OSKALOOSA — Despite the ice and snow, community members ventured forth for Eggs and Issues on Saturday, Jan. 11.
Oskaloosa Mayor David Krutzfeldt shared a city newsletter listing 2019 accomplishments, including the reconstruction of D Street, two new roads at Lacey Recreation Complex, approximately 105 blocks have been chip sealed and the successful lobbying to get Oskaloosa’s northwest bypass included on the Iowa Department of Transportation’s five-year plan.
“We have a proactive and – I would say in every respect positive – city council who works very well with the city manager,” he said. “When you have that kind of cooperation and communication, then it works very well for getting things accomplished.”
Projects for 2020-2021 include the design and construction of the Early Childhood Education and Recreation project, phase two of the facade improvement project, North 17th Street bridge reconstruction, sidewalk improvements and sewer system improvements.
Mahaska County Supervisor Chair Mark Groenendyk said in 2019 the Environmental Learning Center was opened and the county is working on the communications project. Two tower sites have been secured, he said, and the county is working on obtaining ownership of a third site.
Krutzfeldt said the most recent sanitary sewer rate jump was eight percent.
“So as in previous years, I refer back to imaging if you had a water system that is giving you some problems and you have some constraints in your budget. Why? Because you are holding your rates at a certain level,” he said. “So you can only do so much work to fix up that system. So you triage it. You figure out where your worst problems are at and you fix them. Do you fix them permanently or do you kind of band-aid them in place knowing that this may need a permanent fix or it might be a non-permanent fix, that would be back a little bit later but it’s cheap.”
Krutzfeldt said that had been the approach in the past. Now, with mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, cities are needing to make repairs and fix systems within 10 years.
“So that is what’s going on. Boy, I hate the bill the same as anybody else does. And it stings; it hurts. You think ‘does it really have to be this way?’ But we don’t have many choices as a city council,” he said. “You can either fight about it and say ‘yeah I’m not going to recognize the authority of the Iowa DNR’ and you can drag it out or you can do kind of do like some of us do with a Bandaid, you just tear the thing off, take your pain now, knowing that it’s going to be a lot better in a little while.”
Krutzfeldt said it was a difficult vote to raise the rates.
“But it does make Oskaloosa better as a city and environmentally, it’s going to be much better in 10 years,” he said. “So with that in mind, we go ahead and do the proactive thing. But boy, does it hurt while we do it.”
A community member asked Groenendyk what impacts the county has seen from the wind turbines and what sort of future impacts are projected.
Groenendyk said before the turbines were erected, most counties were required to pass an ordinance where there was zero taxation the first year, then increase up to 5 percent each year thereafter for the next six years.
Many counties, Groenendyk said, use tax incremental financing to recoup the cost of damage to the county’s road infrastructure.
“So this is the first time the county’s ever TIFed a product that was built,” he said, “so the county did TIF $200,000 this year trying to work on repaving the roads.”
Getting people together
Moderator Andy McGuire posed a question to both Krutzfeld and Groenendyk, asking what each body has done to successfully organize a group of people to work on a project together.
The “low-hanging fruit,” answer for the city, Krutzfeldt said, was the Early Childhood Education and Recreation Center.
“That is a project that is requiring the coordination of the city of Oskaloosa, who is going to own the building,” he said, “the Oskaloosa school system, who is going to be funding also a portion of the building and then also will have some very deep interest in the facilities as well in the education process; and the YMCA, who is going to be the operator of that facility.”
Krutzfeldt said Oskaloosa generally shines when it comes to coordination.
“And when you have people in the room that share a vision. We look at law enforcement centers that are built, libraries that are built. Work with the school with the new facilities there,” he said. “When the community gels, things get very exciting and the product is very good.”
The plans for the building, Krutzfeldt said, are very close to being done. The city is on schedule to go out for bids for the project in February.
Groenendyk said one of the main things he would like to see is getting similar service businesses together.
“I.E. if you’re in the mechanical field, truck repair, ag dealership, anything that provides a service. Get those combined or work in a group to together and figure out what are your needs. Do you want to expand, do we have the workforce, so they have a common voice in meeting a need,” he said. “Same thing with healthcare. We have the hospital, we have nursing homes, everybody struggles. What can we do to get everybody in the same room and say this is our common need, how are we going to fix it? We need like-minded people that are providing a service together to have a unified voice trying to find solutions.”