LCEDG to get $5,000 boost from city
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – City officials had little discussion around a $7 million budget proposal for the next fiscal year.
The council discussed the budget for nearly two hours in a special session Thursday afternoon and City Manager David Varley said the city is getting back to a healthier general fund balance.
“It’s a balanced budget with a slight positive net cash flow. And we’re not proposing any increase in the property tax levy,” Varley said.
He said the franchise tax fee on natural gas will be about $90,000 less that the city had anticipated even with the increase in gas costs.
“The estimate we got from the gas company originally was just off. They gave us an estimate and they’ve apologized so it’s coming in at a lot less than what we estimated and budgeted.”
An additional detective position was requested for the Fort Madison Police Department.
Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff said he doesn’t come asking for an additional position lightly and understands that it has an impact on future budgets as well.
He said the city supported the department’s request for a detective position last year and a community services officer, as well as introducing sergeants positions.
“Today this additional position is for law enforcement purposes only. Typically a department this size should have two detectives to handle calls,” Rohloff said.
He said currently the department has a 33% closure rate on criminal cases, which is a rate the department hasn’t seen because of the detective.
The department’s detective in 2021 was David Doyle, who’s since left the department for a different position. That leaves his detective supervisor position open. The new position would be a department detective to augment the supervisor position.
“The nature of the work requires undistracted attention to detail, skill in investigative techniques, and follow through, and more importantly timeliness.”
He said bringing the additional position on at a cost of $90,000 is zero option discussion.
“This is going to have to require an investment from the city. And this is something we need to invest in and do at this time. I consider this a no-option proposal that I’m giving to the council.”
The department is budgeted for 20 officers and there are currently three openings.
Rohloff said there is a nationwide shortage of officers and said Keokuk Police Department was just in front of their council with the same concerns.
Councilman Rusty Andrews said since Rohloff has been with the city, staffing has been an issue. He was careful to say it wasn’t Rohloff’s fault because everyone was experiencing the same difficulties.
“Finding law enforcement candidates is difficult. There is no easy pass there. What we’ve started on as far as offering lateral positions and offering bonuses has been somewhat successful,” Rohloff said.
Andrews said the staff is getting very young, to which Rohloff said he was a “mile wide and an inch deep”.
The council also agreed preliminarily to have Varley boost the contribution to Lee County Economic Development Group from $30,000 to $35,000.
Varley said the city needs to start preparing for some capital expenses at the Old Fort. Varley said staff at the Old Fort has been making repairs they are qualified for, but additional larger scale renovations are going to be needed.
Mayor Matt Mohrfeld told Varley to look at finding some money in the budget to set aside for that work.