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BP applies for grants for Main Street work

By JIM MAGDEFRAU

BELLE PLAINE – A hearing was held for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application, which will be used for the city’s downtown revitalization fund. The city is seeking $500,000 intended to help low and moderate-income person, improve general living conditions of the area served and expand economic development opportunity.

City Administrator Bill Daily said he hopes the application will be in before Christmas. They have pinned down commitments from property owners, with 29 signing, affecting 34 storefronts on Main Street. “We finally have everything pulled together and are ready to go,” he said.

The grant would provide assistance for development of the downtown façade program. It might also be used for community development and housing needs.

The council also approved an agreement accepting a grant of $96,000 from the Vision Iowa Board for the city’s aquatic center, through the state’s Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) project. A resolution was also approved in support of another CAT grant application.

Rental ordinance

At the work session prior to the council meeting, the council addressed an ordinance in which landlords are required to show proof of insurance, and creation of an ombudsman mediator to deal with tenant complaints, directing them to the existing state law dealing with landlords and tenants.

The council had previously considered an ordinance to deal with rental housing that involved inspecting the properties.

City Administrator Bill Daily pointed out that not all insurance companies require inspection of rental properties. He heard this from a retired insurance salesman.

Council member Marv DeRycke said the insurance ordinance still wasn’t the total answer, but he was willing to give this ordinance a shot.

Daily said the challenge would be getting the landlords to city hall to put their proof of insurance on file. Proof of insurance would have to be provided once a year.

Daily questioned what the proof of insurance gains the city. DeRycke also questioned this, since there are few safety inspections for insurance.

“I don’t know if it will do us a darned bit of good,” agreed Council member Harold Ealy of the insurance ordinance. As for the original proposed ordinance, he said, “That’s just a kettle of fish we don’t want to get involved in.”

There were also questions about how this affects non-residential rental property.

The council said they would consider it further and that they welcomed input on it.

Administrator’s report

Daily gave an update on hiring of a new Belle Plaine Community Development Corporation director. Interviews were conducted with seven candidates. An offer will be made this week and have the new director on board by Jan. 1.

Daily also commended the city’s crew on how they dealt with the snowstorm Dec. 8 and 9. “They do what has to be done,” Daily said. He added snow removal decisions are never made based on budget concerns. The workers do what they have to do.

DeRycke said he also appreciated all that was done during the snowstorm this month.

There was a water main break on Dec. 11 in Belle Plaine Friday evening and was handled effectively and efficiently.

Employee union negotiations begin in January.

Work continues on the Ninth Ave. railroad crossing. They expected it be repaired and opened by this Tuesday.

Other business

Also at the work session, the council discussed the alley behind Longfellow School. One end of the alley had been closed due to safety concerns during construction at the school. Construction is making it difficult to remove snow from the area now. The council is considering opening the alley. Daily stressed that alleys are the lowest priority in snow removal, and when a garage is built on an alley, the owner takes that risk of not getting snow removed.

The mayor signed a five-year capital improvement plan for the airport, which will be submitted t0 the Federal Aviation Agency. Through the plan they hope to acquire snow removal equipment. This is done through the airport commission.

A payment of $91,516 to Garling Construction was approved for the aquatic center.

A certificate of appreciation was presented to outgoing city council member James Kurovski.

The council approved the transfer of $1 million from the debt fund to the aquatic facility fund.

A budget amendment hearing was approved for Jan. 18.

The council set a hearing for Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. to undertake the 2009 Sanitary and Storm Sewer Improvement Project. The council will solicit bids for the project, to be received at 10 a.m. on Jan. 28. This is for the 13th Ave. project. Bill Daily hopes work will start in the spring and will be done by July 4.

The council discussed a request from the Belle Plaine Historical Society for a financial contribution. No action was taken. The council will consider it for the budget next year. It will also hinge on the request to have the city pay for the lighting of the mural.

Police Chief Kris Hudson wanted to establish a scheduled fine for violation of the city’s curfew ordinance, so the offender can just pay the fine instead of making a mandatory court appearance. The council will take this up at a future meeting. In his report to the council, Hudson gave a report on service calls and the snow emergency.

The next work session will be Jan. 15 at 5 p.m.

UPDATED December 23, 2009 11:22 AM

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