Six things to know from Tama Council

The Tama City Council heard a number of issues at their regular meeting on Sept. 7 including a proposed housing development program, an update on the Lincoln Highway Bridge project and allocation of federal aid dollars. Pictured are (from left) Anne Michael, Mayor Doug Ray, Larry Thomas and Matthew Beatty. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

1. Tama County Economic Development Director Katherine Ollendieck spoke to the council at their regular meeting on Sept. 8 about a housing development program she hopes could be a solution to address empty city lots and a need for workforce housing in the area.

Over the past several years the city has purchased more than a half dozen residential lots that were abandoned or contain dilapidated structures.

Ollendieck hopes to gather at least a portion of the lots, which are free of structures and are owned by the city, together for a targeted housing program.

She described to the council a process that would collaborate with a bank and a prefabricated home building company to offer 2-3 bedroom single family homes on the lots at an affordable rate. The city’s role in the program could potentially be to offer the lots at a low cost as an incentive to spur home sales within city limits.

The council encouraged Ollendieck to pursue the project, with the next step being to communicate with Region 6 Resources Partners for assistance in gathering information from other cities that have conducted similar programs.

2. Construction timelines for the Lincoln Highway Bridge restoration solidified Monday as the council approved an agreement presented by Anna Gahm with Shuck-Britson engineering to begin the bidding process for the project. Bidding for the bridge restoration is scheduled to take place before the end of the year with a final construction deadline of August 2022.

The city was awarded a grant of up to $150,000 through the Iowa DOT that is expected to fully fund the project.

3. Two resolutions regarding allocation of federal American Rescue Plan dollars were voted on by the council Monday.

The City of Tama has been given a total of $406,000 in federal relief aid that can be spent under a set of guidelines.

Cities can use American Rescue Plan funds to:

Support public health expenditures;

Address the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency;

Replace lost public sector revenue;

Provide premium pay for essential workers; and

Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.

Cities have until December 31, 2024, to obligate funds and until December 31, 2026, to spend funds.

The first resolution was unanimously approved by the council that would designate $45,000 each year for the next three years to be used toward paramedic salaries.

The second resolution sought to provide $65,622 in premium pay for city employees within the police, ambulance, public works and administration departments that performed essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020 to December 2020.

The premium pay allocations were determined for 43 city employees based on hours worked during the pandemic period.

Council member Anne Michael voiced opposition in passing the resolution saying that she believed employee pay should be addressed during budget time and with additional research gathered to compare City of Tama wages with other cities in the state.

The resolution failed to pass Monday as Micheal voted no, council member Larry Thomas abstained and council member Aaron Haughey was absent. Councilors Emily Babinat and Matthew Beatty voted in favor but it was not enough to gather a majority council vote needed to pass.

4. Don Vorewald was before the council regarding a $200 nuisance lawn mowing bill that was presented to a property owner that he mows for on contract. The property is located at 401 Harmon St. and is owned by Jay Hansen through K.K.H., LLC. Vorewald contends he has records for mowing the property three times between late July and late August and that one of the scheduled trips in August got delayed because of rain.

The council tabled the matter in order to review photos and documentation of the complaint and nuisance order that were gathered.

Vorewald argued he felt the mowing had been kept up with and that other nuisance properties were of greater concern than this one.

5. Richard Jimenez spoke to the council about an alley connected to his property that he wishes to purchase from the city. The alley runs north and south between E 3rd Street and Beautiful Street in the southeast corner of town. Jimenez would like to own the property in order to put a no trespassing sign up to keep people from walking through the area which adjoins his back yard.

The council asked Jimenez to put together an offer to purchase the alley which could be acted upon at a future meeting.

6. The council heard an issue brought up by Larry Welsh Jr., who owns a residence at 1007 E 5th St. Welsh said his sewer line backed up recently and flooded the basement of the home. His initial inquiry was if the city would assist him with a bill of around $500 he paid for damage repair in the basement.

Tama Wastewater Superintendent Nick Peshel provided some context of the area saying that several lines feed into a main that takes a right angle turn underneath Welsh’s back yard. Peshel said right angle joints within a sewer system can be particularly problematic in trapping debris.

The council asked Peshel to have the line televised so they could make a determination if the financial responsibility for the incident was the city’s to bear.