Trenton City Council deals with nuisance investigations and DNR compliance at special meeting

City of Trenton Website

Two ordinances were adopted at a special meeting last night of the Trenton City Council. But there was a lengthy discussion on a third topic, one that pertains to the police officers handling investigations of nuisances.

It was January of 2013 when police were assigned duties related to enforcement of Trenton’s ordinance on nuisances, such as tall grass and weeds on properties. About that time, Donnie Vandevender was employed as Trenton’s certified building inspector and code enforcement officer. Councilman Larry Crawford said the job description for this position doesn’t include nuisance investigations.

Police Chief Tommy Wright said his department has been effective with such investigations but he described it as “interruptible effectiveness” pointing out one person with specific duties of nuisance investigating, can be even more effective.

Currently, Chief Wright explained police at Trenton are short staffed, underpaid, and officers morale is being what he called depleted when they are called upon to measure weeds and grass for a possible violation. He said 250 nuisances cases were investigated last year, but without additional resources, meaning money allocated by the city council, Chief Wright predicted the number of nuisance cases will return to what’s average, about 150.

The newest member of the city council, William Fisher, suggested someone other than any of the police officers needs to handle nuisance investigations. There was some discussion of a part-time person to assist and learn from Vandevender, but the topic of who’s doing the nuisance investigations is expected to be further discussed by the administrative committee members for the city.

Six council members present approved an ordinance authorizing the city to enter into a lease-purchase transaction to pay costs of required improvements to Trenton’s wastewater (sewer) treatment plant. Meeting with the council were Charlie Zitnik of the financial services company, D.A. Davidson, as well as Rick McConnell of Gilmore and Bell bond attorneys. Zitnik said Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust has agreed to a financing plan covering 20-years at a rate of 4.95%.

The principal amount to be borrowed comes in at $2,444,274. Coupled with paying interest, the city expense during the lifetime of the loan would be $3,586,944. Zitnik said the transaction also is subject to re-financing in the future if that’s in the best interest of the city.

The financing covers costs for the sewer plants bypass elimination, disinfection, project with the city facing a DNR compliance deadline of July next year. Engineers have previously listed various improvements at an estimated cost of $4,700,000. Trenton can cover some of that expense with certificates of participation that were leftover from a previous bond. But the balance, nearly $2,500,000, will need to be financed.

Utility Director Ron Urton reported construction bids are due to Burns and McDonnell May 31st. Bids will be reviewed by the project engineers then presented to the Trenton Utility committee meeting June 19th Action by the city council could occur at the June 25th meeting on a design-build contract for the sewer plant improvements.

The Council also gave unanimous approval to an agreement with the non-profit Green Hills Women’s Shelter to extend water and sewer lines to the proposed new building site at Trenton. The city agreed to provide materials only, in value of up to $15,000 for construction of the water and sanitary sewer line. The building contractor is to provide the labor. In exchange, the women’s shelter agreed to have no fewer than five employees for a period of five years after construction is completed.

Councilmen present were Travis Elbert, Dave Mlika, Larry Crawford, Glen Briggs William Fisher, and Larry Porter. Absent were Brad Chumbley and Jen Hottes. Elbert as Mayor Pro Tem presided in the absence of Mayor Nick McHargue.

Prior to the council session was an administrative committee meeting which involved primarily the discussion on five topics. Only one bid was submitted for a new parallel-flow drum asphalt plant. The bid from the manufacturer known as ADM or Asphalt Drum Mixers from Indiana, $1,135,000. With other expenses including scales, concrete, and a contingency fund, Ron Urton reported the overall cost will still be, as expected, about $1,400,000.

Urton has obtained a quote from Community Leasing of about four percent on a 15-year loan, but he’s also seeking a quote from another funding source. It was noted the new plant will operate on natural gas from Empire rather than the diesel fuel the current plant uses. Once the specific description is finalized, Urton said the city would apply for a new permit to allow operation of the asphalt plant.

A couple projects at the Trenton airport, along with possible funding, were reviewed by the committee. Completion of the second phase of the apron improvements in front of the fuel tanks is estimated to cost $600,000. Re-alignment and paving of the taxiway south of the apron to the runway is projected to cost $360,000. Grade work has been completed on this part of the capital improvements needed at the airport.

It was reported the city of Trenton has airport, non-primary entitlement funds available that total $618,000. On the governments’ funding ratio of 90 percent federal and 10 percent local, the city of Trenton share for the next fiscal year budget would come in at $686,647. Existing engineering plans are described as needing to be updated to meet FAA requirements. Olson and Associates has estimated the update and bidding of the projects could cost from $42,000 to $50,000. The city’s ten percent share could be as much as $5,000 which would have to come out of the general fund since it’s not currently in the fiscal year budget.

Urton would like to have the engineering work on updating plans next month, a contract by August of next year so the city can avoid the risk of losing $168,000 in federal funds if money hasn’t been obligated.

City officials also learned rural airports like Trenton could be eligible to apply for recently-appropriated federal funds that might cover all project costs. It would be through the Airport Improvement Grant Discretionary program that gives priority to the needs of small town airports.

Urton reported he’s been discussing with Verizon, the removal of their cell phone antennas from the Princeton Road water tower which is now scheduled to be painted next year. The city receives $847 a month in rent for allowing use of the tower. Urton is proposing the cell phone antennas be placed instead on a monopole that could be erected near the water tower property.

No action was taken by the administrative committee on two requests from the public. One was the possibility of making 13th Court, a one-way street between Merrill and Tindall. Opposition to the idea was expressed by the city administrator, street supervisor, and police chief.

The other request came from an individual interested in starting a farmer’s market for Trenton and using the Rock Barn and pavilion area. This topic could come up again when the individual can be present to meet with the administrative committee.