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City council approves second reading of utility rate hikes

Purchase of Rails to Trails property moves forward

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 10:36 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 10:38 a.m. CST

The Prairie City City Council passed the second of three readings at its May 10 regular meeting to increase the city’s water, sewer and solid waste collection rates.

The proposed water and sewer rate hikes are cost of living increases of 3 percent, under the recommendation of city staff and Prairie City’s financial advisor PFM Financial. The increases were expected and follow a 2016-17 budget year where rates stayed flat.

Solid waste rates would take a bigger jump, rising by 7 percent under the proposal. The rate hikes were first discussed before passage of the 2017-18 fiscal year budget in March and have been factored in.

All three ordinance changed passed the second readings by 3-0 votes, with councilmen Dan Downey and Troy Kuecker absent. The council passed the first readings in April. The third and final readings will take place at the council’s 6 p.m. June 7 meeting at city hall.

If the proposed cost of living rate is approved, city water customers would see a base rate increase of 46 cents per month on their first 1,500 gallons used — $15.77 up from the current $15.31.

The next 8,500 gallons would go up from $8.99 to $9.26 per 1,000 gallons; the next 30,000 gallons from $7.43 to $7.65 per 1,000 gallons; and the next 40,000 gallons would rise from $6.87 to $7.08 per 1,000 gallon.

The minimum bill for city sanitary sewer customers would rise from $24.71 to $25.45 on the first 1,500 gallons under the proposed increase. The price on the next 8,500 gallons would rise from $14.36 to $14.79 per each 1,000 gallons; the next 30,000 would go up from $11.87 to $12.27 per 1,000 gallons; and the next 40,000 gallons would rise from $10.59 to $11.28 per 1,000 gallons.

A full breakdown of all rates can be found in the April 20 edition of the Prairie City News.

Rails to Trails Corridor Project

The council also approved a purchase offer May 10 for .75 miles of abandon railroad right-of-way on the city’s southside for the development of a recreational trail — more commonly known as Prairie City and Monroe’s Rails to Trails Project.

The cost of the $63,000 purchase will be covered by an Iowa DNR Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Grant, secured for development of the recreational trail.

The abandoned rail corridor extends from Highway F62 W southeast of Prairie City through Jasper County to Highway S27 near Mitchellville.

In Jasper County, the proposed trail will go from the Buffalo at Entryway Park in Prairie City through Monroe, with the ultimate goal of connecting to a trail system near Lake Red Rock to the east and to the greater central Iowa trail network in Polk County.

The project has been in development for nearly three years, and planners have pooled resources from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Monroe and Prairie City Hometown Pride Committees and Jasper County Conservation.

The rail bed section is currently owned by Jasper County Conservation, which the agency secured from Iowa Interstate Railroad with help from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

The council approved the purchase offer 3-0. It now goes to Jasper County Conservation and the Jasper County Board of Supervisors for final approval.

Prior to the vote, councilwoman Andrea Engle requested an update on the recreational trail soon from the Hometown Pride Committees and/or other entities driving the project.

“I hear there is design going on and placements falling into place. I would like an actual update on what their process is, where they are in that process and what may be a potential design they have,” Engle said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten an actual update on the trail.”

University of Iowa Capstone engineering students presented conceptual designs of the trail system and possible Prairie City trail heads to the Hometown Pride committees last year in an opening meeting.

But according to Prairie City Mayor Chad Alleger, who also sits on Hometown Pride, a professional engineer still has to assess the area before making final design recommendations to city and county officials.

Former Prairie City City Administrator Lori Martin, who resigned May 10 following a closed session meeting, said an engineer has not been hired for the project. But Hometown Pride and Jasper County Conservation hope to have an engineer confirmed this summer.

As far as the trail’s path through town, the only decision the Prairie City leaders have to make is where the trail will divert to the north — Madison Street or West Street.

Councilman Lyle Burkett said he would prefer to have that decision made prior to the May 20 Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge’s Pedal the Prairie to advertise the route to the “captive audience” of potentially 2,000 bike riders descending on Prairie City.

Martin said she would relay the council’s desire to Prairie City Hometown Pride before its next scheduled meeting.

“There aren’t very many choices on a path through town. And, unfortunately, we’ve dinked around and haven’t made a decision on that,” Burkett said. “Because we’re going to have, feasibly, several thousand people in town here in a couple weeks. From a marketing standpoint it would be nice to tell these people this is where it’s going to be.”

Contact Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall@myprairiecitynews.com

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