Traer Council awards LOST funds

New fire station building, nuisance proceedings against Heartland discussed

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It was a busy night of decision-making for the Traer City Council on July 11 as members worked with city clerk Haley Blaine to approve or deny roughly $91,000 in applications for FY23 local option sales tax funds.

Such funds – commonly referred to as LOST funds – are dispersed by the city of Traer on an annual basis to various non-profit community organizations and entities through an application process, a process that until this year has not required recipients to provide proof of spending in the form of receipts or bills.

Following the city’s annual audit this past spring by the office of State Auditor Rob Sand, the council made the decision last month to continue to accept applications but to be more stringent when determining which types of organizations receive LOST funds and to require either a bill or receipt before funds are dispersed.

In the wake of a lengthy discussion, the following organizations were chosen from the applicant pool and approved to receive LOST funds for the next fiscal year: Redhawk Youth Sports Association (up to $5,000 for youth baseball costs including umpires); Salt & Pepper Shaker Gallery (up to $3,000); Traer Chamber of Commerce (up to $2,500 for lighted holiday bow for the welcome signs; up to $4,000 for downtown speaker/sound system equipment); Traer Golf & Country Club (up to $3,500 for annual fireworks); Traer Sesquicentennial Committee (up to $2,500 for downtown banners; up to $5,000 for ‘Polish Up Taylor Park’ campaign; up to $7,000 for downtown mural); Winding Stairs Festival (up to $8,500 for kids’ rides).

An annual disbursement of $5,000 for downtown flower pots, security cameras, and website maintenance was also earmarked for the next fiscal year.

The 1990 aerial ladder fire truck recently donated by Cedar Falls council member David Sires to the Traer Fire Dept. pictured prior to being sent off for restickering and diagnostic work. Contributed photo

North Tama Community School District was one of the entities that were declined for LOST funds this year, however, the council discussed that next year the school’s request for funds to maintain/rebuild the concession booth at J.L. Lister Field would be considered.

Fire station

At last month’s council meeting, Traer Fire Chief Tyler Sell spoke regarding the urgent need for storage for the department’s new aerial truck which was officially able to go into service on Friday, May 27.

As it stands, the truck does not fit in the current fire station located along Second Street. During the June meeting, Sell asked the council if his department could look into the cost of a small machine shed to be erected to the east of the fire station – on an empty, city-owned lot – to store the new truck, to which the council gave the go-ahead for Sell to bring a proposal to the July meeting.

During the July 11 meeting, council member Jon Panfil brought up reversing a previous council decision to use the first half of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds – $118,000 – for the upcoming sewer project and instead earmark those funds for the new fire station building.

“Between what we’ve already borrowed on the engineering part and what we’re going to spend on this relining and some of that sewer work … we’re going to have an SRF loan of about a million bucks,” Panfil said. “There is another [$750,000] or a million coming down the road when they do the lagoon part of it … that’s going to cost us one way or another …[it] just occurred to me that that [$118,000] isn’t going to make much of a difference in this sewer project when we’re talking another million and a half dollars we’re going to need one way or the other.”

“We could certainly use [ARPA] toward the fire station,” Panfil said.

Rather than “patch together” a small shed or temporary building next to the current fire station as discussed during last month’s meeting, Panfil asked Sell to bring a proposal for a bigger building that could be attached to the current station to fit not only the aerial but future trucks.

Sell said a new building roughly 50 feet wide and 88 feet deep with six bays has an estimated cost of $283,000 – a price tag the chief said was on the “high side.”

The new building would be used only to house the trucks, while the old building would be used for training, storage, meetings, kitchen and bathroom facilities, etc.

“We feel that would get us well down the road as far as the coming years,” Sell explained. “A pretty plain Jane building just to house the trucks.”

The project would also include a facade to connect the old fire station to the new building as well as a walkway connecting the two buildings.

Committing both installments of the city’s ARPA funds to the station, Panfil said, gives the project roughly $240,000.

The council also discussed the fire department’s set-aside funds, rural set-aside funds, possible grant funding, future truck needs, and upcoming air pack purchases.

“Between [rural set-aside] funding and our city set-aside and potentially what you’re offering, I think we could get really darn close,” Sell told the council.

The council directed Sell to bring a hard bid package to the August meeting. A motion was also made and passed to not commit ARPA funds to the city’s sewer projects.

Nuisance proceedings

Under department reports, council member Jamie Erhardt addressed the continuing issue of the 2011 derecho-damaged Traer Manufacturing building located on the south side of town that is currently owned by Heartland Co-op.

For almost a year, Erhardt and Mayor Pete Holden have been working to reacquire at least part of the former city property for a possible new fire station – or at the very least as a place to store the department’s new aerial truck – but discussions with the company have come to a standstill with zero progress being made and the building continuing to deteriorate.

Erhardt asked the council to begin pursuing nuisance and/or dangerous property proceedings on the building – a process that must involve Mayor Holden who was absent for this portion of the meeting.

A motion was approved by the council to begin the process which will include working with the city’s attorney Brent Lechtenberg.

Other Business

A six percent cost of living raise was approved for all public works employees and for Traer Ambulance Service employees.