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Aged infrastructure could scuttle downtown Toledo improvements

August 21, 2013
By Jimmy Gillispie - Staff Writer ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Last week's Toledo City Council meeting touched on a variety of topics, including an alley purchase, public works projects, city staff salary and a nuisance property, but minimal action was taken that night.

The city council did approve a few items at the Aug. 12 meeting, several agenda items were discussed at length with no action taken. Toledo's five-member council voted on four agenda items, but it was the other topics that ended in lengthy discussions.

One of those topics was an upgrade at the intersection of High and Broadway streets in downtown Toledo. It's the same intersection where the water main broke in July, causing a four-day boil order in Toledo. The intersection was brought up twice at the city council meeting, but both times the topic went to the same place - the underground infrastructure.

Article Photos

This was the scene at Broadway and High in downtown Toledo on July 17 after a water main broke. Repairs were made through the night leaving street surface repairs needed.
Chronicle/John Speer

Council Member Travis Mullen opened the council to the idea of upgrading the intersection of High and Broadway streets. Since it's torn up because of the water main break, Mullen thought it would be a good time to improve the aesthetics of the intersection.

"I wonder if now might be a good time to make a potential upgrade to the downtown area, maybe in the form of some brick work," Mullen said. "I thought I'd bring the discussion to the table."

Mullen brought in pictures of an intersection in Grinnell, where a brick design was artistically created in the middle of the intersection. He suggested Toledo could do something similar.

"What other utilities run through that area," Council Member Jeff Filloon asked? "Are we going to have other problems with breakages down the line? That's my concern. I think we need to do the infrastructure first."

Filloon's comment sparked Public Works Director Mark Zmolek to agree, saying the downtown infrastructure is more than 100 years old. Zmolek went on to say the city would have to install new infrastructure before any street improvements could be made, or the city might have to tear up a newly designed intersection for another potential water main problem.

The intersection topic flowed into the next item on the agenda, which was the public works update from Zmolek. He further discussed the High and Broadway streets intersection, but he also summarized several projects that the city has completed and some it's wanting to finish before cold weather arrives.

Zmolek's public works update also included the following items:

The park restroom has been completed and the cost was $8,000 for the project. The city received a $5,000 grant for the bathroom project.

Don Norton donated three trees to the park

The fire hydrant at the corner of Main and Ross streets needs replaced and the cost for a new hydrant is $2,500.

Engineers looked at the water main in front of Thy's and estimated the repairs at $79,000. However, Zmolek is looking into how much it would cost to replace the line as it exists, because it continues to have problems.

The city received a bid for $14,000 to install three shut off valves. Those would be by the library, museum and hotel. The valves would allow the city to shut off water supply to the downtown business if needed.

In other city council news, the Ron Van Dyk property along U.S. Business Highway 30 was briefly discussed. Mayor Dave Svoboda met with attorney Allan Richards, who is overseeing the property, regarding the property and how it will be cleaned up.

Council Member Terry Goodhart received an offer to help clean up the property. Goodhart said the individual would haul away the trailer and dump box in exchange for the dump truck. Newly appointed City Attorney Mike Marquess said he would talk to Richards about the exchange and then report back to the council.

The city council discussed City Clerk Julie Wilkerson's salary, but no action was taken. Tama City Clerk Judy Welch, who is a Toledo resident, came to a recent meeting and shared her opinion that Wilkerson's salary is too low. This topic sparked a long conversation at last week's meeting with the council members, Welch, Svoboda and Loren Dostal, who was in attendance.

"To put it bluntly, she started out too low," Svoboda said.

Wilkerson was hired in November 2011. The council recently approved city wages, including Wilkerson's salary of $36,744, which is the second-lowest in the city behind newly-hired police officer Dereck Fangman.

"I just don't think it's fair to Julie, after all she's done for us," Goodhart said. "She has straightened it out pretty well."

The city council was split on the idea of giving Wilkerson a raise. Council members agreed that she does a lot of work for the city, but the ones against the raise argued that now isn't the time to give raises.

"I think everybody at the table and everybody in this room agrees that Julie does great work," Mullen said. "But Julie also agreed to the rate that was offered to her when she was employed. When we do plan for wage increases is when we're planning for the next fiscal year. To me there is an odd factor that we're looking at this right now."

Also included in last week's meeting was the swearing in of two reserve police officers. Shannon Bowers and Jeremy Nichols were officially sworn into the Toledo Police Department by Svoboda.

In other news, Toledo residents Barbara Steinback and Darrell Bartlett approached the council about purchasing the alley running east to west between East and Green streets in block eight of McRoberts 2nd addition. The council tabled the topic until Marquess can check easements on the property and contact the neighbors affected by the alley potentially being purchased.

The next meeting for the council will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 26



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