Dr. James expresses issues with street project

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Dr. Brian James, Monticello Family Dentistry, addressed the Monticello City Council at the start of their May 1 meeting concerning the South Street project. James expressed his disappointment with the length of the project, and the disruptions to his business.

     “This project has been ongoing for the better part of a year now,” said James. “And you have never heard from me or my office until now.” James said he did call the city when his phone lines and computers went down during the course of the project.

     “My area has been in disarray the entire winter,” he said of access and construction equipment in the area, piles of earth dug up. “I’ve had that corner looking good since 1994.”

     He also mentioned the gas main issue that could have been devastating for his employees that day.

     James said it all came to a head on April 20 when the city was working on sewer lines in the vicinity on his office. James asked why the sewer line project couldn’t have taken place on a day his office was closed.

     He said on one occasion, there was water spraying out of the staff restroom from the sewer line being jetted.

     “That could have shut me down,” he said. “I was furious! No one told us that was going to happen, and it’s uncalled for.”

     James also expressed issues he’s had with the contractor on the job, Eastern Iowa Excavating & Concrete, LLC from Cascade.

     He said he’s been patient regarding the South Street project until now, and asked that the city pay his roughly $6,000 estimate to have the sidewalk replaced as part of the project.

     “I’m a taxpayer in the community,” he said. “I’ve built my business from the ground up; been here for 30 years. My practice is everything to me; and I’ve shown a lot of respect.”

     He said the sidewalk portion of the project “should be on the city’s dime.”

     James said he also gave the city an easement to start the project in a timely manner when a neighboring property owner would not do the same.

     “In good faith, I helped the city get this project going,” he added. “But I shouldn’t have to pay for a new sidewalk after all this.”

     Council member Tom Yeoman asked James for a rough estimate on his loss of business due to the South Street project. James said with $10,000 coming in for a full day of work, he’s lost half days, “not to mention patients that cannot call in.” He said it could have been much worse if OSHA fined him for the issues his business has endured, up to six figures.

     “I’d be shut down,” he said.

     Later in the meeting, City Administrator Doug Herman said he could understand James’ frustrations with the street project.

     “Construction projects are frustrating,” he said.                

In other city business:

     • The council held a public hearing and approved a resolution amending the city’s Urban Renewal Area/TIF District. The amendment now includes the Orbis property and its new approximately 100,000 square-foot addition, both Advancement Services of Jones County facilities, and property owned by Energy Manufacturing on the south side of Plastic Lane. The other properties are being included in to amendment to create a continuous connection of TIF properties.

     • The council approved investment in the Grant Wood Loop program with the Home Town Pride/Keep Iowa Beautiful grant initiative. This includes a five-year investment of $1,500 a year. The city could choose to discontinue the commitment at any time if there does not seem to be a benefit to Monticello.

     Jones County Economic Development Director Dusty Embree was present at the meeting, along with Kris Gobeli and Brad Hatcher, who are on the Grant Wood regional committee. The Grant Wood Loop encompasses the Parks to People region of Jones, Jackson, and Dubuque counties.

     Embree said $22 million in projects have been identified within the region, with 36 projects in the works. She said all of these partnerships attract workforce to the region, to Jones County.

     “It’s a win-win,” Embree said of the investment. “Jones County to date is the biggest benefactor. We’ve put a lot of effort into regional partnerships, and it’d be a shame not to continue.”

     Some of the local projects to come out of the Parks to People initiative include: Monticello’s pocket park, Mon Maq Dam project/Maquoketa River Water Trail, Wapsipinicon Trail, and the Central Park Lake restoration.

     “If all this gets marketed well,” offered Herman, “there are a lot of assets in Monticello we could use to attract people.”

     • The council set a public hearing for Monday, May 15 at 6 p.m. on the proposed plans, specs, and estimate of cost for the new 10 T-hangar project at the Monticello airport.

     Yeoman said there are currently 35 planes that are based out of the airport. The new hangar has yet to be built, and he said already half of it is spoken for.

     Bid on the project will be opened on Wednesday, May 31, at 10 a.m.

     • Police Chief Britt Smith addressed the council regarding the state’s new fireworks law, which awaits Gov. Branstad’s signature any day now.

     Smith said the language within the new law does set specific timeframes in which fireworks can be set off around certain holidays. It also allows municipalities to continue requiring groups/civic groups to apply for a fireworks permit, with fairs being exempt.

     “I bring it up so you can start thinking about it now,” he told the council. “Do you want to continue requiring a permit through the council or the police department?”

     Smith said individual fireworks users would be permitted, under the new law, to use/display fireworks without a permit, with local jurisdiction still enforcing the laws. He said cities cannot limit/prohibit the sale of fireworks.

     • City Engineer Patrick Schwickerath gave the council an update on a couple of projects in the works. On the Main Street resurfacing project, the letting will take place this Wednesday, May 3 at 10 a.m. Schwickerath said the resurfacing portion of the project will likely start after the fair; the sidewalk portion could start before fair week.

     The E. First Street Bridge project over Kitty Creek is still in the works. It has a late start date of July 24, with 70 working days.

     • The council approved the third and final reading of an ordinance re-zoning a vacant lot at the corner of Washington Street and S. Cedar Street from C-1 to R-1.

     • The council approved the third and final reading of an ordinance re-zoning property located at 410 E. Oak St. from R-1 to R-3.

     • The council approved the third and final reading of an ordinance re-zoning numerous parcels within city limits. These parcels were previously zoned incorrectly. This cleans up that zoning.

     • The council approved amending the city’s rear yard setback ordinance in M-1, M-2, and C-1 zones from 40 to 30 feet.

     • Darrell’s A Family Tradition is interested in paving its entire parking lot, eliminating the gravel. The total cost would be around $80,000. Herman asked the council to consider offering a loan to Darrell’s from the city’s downtown loan fund to assist in the project.

     The city typically maintains around $34,000 to $35,000 in the loan fund.


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