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Wells Council hears concerns over 2021 projects

Also sets levy increase at 2.43%

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Dec 20, 2020

Members of the Wells fire, ambulance and police departments were honored at last Monday’s City Council meeting for having helped save a woman’s life on Nov. 24.

The Wells City Council had a busy meeting last Monday night, Dec. 14, with a public hearing for a 2021 street improvement project, the annual Truth in Taxation Public Hearing, the regular agenda, two award presentations and two closed sessions.

The public hearing was for the North Broadway and Third Avenue Street Project slated to be done next summer.

City engineer Ben Rosol, of Bolton and Menk, gave an overview of the scope of the two-part project. It includes street and utility work on North Broadway, First Avenue NE, Fifth Street NW, Fourth Street NE, as well as Third Avenue SW.

The preliminary cost estimate for the work totals $2.35 million for the Northeast (North Broadway) area work, and $493,832 for the Third Avenue SW portion of the project.

Of those totals, $689,459 of the Northeast area work will be assessed to local property owners, while $154,199 of the Third Avenue project would be assessed to the property owners in that area.

Some residents of the affected areas were at the public hearing and had questions for the council.

One property owner had an issue with doing all of the Northeast area project in one year.

“I would propose this project is too large to do in one year and should be done over two years,” he said. “That would be a respectable amount of time to do a respectable job, and not affect so many people all at once.”

Council members explained the reasons for doing it all in one season, which included cost savings on the bids.

Another person questioned the need for the Third Avenue project at all.

“Why waste a half million dollars for just two duplexes,” Lyle Doerr asked. “We have a housing crisis in Wells but this won’t fix that. You need to spend that in other areas to create more housing.”

Council member Brenda Weber also questioned the reasoning for spending a half million dollars for just two projects to be built.

“I also question our assessment policy,” she said. “There are some homes in the area that will be assessed an amount equal to about half of the home’s value.”

City administrator CJ Holl explained that by state law, 20 percent of a project needs to be assessed, in order for the city to be able to bond for the rest.

“I also want to point out that the council will have a couple of other opportunities to decide on moving forward with this or not, or making adjustments to it,” he said. “Those are at the bid opening and awarding the bids. But tonight the first step is to pass a resolution to order the plans and specs to be done.”

The council did just that, with council person Weber voting no.

City engineer Rosol also explained that they will be holding an open house on the project in February, to give the public another chance to ask questions and learn more about the project.

During the Truth in Taxation Hearing, administrator Holl went over the proposed budget and tax levy, noting some changes.

“The levy for 2021 is proposed to be $1,294,573, which is $30,673 over this current year,” Holl said. “That is a 2.43 percent increase in the levy.”

The council had set a preliminary levy increase of 3.28 percent back in September.

The council trimmed $65,758 off the preliminary budget. Some of the items postponed to the following year include new doors at the community center, new photo area at the DMV office, tires for the grader and some repairs and landscape upgrades.

“This is about as low as we can go and still operate the city,” Holl said. “We have had a tough year on revenues, with things being shut down. And we don’t know for sure yet whether we get all of our LGA (local government aid) from the state.”

The council approved the budget and levy for 2021.

One of the two commendation awards given out at the meeting was to 14 members of the Wells Ambulance, Wells Fire Department and Wells Police Department.

The Life Saver Award certificates and commendation pins were given out for the response to a Nov. 24, 2020 incident where an unconscious woman who was not breathing was saved by the Wells emergency responders.

After she received CPR and 14 shocks over a 25 minute period, she was revived and her life was saved.

The other certificate of appreciation was presented to council person Crystal Dulas by mayor David Braun. It was Dulas’ last council meeting, as she had chosen not to run for re-election. Braun thanked her for her years of service.

The two closed sessions included one for doing the annual performance reviews for police chief Tim Brenegan and administrator Holl.

After the closed session and the council was back in regular session, it was reported the council gave chief Brenegan a rating of exceeds expectations, and administrator Holl a meets expectations rating and thanked them both for their service.

The other closed session dealt with the sale of city-owned property known as Outlot A.

After coming back into open session, council member John Herman reported that the council, without mayor David Braun present, had discussed two offers on the property which is near Half Moon Park.

The council voted to accept an offer from Chris and Tammy Brandt for $15,600 with a proposed closing date of April 30, 2021. There was also a slight modification to the proposed lot lines.

The meeting, which had started at 5 p.m., was adjourned at 9:10 p.m.