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City Council votes for new fire barn

By GREG SCELLIN
Signal Editor

The Geneva City Council met in regular session on Monday, July 2, at the Geneva City Office.  Key items on the agenda last week included discussion on a new Fire Barn in Geneva; paving residential streets just west of the Fillmore County Hospital and approving a new lease contract with NPPD.
Craig Jones with First National Capital Markets attended the July 2 meeting under the agenda item of "Financing New Fire Barn."  He said he could see two separated bond issues being used to pay for the new fire barn—for instance, $750,000 issued to the City of Geneva and $750,000 issued to the Rural Geneva Fire District.  He told the city council he understands that the rural fire district wants to hold a vote for its share of the project.  He also noted that the vote isn't actually needed and a pro-vote doesn't necessarily mean the bond issue is going to happen.
"It's a survey more than a vote," City Councilman Jim Donovan said.
Jones agreed and also commented either public entity could go on its own with the project. Though, one negative vote would  probably be a deal breaker.
"In all practicality, it would stop the project...that's how I see it," Jones said.
Jones also noted with the upcoming November General Election, ballot language needs to be finalized in August and be ready for ballots in September.
"The important thing is we are getting low on time with this," Geneva Mayor Rod Norrie said.
Geneva Fire Chief Mike Grothe said he was told the rural fire board wants to have a vote.  Jones said the city could go ahead with bond plans without a vote because the fire barn deals with public safety.
"If one fails, both fail, in my opinion," Grothe said.
The small number of Geneva Rural Fire District potential voters was also discussed at the meeting.
Many on the city council noted a new fire barn is a need and not a want.  It has been discussed at length at several previous city council meetings, that new fire vehicles are simply too long to be housed in the current fire barn.  A motion was made for the city to seek an up-to $750,000 bond for its half of a new fire barn construction.
"You six are making the decision for the city on this," Norrie said.
The city council voted 5-1 (Councilman Norman Marx—no) to approve a bond for its portion of a new fire barn.  Land for the new fire barn has already been purchased in southwest Geneva.
In another vote on July 2, the city council voted unanimously to pave the two blocks of G Street between 11th and 13th Street with concrete.  Steve Parr with JEO Consulting Group, LLC., provided a cost estimate for concrete paving and lighting on the two blocks to cost $922,409.80.  Even with the exact total funding of the project still unknown, the early vote was needed to begin the RFQ process of the project since the project has been approved for a federal $375,000 CDBG mainstreet improvement grant.
The city council has discussed adding brick elements to the street paving at previous meetings.
"You could add highlights to the project in the future once you select an engineer," Parr said.  "I could see some more elements being implemented in this project."
With a brick median or brick down the middle using brick pavers already owned by the city, Parr said he would guess the project would still be under $1 million—maybe closer to $970,000.
Norrie reminded the city council the exact funding for the new pavement has not yet been determined—property owner residential, property owner business, city share.
"You need to be thinking of how much you're going to access the property owners, as well," Norrie said.
In another street-paving agenda item, Jerry Otte talked with the city council about starting a Paving District for portions of 17th Street, 18th Street and G Street.  Otte said when his wife and him decided to build a house in Geneva, the road in front of his house was armor-coated. Since then, city workers have taken out the asphalt portion and gravel is all that remains.
"We now have a million little bumps there," Otte said.  "I built a house there...I could live with it.  Then, you came in and tore it up with a maintainer."
Otte told the city council he has spoken with several property owners abutting the streets and he feels the Paving District would be a go.
"I think we have enough votes to go with it," he said.
Fillmore County Hospital CEO Chris Nichols submitted a letter to the city council stating the hospital's strong interest in seeing 18th Street from F Street to H Street being paved, along with the portion of G Street that approaches the hospital's parking lot from the west.  Nichols said hospital staff and patients experience numerous problems with the streets current condition.  He also noted the increase use of the hospital's Behavioral Health services to the hospital's north.  He also said FCH has more semi-tractor trailers entering it from these streets.
Nichols also noted the city's new housing development area will add to traffic in the area.  He said newly-paved streets in the area would increase patient views of Geneva and help moral with the hospital's 170 workers.
Both men would like to see at least a 50/50 share of the paving costs with the city.
"I see some civic responsibility with this from the city...I feel this is definitely a share," Nichols said.
"I don't think it's fair to tax other people in Geneva for what benefits a few," Norrie said.
On new paving, Paving District landowners have paid 100 percent of the cost.  For instance, homeowners in the Legend Lane housing area will be paying 100 percent of the paving and concrete curb costs over 10 years.  The landowners on 10th Street between A Street and B Street are also paying 100 percent of street improvement costs.
Norrie said, property owners have paid 100 percent of new pavement projects and the city pays for the intersections.  City-property owner percentages have came into play with re-pavement projects, he said.
Because of its frontage in the proposed new paving area, FCH would have an estimated 50 percent of a vote total if the Paving District ends up being created.  The width of paving on the streets was also discussed.
"The hospital vote alone would be 50 percent," Councilman Josh Turner said.  "I think if we're going to come in and pave some streets, it would make sense adding these together."
Ryan Kavan with JEO noted the paving-engineering work for the city's new Northeast Addition is complete and ready for bids.
"Essentially, we're ready for bids on streets and infrastructure in the new housing area," Kavan said.  "I do see some economies of scale with combining there two projects."
He also noted that, more than likely, any work in the area would start in the spring of 2019 any way.
"If we were to bid it right away, I would have some concerns about contractors having enough time available yet this year," Kavan said.
Combined street work for the two projects could go out for bid in November and December.
"I would like to see this done together if it's going to get done," Council President Eric Kamler said.
The city council asked Parr to set up a study session with FCH officials and residents in the proposed paving area to see what their exact intentions are.
"If this is going to be part of the Northeast Addition work, we need to move on it quickly," Norrie said.
Other July 2 meeting notes included:
• Several home owners around a property on N. 10th Street in Geneva talked with the city council about the poor condition of the property at 706 N. 10th Street.  The concerned home owners said the house hasn't been inhabited for several years and now is home to raccoons and other vermin.  It is also a safety and health hazard in their opinions.
One home owner said he has contacted the property owner to try and purchase the property to no avail.  They are now asking city officials to get involved.
"In the past, this has been a complaint-driven issue," Norrie said.
The condition of the property has now been noted.  Geneva City Attorney Joe Bixby said a new Legislative bill may help as a tool to get rid of problem residences inside city limits.
The concerned home owners were asked to compile a list of things that need to take place at the property to make it less of a distraction and health issue.  Bixby will then begin the notification process with the land owner.
• The city council voted 3-3 (Kamler, Donovan, Jean Engle—yes; Turner, Marx, Chuck Udell—no) to enter into a new enhanced 25-year Professional Retail Operations Agreement with NPPD.  Norrie broke the deadlock with a yes vote.
• The city council voted unanimously to approve committee recommendations for the latest round of Geneva City Sales Tax Community Betterment grants.  A total of $73,180 in grant funding was approved—$10,000 to Boy Scout Troop No. 175 to finish the cabin at Camp Sloan; $3,180 to the City of Geneva for the Welcome to Geneva Sign and $60,000 to the City of Geneva for bond payments on the Geneva Family Aquatic Center.
• The City Council went into Executive Session for about five minutes with Grothe, Jeff Wusk and Josh Halbur with the Geneva Fire Department and city officials for the purpose of discussing land acquisition.
Upon adjourning and coming back into open session, the city council voted unanimously to purchase the Crawford property just south of the Geneva Boys' Pond to expand the pond area.  City Keno funds and Geneva Fire Department funds will be used to make the purchase.