City gets to work

Ashley Smith · Wednesday, January 11, 2017
The West Liberty City Council met on Jan. 3 to discuss updates on West Liberty Economic Area Development (We Lead), repairs to a city well and set a budget work session before entering into an executive closed session.

We Lead past president Lee Geertz and current president Sandee Buysse-Baker addressed the council to reflect on the successes of the organization and comment on future plans and goals.

“It’s hard to believe, but coming up in 2017, the organization has been around for 10 years,” said Geertz. “This year marked the success of We Lead along with the city as our partner, and partnerships with Iowa State University and Muscatine County.”

“We have met all four core goals that were set in 2009,” she said.

Those goals included objectives in leadership, work skills, job creation and a housing study, said Geertz. The organization also opened the Regional Learning and Cultural Center (RLCC) in 2016.

The leadership program taught participants about being involved in city leadership, serving on non-profit boards, and writing grant applications, said Geertz. Several community projects have since been funded through grant-writing, she said.

Data measured in the housing study was useful in the City’s visioning project and updates to the comprehensive plan, added Geertz. The RLCC has also generated economic success for the community.

“Simpson Memorial Home recently had a successful graduating group of certified nurse aides, we’ve created some cooking classes, and opened the farmer’s market last year,” she said.

“We’ve been able to organize [the market] so that it can be open all year round, and that takes place in the RLCC as well.”

We Lead also recently accepted the resignation of its director, Shannon McNaul, said Geertz.

Buysse-Baker explained that structural changes in the organization’s partnership with ISU will now bring the directorship under control of We Lead.

“We did meet with ISU’s community outreach and development organization, they informed us that they’ve made a decision to discontinue those types of partnerships,” said Buysse-Baker.

“The other thing that they told us is that because of We Lead’s success, they want to continue to support and work with We Lead in West Liberty. They’re not offering this to any other city across the state,” she said.

“For West Liberty, they want to continue some sort of partnership. So the partnership will change, and we haven’t finished negotiations for exactly what that will look like.”

“We do know that the director will no longer be an employee of ISU, so that creates an opportunity for us and we’re excited about that opportunity of bringing that directorship under We Lead. They will be our employee,” she said.

Daily operations are currently being managed by the executive committee while We Lead works through the transition.

“As we continue to negotiate with Iowa State and with the county, having city support is critical to us so that we can move forward. We just have a couple of things we need to get ironed out from a funding perspective, and figure out what the partnership will look like with ISU. Then we need to get the position posted and get a new director hired,” said Buysse-Baker.

According to Geertz, We Lead will continue to serve as a liaison between the city and external economic development organizations.

“A few years ago we worked with the city on an agreement where We Lead would take on the role for those outside economic development partnerships, like the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD), the Quad City Chamber, and some other areas,” she said.

“With having an economic development group, it made sense to have them take on a role of going to those meetings and participating and receiving referrals. We’re going to commit to the Council that those agreements will still continue on as we’re moving forward,” said Geertz.

Both women expressed gratitude on behalf of We Lead for the city’s ongoing support.

“I appreciate the fiscal support that the city has provided We Lead and I hope we have your support going forward,” said Geertz.

“The board is very committed to the continued success with We Lead, and we’re excited as we work through strategic planning to focus on new business development and business expansion,” said Buysse-Baker. “We hope that you will support us for 2017 and 2018.”

The Council also received updates on repairs to Well #4 from Water Superintendent George Pearl.

“We put together a synopsis of what happened to the well. I sent it to [City Clerk] Missy Carter, and she sent it on to the insurance company,” said Pearl.

Carter confirmed that she would be filing a claim for the repair. “Our deductible is $5,000 for an equipment break-down claim,” said Carter.

The city has ordered the replacement pump and motor for the well, said Pearl.

Mayor Robert Hartman expressed disappointment over a delay in advertising the City Council vacancy.

Carter explained that while she sent information to the West Liberty Index on Thursday, it had missed the print deadline for the holiday issue.

The vacancy should also be posted on the City website and social media accounts, said Hartman.

A council work session regarding the annual budget was set for January 17 at 5:30 p.m, and the council unanimously approved a Class C Beer License for DOLLGENCORP, LLC for Dollar General store #6336.

Major Hartman also explained that council committees would be assigned at a subsequent council meeting.

“This is the meeting that I would normally give out council committee assignments, but without knowing who will be the new councilmember, really it’s not fair to adjust the committees,” he said. “We will wait until the new councilmember is appointed.”

The council meeting ended with an executive closed session per Iowa Code 21.5 (c) to discuss strategy with counsel in matters that are presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent where its disclosure would be likely to prejudice or disadvantage the position of the governmental body in that litigation.

No decision was announced at the conclusion of the closed session.
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