FROM THE DESK OF THE MAYOR
Dear Citizens of Belle Plaine:
A major factor in trying to improve our city government the last four years has been communication both in what the city council is doing & in relaying emergency city information such as water main breaks, snow emergencies, etc. With the introduction of the Nixle system we feel we have an excellent system that covers anyone who has either a cell phone or a computer. But as I discuss this situation with various groups of residents I find we are still missing a few people, namely those who do not have a computer or a cell phone. Yes, younger generations there are still some residents who have only a landline phone & do not have a PC. For those residents we are exploring the idea to join a system that is called: Call-Em-All. We first need to compile a list of residents that want this service. So I’m asking all residents who do not have a home computer & who do not have acell phone that will take text messages to please call city hall & get on the list. This will not cost you anything & once we install the service you will then get emergency calls when we send out a Nixle alert. Again this is reserved for those who have no computer or cell phone. For those who ask why can’t everyone have this system it is because we get the Nixle system FREE & the Call-Em-All system will cost us money. The council sees no reason to spend money when we don’t have to. So if you fit that category then please sign up. If you know someone who should be on the list then please talk to them about this service. This could be a relative or a neighbor. Please don’t just sign them up because there are some simple instructions we do have to give them. We hope after the introduction of this system we can at least start to think we have closed the communication gap or at least narrowed it!
By the time this newsletter gets out I would imagine that you will notice we have installed self-opening doors on the west & the north sides of city hall & on the main doors at the Community Center. If you’re asking why I could go into the ADA compliant explanation but in reality it is because they were needed & we actually got them financially where we could afford them. A big reason we could afford them is we are doing a fair amount of the work in house, thanks to the 28-E sharing agreement we have with the school. I hope those residents who have dreaded coming to city hall or getting into the community center will now feel more comfortable coming to these public buildings! The one concern I heard about the doors is they should open faster. The speed of the opening is controlled by the ADA & OSHA laws as created by the federal government. We have no way to adjust the speed. As I was told by one resident who loves the doors, “those who are complaining about the slowness have never tried to get thru a set of heavy doors while using a walker, a wheel chair or on crutches. Once they have that experience they probably will think different”. No matter how you feel about it, I think, as does the council, that it is an improvement that was long overdue for two of our major city buildings! (The Library already has them)
Every governmental group that I work on right now is very busy working on budgets because our budgets have to be done in March. Reason: the fiscal year starts on July 1 for government groups not on January 1 where it starts for businesses & citizens. So while as individuals we are busy completing & filing taxes; the local & regional governmental agencies are just as busy trying to balance a budget & in general do more with less. The city council will be doing our annual budget meeting on February 8 at 6:00 pm in council chambers. Yes, this meeting is open to the public. The city administrator will present the budget that he has put together while the council reviews it & makes suggestions on how to change it. The budget will be officially approved at one of the later council meetings. In preliminary reports given to me by the city administrator we are seeing an increase in street money from the 10% gas tax that was added to our gas prices last year. This will be a big plus for our ability to seal coat more streets & do other street work. But we are seeing cuts to our general fund as the state legislature continues to make cuts to various commercial property taxes which are definitely good for business but not so good for city government. The state legislature has yet to replace the money in city budgets that has been cut by this method. Hopefully by spring the state will start to answer some of those questions or it will make for some tough decisions by the city council on how to balance our budget. Unlike the federal government, we cannot just borrow the money for normal city government operations.
Snow removal was an issue that I discussed last month & it was not snow removal from our streets but how we do it on Main Street sidewalks & on various public properties. Our problem the last time was a major break down of our snow blower. Since that point in time we have purchased another snow blower for use on Main Street, the Library, City Hall & other city owned property. We also added another city worker who will help in that area during snow emergencies. We are already in the process of developing a new plan for next year that we feel will be more effective. Again we are only really talking about snow emergencies & we are only talking city property. I’m not talking at all about snow removal on the streets. While the last major snow was tough to work with, our street crews did an excellent job in clearing all the city streets. One of the major problems we will always have in dealing with snow is not only how much did we get and how icy it is, but when does it fall. We go out at about 3:00 am to start snow removal but if the storm continues on & rolls into the morning or afternoon hours, then you can bet it will be tough to get it plowed out. The more traffic that drives on the streets & packs the snow the tougher it will always be to get it out of our way. Overall I think our street guys do a great job. Now if we could only get nature to either not give us so much or at least have it fall in a time frame that makes it easier to plow before the public gets out in it. If there is one thing I have learned since I retired from education, the rest of the work world usually does not have snow days. I know I was spoiled by the education system, but for a long time I worked for a superintendent who believed if he didn’t get stuck in his driveway then we were going to have school. (And we usually did!)
I have seen ads where Walmart has a project going that says to Green Light a Vet. Change one light to green in a visible location-on your porch, in your home, or at your office-and keep it glowing every day as a symbol of appreciation and support for our veterans. Then, share your support by taking a picture of your green light and posting it using the hashtag #greenlightavet. While riding around looking at Christmas displays I did notice a number of houses who have a green light up for veterans. I know I have put one up so maybe more people in Belle Plaine could put one up. Gee wouldn’t it be cool to become the greenest light community in eastern Iowa or the state. I can think of a lot of groups that need our support but the one group who has supported all of us, at times we really don’t think about is our veterans. Maybe we should let them know we really do appreciate all they have done for this country.
If you have not had a chance to see the boys or girls basketball team, time is running out before tournament time. The same is true for the wrestlers. A trip to the gym will reveal the new handrails that help you get up & down in the bleachers, a computer screened scorer’s table that is really cool, & new scoreboards on both ends of the gym. Both the girls & boys are in a battle for lead of the east division of the SICL & hoping for a chance to play the other division winner for the conference title on February 5 & 12th. The girls start regional tournament action on Thursday, February 11 at home against Gladbrook/Reinbeck at 7:00 pm. Boy’s sectional wrestling starts on Saturday, February 5 & Boys district basketball starts on Monday, February 15. Check with the school for official times & places.
As always “Go Plainsmen.” Remember it is up to all of us to make
Belle Plaine the best hometown in Iowa!
Mayor Dave Fish – February 2016