Council talks parade, library funding

Members of the Tama city council discuss preparations for the Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival at their meeting on April 19. Pictured, from left: Deputy City Clerk Sierra Berger, Council Member Emily Babinat, Mayor Doug Ray and Council Member Matt Beatty.

At their April 19 regular meeting, the Tama City Council voted 4-1 in favor of hosting a parade for the upcoming Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival on May 22.

Council member Emily Babinat was lone no vote, citing safety concerns with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the likelihood of a large gathering occurring in the downtown area.

The Tama Fire Department earlier announced their plans to host the carnival portion of the festival but the decision to host the parade fell to the city after the Tama-Toledo Chamber of Commerce said in March they were not planning to host the parade as had been done in recent years.

The festival parade will begin at its usual time of 10 a.m. Saturday. Parade entries will be asked to only give out candy and goodies by having a person walking near the curb and handing out items rather than throwing things from vehicles or floats.

A short entertainment program will be held on the Saturday of the festival at noon at which the Tama Fire Department will honor their 2021 Tama Citizen of the Year. Nominations for the annual award can be submitted to the Tama city clerk’s office now through May 13.

A full schedule of Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival events is expected to be announced in the near future.

Library budget request

The council heard from member Anne Michael regarding ongoing budget concerns with the Tama City Library.

The library budget for fiscal year 2022 approved March 1, totaled $104,000 which is roughly a $40,000 decrease from the previous year.

Michael expressed to the council the difficulty the library may experience in continuing to receive accreditation through the State Library of Iowa with the newly reduced budget approaching in July.

Currently, the Tama library is accredited with the highest available quality standard rating of Tier 3. The accreditation is good for three years and in Tama’s case, will not expire until June 30, 2022.

One of the key benefits of holding a Tier 3 quality rating with accreditation is access to the maximum amount of state funding that contributes to the library’s annual budget.

Out of 542 public libraries in the state of Iowa, 380 are accredited. Tama County features nine public libraries serving the roughly 17,000 residents in the county.

The Tama library is one of five libraries in Tama County to hold Tier 3 accreditation along with Toledo, Traer, Dysart and Gladbrook.

Libraries in smaller towns such as Clutier, Chelsea, Garwin and Elberon are not accredited.

In her discussion, Michael submitted an informal proposal to the council asking to appropriate the dollars from the library’s fiscal year 2021 budget that are expected to be left unspent from the salaries fund, into the fiscal year 2022 budget. The unspent money would be from the salaries fund due to the library closures last year with the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount is expected to be between $10,000 and $15,000.

Under normal circumstances, unspent budget funds get deposited back into the city General Fund and redistributed based on the next fiscal year budget.

Through the discussion, Babinat voiced concerns that funding requests were being asked of the council without direct input and communication from library director Julie Shook.

“I think it’s about accountability,” Babinat said. “We have other departments that come here and are accountable to the council. Any time we ask them to be here, if they can’t for a specific reason they send someone in their stead. I feel like we’ve gotten little to no accountability from the library and that’s unfortunate. We need the library director here or someone from the library board who can tell the library director what it is we expect.”

Babinat and Mayor Doug Ray said they were under the impression the library had agreed to fully open access to the building at the same time the city hall opened public access earlier this year. Babinat said at the time the council requested an increased level of communication between the library and the council.

According to Michael, the library has remained on a hybrid schedule where patrons are asked to call to be let into the building and are limited to 30 minutes while inside.

“The request for increased communication from the library has not been done,” Babinat said. “I am also on the council’s library committee and I receive no communication at all, not even invitation to the board meetings like I used to. So that’s really frustrating that we have to go back to the communication part.”

As the second member of the council’s library committee, Michael said her priority was with the library as a resource.

“Honestly, I don’t care about the library director,” Michael said. “I care about the library. I care about having it open. I care about it because it should serve the people of this community.”

The council determined Monday they would like to hear from Shook directly regarding the budget carry-over request and tabled the item to a later date.

Building code update

Council member Larry Thomas again put forth a recommendation for the city council to update Chapter 155 of the Tama city code which deals with building code regulations.

Thomas said the city’s building code reflects state building codes that were decades out of date.

He said utilizing newer versions of the state code will make following the codes easier and will aide the city in addressing nuisance property issues, which include a reported 23 derelict houses.

Following the discussion the council directed city attorney Dan Rathjen to compose an ordinance with the updated code sections that will come before the council for a public hearing and a vote at a later date.

In other business

Thomas announced his resignation as the city’s representative on the Tama County Landfill Commission, citing other commitments that were overlapping the commission’s meeting schedule. Following the resignation, the council voted to appoint Bryan Ellenbecker to fill the post. Thomas served on the commission for a short period in 2021 following the resignation of Mindy Benson from the role.

The council voted to proceed with disbanding of the South Tama Rec Trail Board. Former board member Jake Jacobsen informed the council he was moving out of the area and that meetings had not been occurring for some time. Trail maintenance has been the responsibility of the city governments and all remaining duties to keep the trail usable will fall to the Tama and Toledo public works departments.

The council approved the closure of 3rd Street on May 22 in front of the Eagles Club for a bags tournament.

The council approved Alfredo Flores Hernandez and Andrew Sebesta for part-time summer help positions.