More sidewalks tops goal list
by Rick DeClue · News · September 13, 2013

After his fourth annual goal setting session with the West Branch City Council at a Sept. 3 work session, City Administrator Matt Muckler said the council seems to be getting comfortable with the process.

That is, after Mayor Mark Worrell scratched three of 16 proposed goals this coming year because he felt the items were already part of the city’s ongoing process.

The goals set priorities for budgeting, policy-making and staff direction. Goals are recommended for consideration by council members, the mayor and city staff.

This year’s goals also provide a basis for the city council after this November’s elections. Three council seats and the mayor’s position expire this year.

The 2013 goals by priority, sponsor and listing in prior years are as follows:

• Capital improvements plan, including sidewalks; Mary Beth Stevenson, Colton Miller and staff; 2010, 2011 and 2012

• Bus barn/library discussion between Council and School Board; staff; new

• Park planning process; 2012

• Renew partnership with the Cedar County Economic Development Corporation; staff

• Street updates plan; 2012

• Creek clean-up – litter, stream bank stabilization, brush removal and native plantings – especially at the Main Street Bridge near the high school; Stevenson; 2011 and 2012

• Funding for Hoover Hometown Days inflatables and fireworks; staff

• Place cemetery information online; staff

• Adopt a storm water utility; Stevenson

• Continue trail expansion; Stevenson

• Electronic council packets – e.g. using iPads; staff

• Bike racks downtown; Stevenson

The items struck from consideration were adoption of a paid time off plan for city employees, recommended by staff (included in the 2010 goals), continuing the influx and infiltration repair work on the sewer system, and development of a community policing program, recommended by staff — part of the regular policy process, led by the West Branch Police Department.

In addition, a recommendation by Stevenson for a plan to pilot five stormwater “best management practices” as an alternative to curbs and gutters, such as rain gardens, bio-swales, permeable pavement, etc., did not receive three votes required in the goal process. Three votes indicate potential support by a majority of the council.

In a preview of possible future discussions, Council Member Jim Oaks warned against removing trees and certain vegetation from stream banks as part of the park clean-up. He said that his experience with creeks and river banks showed that this was the growth that actually prevented bank erosion.

Stevenson said the focus would be on retaining and improving native plants. The council will also consider sending members of city staff to Iowa Department of Natural Resources training on stream bank stabilization.

Worrell said this is a good time to renew the city’s partnership with CCEDCO. Access to information accumulated by CCEDCO is critical to future economic decisions for West Branch, whose 100 or so businesses rank second to Tipton’s 250 in the county, according to Executive Director Shelize Parsely.

The mayor said Parsely seems to have the organization moving in the “right direction,” so that the city can get a return on the $6,223 annual dues.

The longest discussion of the session was on a goal that was not voted on: adopting a paid-time-off plan for city employees.

Questions ranged from whether the current policies were, in fact, broken — or had simply been tested in the past by highly unusual situations — to whether changes should be suggested by city employees or the council.

Worrell said this might represent an opportunity to re-establish the city’s past practice of forming committees to consider complex matters by providing clear, direct communication.

Whatever the approach, Worrell considered this a regular policy matter rather than a prioritized goal for the council and city staff.

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