West Liberty City Council

West Liberty to pursue sister city agreement

Arrecifes, Argentina chosen from short list of seven cities


West Liberty is pursuing a sister city agreement with the “motor racing capital of Argentina.”

WeLead director Ken Brooks announced the decision at the city council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Brooks said the Sister City Committee, after an approximately year-long process, chose Arrecifes, Argentina, as the international city it would like to partner with. Arrecifes was on a shortlist of seven cities the committee considered.

Arrecifces, a city of about 26,000 people, is in the Buenos Aires province in eastern Argentina.

“They are a relatively small community. That’s one of the things we were looking for,” said Brooks. “It would be pretty difficult to match with another community of four or five thousand people. But we think 25, 26 thousand is a good match.”

Brooks said Arrecifes has a large agricultural economy, including cash crops, cattle and poultry, which made it another good match for West Liberty. He added the community has a vibrant cultural scene, and hosts an annual regional music festival.

“Another tie-in to West Liberty is that they are known as the ‘motor racing capital of Argentina’,” said Brooks. “So, lots of tie-ins with arts and culture and industry and business. We feel like we have a pretty good partner.”

He said the committee reached out to several cities on the shortlist, and the minister of culture and tourism in Arrecifes responded that he would be excited to have a partner in the sister cities program.

Brooks brought the proposal before the council to get their consensus on proceeding, adding that a formal agreement would still have to be worked out.

Council member Omar Martinez asked Brooks for more information on the goals and benefits of the sister city program.

“The idea is that it’s a free exchange of ideas, championing the art of citizen diplomacy,” said Brooks. “Citizens help each other, trading ideas and best practices. Part of the relationship is that we will constantly be trading delegations, go visit for a week at a time. We’ll have the opportunity to do study abroad programs for students, and teachers should be able to do that.”

“Are you recruiting people to move there for a year and help set this up?” joked mayor Ethan Anderson.

Anderson thanked Brooks and the committee for their work on the project.

“This will be awesome,” said Brooks.

“I think so,” agreed Anderson.

West Liberty Foods project

City engineer Leo Foley of Veenstra & Kimm informed the council that the city conducted a study with EcoEngineers of Des Moines at West Liberty Foods for a project on ecofriendly wastewater generation. Foley said the project had originally been intended for the city’s wastewater treatment plant, but after the report was completed, it was determined it would be more suited for the West Liberty Foods property.

“The type of strength digestor they need is what’s called a high-strength digestor, not for municipal sewage,” said Foley. He said the types of waste that would be generated were not intended to go through the city’s sewer system.

“We think it would be better on West Liberty Foods’ property, wherever they decide they’re going to relocate, or close to it. It doesn’t have to be right on it, or right near it, but you’re going to be trucking to it. Close is important.”

Foley said the president and chief environmental officer at West Liberty Foods had been notified of the findings, and “they seemed to be all in.”

He said updated plans and contracts with West Liberty Foods for the project would be available at the next council meeting.

Council member Ashley Smith asked Foley about potential odor from the project. “I assume you’re talking about turkey guts not going in (the sewer). Is it going to smell? Like, is it going to stink?”

Foley said there would not be an odor problem, noting that Veenstra & Kimm was working on a similar digestor in Clinton. “These kind of digestors, they have tops on them. So the top makes it so they contain the odors,” he explained. The topper helps capture gases inside the digestor, so it can be treated and come out as what Foley called, “clean gas.”

“They can sell it to the gas pipeline. Muscatine now has one, and we’re building one for Clinton right now as we speak.

“Because (West Liberty Foods) wants to be self-sufficient, it’s probably a good idea for them.”

Roadway improvements

The council held a public hearing on plans and specifications for the Knotty Circle Drive and Division Street roadway improvements. Bids for the projects are due at 2 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Foley said problems with the sidewalk on the northeast corner of Division and Gibson had been resolved. Property owner Diane Brooks gave permission for the city to regrade her property and reseed, and the city also agreed to cut down several trees on her property in exchange for having access to her property during the project. The city also arranged for a temporary easement on the Brooks property until the project is complete.

“She was very nice to deal with, and we’ll get this in writing in the next week,” said Foley. 

Run for the Schools

The council approved closing streets for Run for the Schools fundraiser on Oct. 1, sponsored by the West Liberty School District and MidWest One Bank. The 5K race starts at 3 p.m.

“Great to see this coming back,” said Anderson, referring to the race’s COVID-induced hiatus.

Other municipal projects

The council approved the sixth pay estimate to All American Concrete for the Rainbow/Maxson Street project, in the amount of $144,514.

Council member Smith asked city engineer Foley about progress on the project. Foley said that while the project will not be completed for several more months, he had been told by contractors they were hoping to have the road open by early October. 

“They’ve got until December to finish the project. It will probably take until December,” he added.

The council also approved the second pay estimate to S.G. Construction for the Well #2 – Phase 2: Pumphouse Improvement Project, in the amount of $32,184.10.

Further, the council approved an agreement with Callahan Municipal Consultants to update the city’s strategic planning.

City manager Lee Geertz said, “Every couple of years, we update our previous planning. We’re past that two-year mark, and it’s time to update and put together some other, future plans.” She said a date for the contract to start would be finalized by the next meeting, but would not be until after the November election, to allow any potential new council members to participate in the process.

Closed session

Pursuant to Iowa Code 21.5(C), the council entered into a closed session to discuss strategy with counsel in matters that are presently in litigation, or where litigation is imminent, where its disclosure would likely to prejudice or disadvantage the position of the governmental body in that litigation.

Upon reentering open session, the council voted to move forward with retaining Minneapolis-based law firm Fredrickson & Byron to conduct an independent employee investigation, and authorized Geertz to sign a contract not to exceed $20,000.

Consent agenda

As part of the consent agenda, the council approved:

A Class E retail alcohol license for Giri LLC;

A Class C retail alcohol license for Puebla Mexican Restaurant, pending dram shop approval;

A Class C retail alcohol license for St. Louis Bar.

The council also approved Claims List #1 in the amount of $1,174,332.89, and Claims List #2 to Cardinal Graphics for $75. Council member Cara McFerren abstained from the Claims List #2 vote, due to a conflict of interest.

Council member Dana Dominguez was unable to attend the meeting in person, and listened in on Zoom.

The next regular meeting will be Monday, Sept. 19. Preliminary agenda items include a budget amendment hearing.