Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holiday Garbage pickup

Just as a reminder, no garbage pickup on Christmas Day or New Year's Day which both fall on a Friday. Garbage in Roland will be picked up on Saturday, December 26, and Saturday, Jan 2, 2016.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Resignation commentary

The Story City Herald asked me for some commentary on my resignation from the mayor job. Here is something I put together more as a typed interview. It is not the best written, and maybe a little more conversational. But if you don't get the Herald, it was in there word for word, so just including it here.

I didn't run for the position of mayor last fall, and no one else did either. So the Roland Mayor ballot was to be filled by write-in vote. I asked people not to vote for me either, but it turns out I still ended up with the most votes. If I declined the position, it would go to the 2nd place finisher. I talked to the 2nd place finisher, Dave Donohue, and he didn't want the position either. So the election law states, if the top 2 decline, the city council could appoint someone to the position. So since the council was going to have to appoint someone in any case, I decided to accept the results of the election, and serve as Mayor through the budget process, which is in the first quarter of the year, and then resign. Then the council would be tasked with appointing someone then.

So, we got through the budget process, things have slowed down a bit, and I am ready to resign. Jerry Balmer is my Mayor ProTem (basically what that means is Vice-Mayor), and he will serve as Mayor until a new Mayor is appointed. The council could appoint one of the council members if they want, but it is my understanding that none of them want to be Mayor right now. So I would expect the new Mayor will come from the general public.

While Roland usually has pretty good luck filling its council spots, finding someone to run for Mayor has been problematic over the years. I think part of the problem is that our system of government is that the Mayor is in a weak position when it comes to policy. The Mayor cannot vote on items and cannot even break ties. The only thing a Mayor can do is veto ordinances. The Mayor has no hire/fire power over any city staff.

But the Mayor is an important position. He/She is a representative for Roland on many county boards. It is important for the Mayor to run efficient council meetings so the council can get things accomplished. The Mayor also has to find citizens willing to work on the various boards and commissions for the city. In a small town, that can be a difficult task.

But being the Mayor still has the bully pulpit that comes with the position. Also it can be very rewarding serving as "the CEO" of the city, and seeing good things happen and help facilitate people working together to improve the city.

After 8 years on the City Council and 4.25 as Mayor, I'm ready to take a break. I'm open to the possibility of serving in one of the positions in the future, but I just want to step away for awhile. We have a good city council right now and they are making good choices to help Roland be safe and prosperous for years to come.

If you are interested in being Mayor, contact one of the council members to get on the consideration list. While it is a paid position, it really is more of a position for someone who cares about the city and wants to put in some time helping out. It's not really for someone honked off about one issue. But if you have a vision of how things should be, you have an opportunity to help lead people to how you see Roland in the future.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 2 Council Meeting

Had everybody there, which is nice. Meeting went relatively quickly too, which also is nice.

In staff reports, we heard that US Cellular is interested in leasing more space on our water tower to support LTE upgrade. The council directed Nathan Hovick to work with US Cellular on the needed lease changes. We will have the street sweeper in town soon to get the curbs cleaned up. A letter went out those that requested a credit on their water/sewer bills for running water when frozen pipes were a concern. 8 citizens have requested so far, with 5 getting a credit. (the other 3 actually had smaller water bills).

We also had a discussion that the industrial park property owned by RADC does not have service level electric or gas in the development. RADC was made aware of that about 2-3 years ago. This is going to be problematic because the school wants to build a bus barn on one of the lots, and RADC may not have the money to put the utilities in.

The final ordinance allowing ATVs to be driven on city streets for the purpose of snow plowing passed. And the 3rd reading of clarifying the responsibility of ownership to the property owner of water service lines passed. The council also approved Denman & Co for being our city auditor for the next 3 years. It costs about $5,000 to conduct that audit, FYI.

The council also approved a library request to use city property behind the library for a small garden plot, as a library patron project. That is the lot across from the car wash that used to have the city water tower on it (for those of you that may have moved here since 2000 or so, when it was torn down.)

Finally, in Mayor comments, I announced my resignation as Mayor. That will be effective at 5PM on April 16. I'll have more on that in a future post.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 19 City Council meeting

Well, I wasn't there. I had full intention of being there, but got called out to work for my real job, so I missed it. I knew we were going to have 2 council members missing as well, so we still had a quorum with 3 council members there. So CMs Hill, Sargent, and Balmer did the meeting, with CM Balmer the Mayor Pro Tem, so he ran the meeting.

As I do this post, the minutes are not on the city website, but as a reminder, you can always find them HERE.

This was to be my last council meeting. But I did not want to miss a meeting and resign, so gonna hang in there through the next meeting. So barring anything unforeseen, I'll be in the Mayor chair for the April 2 meeting.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring Training 5K Fun Run/Walk on Saturday, March 29

The Britson Park Committee will be hosting another 5K Fun/Run Walk on Saturday, March 29 at 9AM, starting at the Roland Middle School. And as in the past, the Roland Kiwanis will be serving a pancake breakfast. Free to entrants, or guests can pay at the door.

