Tri States Public Radio Staff
Busy Week for City Council
Thu August 1, 2013
Burlington Hears Tax Abatement Request
The Greater Burlington Partnership is looking for the city’s help in improving the local housing market.
The Partnership's Economic Development Director, David Toyer, says national trends show prospective buyers want homes with at least three bedrooms built within the last few years.
He says Burlington is lacking in both areas as a majority of homes have two or fewer bedrooms and were built before 1980.
Toyer says it’s not just about building larger homes.
"The biggest issue is trying to make sure that (Burlington has) a quality housing stock that has a variety of housing opportunities available for the future that will allow us to grow," says Toyer.
The partnership wants the city to expand its residential property tax abatement program from three to five years to try to spur that growth in the local housing stock.
The city council seemed hesitant to expanding the program. Alderwoman Becky Anderson even said money would be better spent improving existing homes.
The panel is expected to further discuss the proposal in future meetings.
EMERALD ASH BORER
The city of Burlington is putting a plan in place to deal with the Emerald Ash Borer after the tiny, green insect was discovered in the city.
Development and Parks Director Eric Tysland says nearly 1,000 ash trees are located in public parks or right-of-ways while at least 2,000 more are located on private property.
The city will either treat the trees on its property with chemicals or remove them, with the price tag expected to reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Tysland says public meetings will be held as the city gets closer to taking action.
The Burlington City Council seems ready to put the financial problems facing a local health insurance pool behind it.
The pool was formed several decades ago to try to secure lower insurance premiums for local governments, including Des Moines County, Danville and Burlington.
It recently came to light that the pool’s accounts were not balanced for several years, resulting in a roughly $150,000 discrepancy between its funds.
The city council says a special committee should be formed to review future, financial statements as opposed to auditing past records.
The oversight board for the pool has the final say on whether to conduct an audit, which could cost $5,000 - $10,000.
City staff says it does not appear that any money is missing from the insurance pool.
Burlington could soon have new legal representation.
The city council could vote, next week, on a 3-year contract with Cedar Rapids-based law firm, Lynch Dallas, for almost all legal matters.
Current City Attorney Scott Power would continue working on housing-related issues.
The council says it likes the idea of having a stable of lawyers available to them.
Lynch Dallas would charge the city $135/hour plus additional expenses.
Burlington is moving closer to finding out if it has a future in hydroelectricity.
The city council has reached a consensus to sign a letter of intent with Coastal Hydropower Corporation.
The Canadian firm will have the exclusive option to negotiate with Burlington, which holds the permit needed to build a plant at Lock & Dam 18.
City Manager Jim Ferneau says this letter is just the beginning.
"This will give both of us permission to start seeing if there is a framework under which we can agree that this is how we should consider development," says Ferneau.
Ferneau says if the project proves feasible, the firm would pay for the construction of the multi-million dollar plant in exchange for a portion of the revenue from the sale of electricity.
Signing the letter costs the city nothing, but Ferneau says he would eventually like to pay a consultant to help the city craft a detailed development agreement.