BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With the city looking at about $2.6 million in flood repairs, few answers came to the surface at Tuesday’s night’s three-hour plus City Council meeting.
City Public Works Director Larry Driscoll presented the list to the council and said Federal Emergency Management Agency funding could pay for up to 75% of the work, but the city would not only come up with 25% of the costs, but would also have to pay for the work in advance and then get reimbursed by FEMA.
But Driscoll, and City Finance Director Peggy Steffensmeier, also told the council, that sometimes the FEMA doesn’t always pay what they originally approve.
“What a minute… am I understanding this right. Even though these may be approved by FEMA, they may not pay,” Councilman Matt Mohrfeld asked.
City Clerk Melinda Blind referenced a 2008 project that was FEMA approved and the city didn’t get reimbursed for the amount that was approved by the federal agency.
“I think we got a payment, but it wasn’t what was approved.”
Steffensmeier said the agency can withhold money if they don’t like the way certain parts of the project were completed.
City Manager David Varley said this is why he likes to carry a larger balance in the general fund.
“Normally, you have a larger fund balance and this wouldn’t be an issue at all, we would just pay for repairs and get reimbursed for what we can,” Varley said.
He said at the end of September the city’s general fund balance was $51,000 in the red.
Driscoll submitted a list of 14 repairs that would have to be paid for out of the general fund. Some of the items like debris cleanup and the cost of large sandbags are paid at 100% by FEMA, but the rest of the items are reimbursed at either 50% or 75%.
Items on the list include street damage, creek cleanup, Riverview Pavilion and depot museum repairs, as well as marina repairs and Kuhlmeier Pond rehabilitation are under the general fund repairs that total $2.677 million.
An additional $1.035 million in waste water treatment repairs were also listed but Driscoll said his budget at that department can afford the 25% match for those repairs.
The marina work includes a jetty wall repair and expansion, dock repairs, and a retaining wall repair. The improved jetty wall carries at $1 million price tag and mayor Brad Randolph recommended that be pulled from the list to help ease the city’s cost. That project is only a 50% match.
Even pulling that $500,000 out of the list, Mohrfeld said the city didn’t have the money to do the repairs. Randolph asked Varley where he felt the money could come from.
Varley said the city would have three options. Cut expenses, raise revenues or borrow. Randolph said the city could issue a general obligation bond but that might have to go in front of voters. Steffensmeier said the city still has a heavy payment on the Quality of Life bond it’s currently paying off.
No decisions were made on what to cut from the list and Driscoll said he was going to continue doing the projects that he’s already started on and wait for direction from the council.
In other action, the council:
• approved, 7-0, the first reading of an ordinance allowing a change in zoning codes under limited retail in business districts to allow schools. Schools currently aren’t considered limited retail uses under the code. Southeastern Community College wants to rehabilitate the former CarSmart property into a 2 to 3 classroom Fort Madison Center.
• voted to close the Fort Madison Revolving Loan Fund and move approximately $190,000 left in the fund into the city’s general fund. The revolving loan fund was a tool for local economic development, that wasn’t being utilized.
• voted, 7-0, to approve the purchase of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system for the city’s water treatment plant.