Council discusses N. Sycamore, Parks and Rec mowing

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

Two main items consumed the majority of the May 20 Monticello City Council meeting. 

The most obvious would be the N. Sycamore Street Reconstruction Project currently taking place. AJ Barry with Snyder & Associates provided an update on the scope of the project and change orders. 

It was previously reported that an old stairwell next to Strittmatter Law Firm was found after the sidewalk was torn out. The stairs led to an old barbershop located in the basement of the building. Work associated with tearing out the stairs was clearly not included in the project, which will result in a change order. 

Another change order deals with the work associated with taking out an old fuel tank found near the Theisen’s Garden Center. The tank was found underground. 

The soil around the tank had to be tested, and before the tank could be removed, it had to be pumped. The 300-gallon tank was about two-thirds full of fuel. 

“There was no soil contamination,” said Barry. 

The majority of the water main has been placed throughout the corridor of the project. Barry said the bacteria level has been tested and passed. 

“They (Horsfield) are currently working on the sanitary sewer main to the north between Second and Third streets,” said Barry. 

Stu Gerdes, a Sycamore Street resident, asked whether there was constant project observation by Snyder & Associates, and also questioned why the new sidewalks appear as though they’re moving closer to the homes. 

“Things keep changing on this project,” commented Gerdes. 

City Administrator Doug Herman and Council member Chris Lux, also a Sycamore resident, said Snyder has been on site, but their presence is not a regular occurrence. 

Barry said throughout two-thirds of the project there would be no change to the sidewalk location, which is 6 inches off the right of way. Snyder proposed that the rest of the sidewalk locations be moved into the same alignment. 

“In some cases, it (the sidewalk) will be closer to the house, in some cases, not,” Barry said. 

Gerdes and Gaylen Kray said it looks as though the sidewalks are moving 18 inches or more into the property. 

“At the beginning of the project we were told things would be put back approximately where they were before,” said Kray. 

“Six inches is not significant,” commented Mayor Brian Wolken. 

The other issue of the night concerned a $10,000 purchase of a third lawn mower for several city departments (Parks and Rec, Cemetery, and Streets). 

Three bids for a rear discharge with a 60-inch deck were secured from local businesses. The bids ranged from $9,500 to $10,381. 

The issue wasn’t so much with the purchase, but with the fact that Parks and Rec employees are proposing to take on mowing projects. 

Jacob Oswald, Parks and Rec director, said since the department expanded to include two full-time employees (including Shannon Poe), they have not only expanded programming, but hope to keep city parks in pristine condition. Parks and Rec has already started mowing the Baty Disc Golf Course and the Northridge retention pond. Those two properties are not part of the city’s contract with Monk Construction, which mows the majority of city property. Monks have been mowing for the city since the mid-2000s at roughly $35,100 a year. 

“The biggest benefit to having the Parks Department take over some (mowing) responsibility is having eyes in the parks,” Oswald said. He said they’ll be able to notice things that need to be improved, more so than Monks. 

“As a department, we feel there is much more to our job than just creating programs,” Oswald stated in a letter to the council. “One of those is to ensure that we are providing beautiful and inviting parks and amenities to the community.” 

Oswald shared that $45,000 is set aside in his budget for mowing. If Parks and Rec took over some of those areas, he feels it could save the city money and some of it could be spent towards additional trails and updated playground equipment. 

Council member Dave Goedken was adamantly against Parks and Rec taking over some of the moving unless they could prove that it would save the city money. 

“You’re taking away from a small business,” Goedken said of possibly eliminating some areas from the Monks’ contract. 

Herman clarified that the current contract with Monks would not be modified, but the council could look at changes for the next season. 

Goedken said Oakwood Cemetery isn’t properly mowed and maintained, and that adding additional areas wouldn’t help. 

Lux, the Cemetery Board liaison, said work was done at the cemetery on Monday in time for Memorial Day. 

“The cemetery looks a lot better,” she said. 

Herman said he’s been in contact with the Anamosa State Penitentiary regarding using inmates to assist in cemetery upkeep at a considerable less rate than hiring another employee. 

Herman said Dan McDonald who takes care of the cemetery isn’t just mowing every day. There is more to his job than that. 

Oswald said all departments could use the new mower, with the cemetery nearing their four-year replacement cycle. 

“There’s nothing in the Parks and Rec job description for mowing,” said Goedken. 

“But they did request this for consideration,” said Wolken of adding the mowing duties. 

The council decided to table the mowing and purchase yet again for a future meeting.


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