July 25, 2017

A City Council member spoke up Monday evening to combat ideas presented in an advertisement that opposed the upcoming library/City Hall modernization referendum.

The ad, appearing in the Daily Times Herald Friday, was written by R.W. Collison and denounced city officials’ statements that some long-term debt will be paid off in the “near future.” It stated that $4 million in city debt will continue to be paid off in the next half-dozen years, adding, “Since when is 6 or 7 years short term?”

In response, Councilman LaVern Dirkx pointed out three city debts that either have been paid off recently, will be paid off soon or whose payments soon will be reduced — opening up space for new debt:

— A tax-increment financing refunding and street project payment that cost the city $312,170 a year that was paid off in the fiscal year ending June 30.

— A fund used to pay for the Carroll Recreation Center’s weight room improvements and street improvements costing $260,000 a year that will be paid off during the current fiscal year.

— A fund paying for the city’s new cemetery building and 3rd Street storm sewer and overlay projects, for which annual payments will drop from $315,000 to $270,000 after this fiscal year.

“If you read that, it makes it sound like we’re borrowing $4 million until 2024, and that’s not correct,” Dirkx said.

Those three changes open up $617,170 in annual debt payments after the current fiscal year that the city can take on without changing the debt service levy — that is, without increasing the property taxes residents pay in reference to the city’s debt.

Susanne Gerlach of PFM Financial Advisors in Des Moines has recommended the city pursue a 10-year repayment plan if it takes on debt of up to $3.8 million to help pay for the library/City Hall project. Although interest rates and payments can vary, estimates for annual payments for that debt start at about $375,000 a year — well within the $617,000 the city soon will have available for debt payments, Dirkx said.

“There’s been some confusion on the street about that, and I thought we needed to clear it up,” he said.

At its Monday meeting, council also adopted an updated sidewalk regulation ordinance that requires homeowners to maintain their sidewalks, in addition to removing snow and ice, and makes homeowners liable for injuries taking place on defective sidewalks.