Sewer repairs, deer, focus of council in 2013
The Fairfield City Council had a busy year in 2013 that included large capital projects and a few controversial ordinances.
The city passed an ordinance in September to raise sewer rates 20 percent to cover the repair of the sewer conveyance system near Lamson Woods, which is one part of a much larger $42 million project to repair sewer mains throughout town.
The sewer rate is calculated based on how much water a customer uses, since the city assumes the clean water also goes down the sewer. Under the ordinance, each user will pay a base fee of $17.82 regardless of how much water he uses. The use-rate would be $0.0588 per cubic foot of water used.
Part of the reason the city needs to repair its sewer facilities is because millions of gallons of rainwater seep into the mains during heavy downpours. Wastewater superintendent Shawn Worley said a torrential rain can force the plant to treat 17-18 million gallons a day, when it is designed to handle 4 million gallons. At times, the load on the plant is so great that untreated sewage, significantly diluted by clean rainwater, overflows into creeks.
Deer were the subject of a couple of city ordinances in 2013. One of the ordinances, passed in May, forbids residents from feeding deer. It prevents residents from using 20 devices for feeding deer and 36 kinds of bait specific to deer. At the time, councilor Connie Boyer said the ordinance grew out of the council’s desire to limit the deer population in the city without opening a deer hunting season, which she said would have been too controversial.
As it turned out, the council would later approve a deer hunting season in select wooded areas on the south side of town. This generated significant feedback from members of the public, both from those who supported the move and from those who sought alternative means of solving the problems deer cause.
Supporters of the hunt cited other cities that have undertaken bow hunts with no issues. They said deer were responsible for destroying flowerbeds and gardens in town as well as creating a safety hazard for motorists. Opponents of the ordinance suggested controlling the deer population through a vaccine that prevents the deer from getting pregnant. They also suggested ways of keeping deer out of gardens by purchasing scarecrows that shoot water at them and by purchasing scents that keep deer away.
The council passed an ordinance to allow bow hunting in these wooded areas, which would have taken place in late December and early January. However, the hunt was cancelled earlier this month because not enough hunters signed up.
A topic that came before the council numerous times throughout the year and also generated considerable feedback from residents was John Kuster’s request to rezone the former Nelson Nursing Home so he could make it into an apartment complex.
Kuster needed the council to rezone the property from R-2 to R-3 to allow him to house the number of residents he wanted. His plan was to remodel the former nursing home and turn it into “Maplewood Apartments,” capable of housing 19 units.
Several neighbors of the former nursing home appeared before the council to voice their displeasure with the proposal, arguing that it would increase traffic on West Taylor Avenue and South Eighth Street and that the apartment complex would lower the property values of nearby homes. The council ultimately agreed to Kuster’s request to rezone the property but stipulated he could have no more than 17 units in the building.
In March, the city passed an ordinance to improve safety and clarify rules about swimming in Bonnifield Lake. The ordinance set the swim season from April 1 to Oct. 31 and allowed for the lake to be closed due to inclement weather.
The ordinance states the city will maintain emergency rescue equipment adjacent to or on the beach.
Councilor Michael Halley said the type of emergency rescue equipment was left vague in the ordinance because the city may change the equipment as safety technology develops.
Preparing for the RAGBRAI overnight stop on July 26 was a significant undertaking and involved nearly every department head.
Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy said RAGBRAI came off so well thanks to the city employees and volunteers who donated their time to making it a success.
“We heard from a lot of riders that Fairfield was their favorite overnight stop,” he said. “It showed what great hospitality we have in the community.”
Malloy said 2013 was another progressive year for Fairfield in which the city laid building blocks for projects that will come to fruition in the coming years.