Upgrades to City Hall technology were approved Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the regular meeting of the West Liberty City Council held via a virtual Zoom meeting based at the West Liberty Public Library meeting room.
Working without Mayor Robert Hartman, Interim Mayor Diane Beranek directed the vote as all five city council members approved a new phone system and computer upgrades as the City Hall begins an anticipated five to six month remodeling project, moving administration personnel to the WeLead/Regional Learning & Cultural Center building in downtown West Liberty by March 1.
City Clerk Lee Geertz said the city has talked about replacing its phone system for years, calling it “antiquated” and at least 30 years old. She said the new “Voice Over Internet” technology would include lots of message taking upgrades and, with the remodeling underway, it would make sense to move forward on a better system, even though the price tag was $1,358.40 more per year from Liberty Communications of West Liberty.
In a separate vote, the council also approved a recommendation by the finance committee to approve an Incode Orion Cloud based server system put together by Tyler Technologies of Plano, Texas at a cost of $30,046. The company does a lot of work for government agencies.
City IT specialist Nick Heath reviewed options for the city before giving his recommendation of proceeding with the Tyler Technologies proposal.
The clerk said all city utility invoicing and financial paperwork would be upgraded to the system, making it more cyber-defense friendly. She said the upgrade would eventually reduce costs because the city was constantly upgrading the older server system.
In other business, Beranek said she was “totally disgusted” with a fiscal year 2019 audit presentation after a meeting with the state auditor, Geertz giving a brief summary on the audit at the meeting. Beranek did recommend approving the report to the council.
The city also set a special work session for Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. to go over the proposed “Communications Plan” put together by new communications director Nick Heath. The meeting would also include discussion on the city’s social media policy along with amending policies for employees using a computer based system. Finally, the council would also expect to act on a new salary range with Matric for management and non-management employees at the meeting.
The council had planned to talk about the plan at their first meeting in February, but it had been tabled because of a lengthy discussion on the budget and a proposed ATV, UTV, golf cart ordinance, which was also tabled.
The council also approved an annual Class C Beer Permit for Deepack Giri of Giri BP to sell class B wines, class C beers and conduct Sunday sales of alcohol.
Another Class C Commercial sales liquor license was approved for 12 months for the Muscatine County Fair Board in West Liberty, which would include Sunday liquor sales. Past president Kurt Kichner of Nichols and president Rex Kephart of Wilton were listed on the license.
The Dollar General store in West Liberty was also granted their annual Class C Beer permit that would include Sunday sales, with Lawrence Gatta of Brentwood, Tennessee listed as a non-member manager of the store.
In the interim city manager’s report, Elizabeth Hansen said the city was on track for a March 2 public hearing on certifying the levy rate and then setting a follow-up public hearing on approval of the fiscal year 2022 budget on March 16.
The city is also working with V & K Engineering in studying water, sewer and storm water utility rates while BHMG is completing a study on electricity rates. The rates are hoped to be in the hands of the council for a March meeting.
Regarding department reports, there was a lot of talk about street cleaning due to the recent snowstorms, the crews getting a lot of compliments from residents and the council. There were some complaints about snow being piled too high at some intersections, but city crews were working to relieve those sight problems as they were discovered.
City engineer Leo Foley of Veenestra & Kimm said the city would be opening at least two bids on the remodeling project of the Waldo C. Myers city hall building on Thursday, Feb. 18, before awarding the bid.
He also said some small projects at the West Liberty Public Library were being considered.
Sewer supervisor Daniel Goodale said a malfunction alarm at the city plant needs to be replaced. He has tried to repair the alarm, but is convinced it simply needs to be replaced.
WeLead director Joe Taylor was assigned to coordinate a meeting with West Liberty business leaders and West Liberty Foods officials at a request of the turkey processing plant leaders.
Library director Allie Paarsmith reported submitting a request to the Peggy Barber Tribune Grant to go toward programming take-and-make kit, which the library plans to pair with a zoom-based workshop program.
She also reported receiving $1,000 from the local PEO Chapter, to be used to cover patron requests through the remainder of the year.
The library is also working on new story time events each week and is offering five-minute Friday videos. She said the effort required to produce those videos is higher than the return the library is currently getting. “But I believe it is important to continue offering these programs in lieu of in-person programming,” Paarsmith reported.