all the documentation for ordinances, resolutions, minutes, agendas, keeping all that paper stores somewhere, we're able to scan this into PDF format, submit this up online, and make it available to anybody that wants it," Winter said.
The cost of the online records, according to Winter, is $500 per year.
The council also approved a proposal from Binswanger to list and sell the Beam Building for the city. A previous proposal was rejected because, according to City Manager Ed Sadler, the company and the city had different goals with selling the building.
"Originally the proposal was a standard sort of real estate contract to sell it based upon a percentage, and obviously, the incentive then is to sell it for the most money as soon as you can," Sadler said. "The city is less interested in the price and more interested in the jobs."
The proposal allows Binswanger to be the listing agent for the building, advertise and show it. The building becomes vacant on Jan. 1, 2014. Binswanger Associate Andrew Lubinski was on hand to answer questions from the council, and said the 18-month agreement would only cost the city money if the building were to be sold during that time.