By Dave Fish, Belle Plaine Mayor
Dear Citizens of Belle Plaine:
Thank you to the Belle Plaine Volunteer Fire Department for their outstanding effort to get down all the Christmas decorations on a cold Sunday morning. Once again, the BPVFD comes thru on another city project.
The month of February and March for the council, the administrator, the clerks, and the Mayor means budget time. Budgeting gets more difficult each year as decisions by the state chip away at some of the funding sources that cities use. The idea that we can simply raise property tax to meet our needs is totally inaccurate. Plus, the money we collect from our utilities has specific state regulations on spending. Every year the council takes a serious look at a variety of things to see if we can trim something. If your property tax goes up, you must look at all the players in the taxing situation, not just the city, and see if your property’s value went up. The county assessor runs that area.
The general motto at our level of gov’t is, how do you do more with less?
Another factor that makes budgeting challenging is that everyone below the state level must complete their budgets before knowing what the state legislature will do with taxation. No matter what, it does not make February and March easy months for those involved in government agencies.
Our Republic Garbage contract runs out this fiscal year, and they are projecting a 20% raise for signing a new five-year deal. At that point, the city council will have to decide whether we want to send out an RFP and rebid this contract. We know contractors out there have already contacted us to see if they could get our business. It is not a simple question because Republic has several good features we like. They still allow you to do major items once a month, not forcing the city to wait for some type of clean-up day. They also help our older residents who need extra help with the bins, especially in the wintertime. So, if we go with another firm, will they be as good as Republic, or should we raise rates and keep the horse we are already riding? I don’t know what the council will decide, but that is why they get paid the big bucks to make those tough decisions.
Stay tuned to see how the council acts or doesn’t act!
If you see strange people reading your water meters, that is because Al Dvorak resigned from that job as an independent worker, and we are reading it in-house with our own staff. It could be one of five guys, including Al, and it will be during the week. If you question someone strange in your backyard, please call city hall and get an update from Sandy or Ashley.
Water and sewer rates are set by a formula in the city code. So before we put any of the new sewer and water rates in the new budget starting on July 1, 2023, we first have to see what the cost of living at the national scale has done and where those budgets are projected to be at the end year. Water main breaks, well issues, and sewer problems we plan for, but we can never predict or control those. We know the water side of our budget has improved dramatically since we started digging our own water main breaks. Yes, we plan to drill a new well and possibly add a filtering system to our well 6, which will cost money. Yes, there are grants out there that we will apply for, but no federal or state grants will cover all the costs. We will be very fiscally prudent as we approach these problems.
A quick discussion about snow removal: the city’s top priorities will always be the streets, and on snowy days, that means the business district, roads to the school, & streets to get to work, + residential. Alleys are about fifth on the list and always have been for decades. We have divided our snow removal team into two groups, so we are clearing out the business area & plowing the residential areas simultaneously.
Also, there is no parking on city streets during a snow emergency.
Main Street is off-limits from 2-5 a.m. all the time. (This is especially important during snow removal times, both emergency & non-emergency & during the street cleaning season!)
The large bio-cells create a real problem in clearing 12th Street. By adding some new equipment and dividing into a couple of groups, we feel we can do a better job in the downtown area. Also, if nature doesn’t drop the snowfall on time, removing it is even more challenging. Most of our streets will never be as clean as Highway 21 because the state has much more technology than the city can ever afford.
Also, the brine they use would destroy all our seal coat streets.
Registration on pets has started; the sooner you get it done the less chance to pick up a late fee!
Do not forget to get out and support the local athletes in basketball and wrestling, plus the band and cheer squads that also perform. Don’t forget the speech kids and the robotics group who are also in competition. One of the big new items is that this is the first year IHSGAU officially sponsors girls wrestling. Make sure you pay attention to the local Lady Plainswomen.
As Always, “Go Plainsmen.” Remember, it is up to all of us to make Belle Plaine the best hometown in Iowa!
Mayor Dave Fish- February 2023
(Yes, I’ve been struggling with some health issues, so if you are coming to city hall to see the Mayor, I would check ahead to see if I’m in on that day.)