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Estherville moves forward with new trail

Council also ratifies tentative agreements with police and public works departments

September 9, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

In its Tuesday meeting, the Estherville City Council approved plans and specifications for the Railroad Right of Way trail, part of the Estherville Trail Project. The improvements will be approximately one mile long and 10 feet wide, extending from Seventh Avenue South to Second Avenue North, from Spurgin Park to Sixth Avenue South and using existing city sidewalk to the light at 13th Street North and taking Second Avenue North to North 14th Street.

Howrey Construction, Inc. was awarded the contract after submitting the low bid of $370,881.75. City administrator Penny Clayton said the low bid was 9 percent under the engineer's estimate. Work will start June 15, 2020, and include 30 working days or 45 calendar days from start to finish.

Clayton said the trail should be finished before Sweet Corn Days in 2020. Funding will be provided at 80 percent from a Transportation Alternatives Grant and 20 percent from Local Option Sales & Service Tax (LOSST) funds.

The council also approved a tentative agreement with the Estherville Police Department for a 2.5 percent increase in pay for July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021. Other sections of the 2017-2020 labor agreement will remain the same. For 2020-21, the wage for Patrolmen will start at $21.88 with increases after one and three years. Detectives start at $28.17 beginning with fiscal year 2020. The wage for Sergeants is $28.70 and for the Captain $30.53. Matthew Reineke is president of the Estherville Labor Relations Unit and Preston DeBoer is Chief Negotiator for the Estherville Police Labor Relations Unit. The two negotiated for the police department.

For the public works department, Clayton said the city agreed to eliminate the antiquated policy of requiring that all unit members of the city must retire when they reach the age of 70 years unless approved by the city council to continue, and they must request an extension on a year-to-year basis.

City council member Brandon Carlin said, "It makes more sense for the department manager to determine if the person is still capable of doing their job."

For public works employees, the city approved a wage increase effective July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021 of 2.5 percent in each fiscal year. The current contract for 2017-2020 remained the same, extended to June 30, 2022.

Nick Danner, president and Don Mustard, Jr. secretary, signed for AFSCME Local 3651, along with DeBoer.

The council also approved a bid from Corey Juergens Construction of Estherville for $59,600 for stabilization of the river bank. Juergens' company will supply sz-12 piling and install 370 feet of it along the river at locations discussed in the contract and backfill with dirt provided and hauled by the city.

In other business, the city council approved a road closing of First Avenue North. between Sixth and Seventh streets for Sept. 27-29 for a new event, Mental Health Con. The council also reviewed a quote for insurance from Mike Karels of NorthStar Agency at a cost of $156,691 covering property, general liability, terrorism, employee and public officials' liability, automobile, worker's comp, errors and omissions, umbrella, law enforcement, dishonesty, airport liability and equipment breakdown. Karels said in the last five coverage periods, the city's out-of-pocket premium expense has actually gone down about six percent while coverage has increased.

"A large factor in this premium reduction can be attributed to the city leadership's push to increase safety and reduce work comp losses, not only saving your employees from injury but also saving premium dollars," Karels said in a letter to the city.

The council also approved an annual payment of $7,500 to Regional Transit Authority, providers of the RIDES bus. In its annual report, Regional Transit Authority listed 2,728 hours of transportation provided in 7,453 rides for 24,250 miles. RIDES collected $7,719 in passenger revenue.

The council also heard from Estherville Chamber director Lexie Ruter, who submitted the Hotel/Motel Tax report for the year ending June 30, 2019. Clayton said hotel/motel tax is collected through the state by the city and the city forwards 50 percent of the proceeds to the Chamber to coordinate tourism activities for Estherville with the other 50 percent going to the Parks & Recreation department for its activities and facilities.

Ruter said one of five bloggers who visited Estherville on a familiarization tour last month listed Estherville as one of the Top 25 coolest unknown destinations in the United States. Another blogger wants to come back for the Ft. Defiance run and write about it next May.

The hotel/motel tax brought $39,116.71 in tourism revenue. The Chamber spent $24,069 on advertising, including expenses for the video commercial, Vacation Okoboji, in the Estherville News, The Iowan and other publications and special events.

Ruter said the latest project is a new map of Estherville in partnership with the Estherville News.

"This will be a more creative map, which will point out more features in the town," Ruter said.

Ruter highlighted a tourism grant offered by the Chamber using hotel/motel tourism funds. This year, grants were provided to support the playground at the new splash pad and for Estherville Day of Peace, happening Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. 12 p.m.

The next meeting of the Estherville city council will take place Sept. 16 at 5 p.m. in the council chambers of city hall.



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