We had an absolutely beautiful day last year, and about 200 runners/walkers. It is also a great way to help support the construction of the utility building at Britson Park, and get some exercise. Here is the link to the entry form. Get it in now to ensure a T-Shirt.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

County meetings

Part of the mayor gig is being on countywide boards. And just like here in Roland, budgets need to be done, and have public hearings. And just like for Roland, as noted in previous posts, where the public hearing is basically a formality, because the legal publishing requirements mean you have to approve the budget right after the meeting, the same deal applies for county boards.

So tonite, I was part of two meetings to approve budgets. First I went to the justice center, and as mayor of Roland, I am a member of the 911 board. That board has the sheriff, all municipalities, ISU, and some fire districts. Anyway, that budget meeting took 10 minutes, and we were done.

Then went over to the courthouse for the assessors budget approval. That board includes the county supervisors, the mayors, and the school boards in the county. That meeting took a blazing 2.5 minutes.

Again, all the work had been done prior, so the budgets weren't discussed in those short time frames. Just a formal BS thing we need to do, to officially approve the budgets. We barely had quorums in both meetings, but we did, so fortunately we got that stuff knocked out. Those meetings are lightly attended, because there really isn't anything to discuss. So just enough people show up out of the goodness of their hearts to knock these things out. At least I was home eating my roast and potatoes by 7PM.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 5 Council meeting

Had all council members there, so that is always nice. We opened the meeting with a public hearing on the budget. That is more of a formality, because the budget is set, and to meet our legal requirements, we pretty much had to approve it then. The budget didn't turn out as I thought. And I am going to throw the council under the bus on this one.

The tax levy was raised 2 cents from $10.07 to $10.09. In the grand scheme of things, that is not going to affect property owners that much. On a $150,000 house, that raises your property tax, about $1.50 a year. But I don't have a vote, so I guess it doesn't matter. But here is what I wanted. We budgeted a surplus for the 2014/15 year. And we would have had a surplus had we lowered our levy. And we still would have had a surplus had we made the levy $9.97, which I thought is what was initially agreed to.

Again, for the median house in Roland, we are talking about a $5 a year difference. So I'm not saying this is a huge deal. But, from a marketing standpoint, I think the decision is a giant fail. One, we could tell our constituents that we cut the tax levy. That's always a nice thing to let people keep more of their own money, even if it is just a couple bucks. Number two, it looks better to be under $10. Target doesn't sell stuff for $10.09. But they do for $9.97 or $9.99. Getting under $10, whether you are selling a widget, or having your town compared to others is a good deal. We already have one of the lowest tax rates in the county. That's good. But to tout our town, and when people want to move here, we and realtors and whoever, can say, "Roland's tax levy is under $10.00".

I could have been a dick about it, and not signed the budget, and drug everybody in for more meetings. But I didn't. But I do find the move shortsighted, especially when we would have had a surplus either way. In the end, we are still in good shape, and the council, employees, and boards do a good job for having a lot of perks in Roland for the low tax levy that we have. But from a marketing point of view, I think we could have done better.

In other stuff, we had a report from the president of the Library Board, as to what is going on at the Roland Library, and what they are trying to accomplish going forward. No real earthshaking news from our department heads. We are doing fine for salt and sand and just general snow removal.

We passed the 2nd reading of the ordinance allowing ATVs to be used on streets if they are being used for the purpose of going between snow removal jobs. We passed the first reading of the ordinance clarifying the homeowner's responsibility of the water service line from the main to a home.

Next we had a discussion regarding reimbursement of water/sewer bills for all customers in Roland since we have asked everyone to keep one faucet trickling until spring hits. As a reminder, the City has officially announced and asked everyone in the city to keep one faucet at a small stream flowing to prevent service lines from freezing in this exceptionally cold year. That is a small insurance price to avoid a frozen pipe underground. Anyway, at this meeting, the council agreed to credit up to $20 of extra water/sewer bill, over the last 3 months average, if the reimbursement is requested via writing or email. So for the citizens, if you want reimbursement, #1 you need to ask in writing or email, #2 your bill here in March has to be more than the previous 3 month average, #3, the city will credit up to $20 (so if you bill was only up $10 over average, you will get a $10 credit.) A more public notice that this blog will come later. Watch the city's Facebook page or website for details.

Lastly, we had a brief discussion regarding police protection. We were approached with the idea of forming a McCallsburg/Zearing/Roland police department (much like Ellsworth/Jewell/Stanhope). There is various amounts of discontent with the police protection provided for the amount we are paying. Some discussion may begin as the year goes on, but nothing is really happening with that. To me, the idea has some merit, but I'm not a huge fan of the idea. We have also had a conversation with Story City about having them cover our police protection. Cambridge currently does so with Huxley, in a similar set up. I know Story City just needed to do a tax hike, basically to pay for a 6th police officer. We currently are paying around $65,000 to Story County for our police protection. If we can pay the same amount, and get more hours of coverage, I see this idea as having even more merit. Of course, Story City would have to agree, and obviously a higher workload would be of concern to them. Nothing really happening with this idea now, but it is be bandied about by all parties. So maybe more to come of all that, or maybe nothing to come. Let your council members know if you have a preference for as is, or either of those two options.