FROM THE DESK OF THE MAYOR
Dear Citizens of Belle Plaine:
I’m starting to write this hours before I board a plane for Seattle to follow the Panthers (UNI) thru their trip in the NCAA tournaments. The months of February & March have been fast & furious for basketball enthusiasts with the success of the Belle Plaine boys’ team & three very good division I men’s teams & four very good division I women’s teams. I will say the exact same thing for business around City Hall that ranges all the way from completion of the budget, to our Highway 30 work, with encouraging a business to take over the new Benco plant, working with the Land Fill Commission, working with Benton Development Group, to prepping for our urban revitalization hearing, to our Comprehensive Plan public meetings, to the Hazzard Mitigation work, to buying the little league diamonds + park & then just on to the normal business of the city like water leaks & what do we need to do to be ready for spring.
Let’s review some recent council action:
We are in the process of refinancing some of our older bonds at lower rate. I know you heard the various commercials about refinancing a mortgage; well it is the same thing. When we started this process, it looked like we could save the city about $120,000 but wouldn’t you know it our bond specialists said “the Fed” had actually made a few changes so it looks like the savings is more in the range of $45,000. Well that is still $45,000 we save the Belle Plaine tax payers. So for those rumors that have been saying the city is borrowing another $1.7 million that is not exactly true. Yes, we are borrowing money that will pay off some of our old current debt so the new debt will be financed at a much cheaper rate. We are not going deeper into debt but are saving the city money so it sounds like a win/win situation to me!
We will be doing an Urban Revitalization Hearing at our April 20 meeting. The primary purpose of this project is to develop some property tax incentives we can use to encourage businesses to settle in Belle Plaine, to encourage new home construction in Belle Plaine, or to do major home remodeling. It is something that needs to be done if we are going to compete with those towns who already offer such incentives. It can’t all be done with TIF concepts.
We are also into developing our overall city comprehensive plan which is required by the state. It is really a blue print for the city over the course of the next twenty years. Yes, there will be projects on there that might be eye opening but that does not mean they will all get done nor does it mean they are going to start them next fall. It is a plan for the future & as we all know in planning sometimes the plan changes. (I went to college to be a lawyer but ended up teaching & coaching for thirty eight years >Quite the plan change!) All the planning that is going on is simply the flexible blue print on where we want to be as a community in the next twenty years and how are we going to get there. Just like personal or family plans they can be changed. We have done a lot of positive things in Belle Plaine in the past 8 to 10 years and hopefully we can expand upon that success. I know the city is working hard at trying to bring more business & jobs to town along with trying to modernize everything from our sewer lines, to sewer plant, to water lines, well fields, & anything else dealing with water delivery. We definitely want to once again make Belle Plaine a city with a growing population and economy. (By the way the first community meeting for this plan was very successful with over fifty participants! I would also note that members of our community see Belle Plaine as having many more positives than we do negatives concerning the city. I totally agree with their thoughts. But yes we have challenges that we will be required to work our way through. We have proven many times that we can solve the challenges that our city faces in a these economic times!)
The city would appreciate it if all the pet registration is completed by the end of this month!
We are also in the process of helping the county re-do the Hazzard Mitigation Plan which simply deals with how will we deal with certain major emergencies that could happen in Benton County & those specifically to the Belle Plaine area. Example: train wreck, tornado, or Jumbo Well reopens! We all hope we never have to face one of these major difficulties but at the same time we also know we want to be prepared for one of them if they ever happen. We have great emergency personnel but if the day ever comes where they are presented with some type of special disaster we want to make sure that plans are in place to set up the frame work to deal with the problems.
How about I address one rumor head on………………the condition of our wells. Right now as I type this the wells are in okay shape. We are not on water restrictions! Our water department monitors the wells on a weekly basis & will monitor them even more if we look like we have problems. If we do not get some quality spring rain then there will be problems. Snow fall this winter was not that significant, plus the spring as of right now has been dry. So with that in mind it is possible that in the future we could be forced to go back on water restrictions. If we experience some major water main breaks we could be forced to turn on “Well 6”, but as of right now the questions I have been asked about water shortage have been answered: no we do not have problems at this time! One of the issues the council will be looking at in the near future will be how do we permanently solve any water problems of the future. We know some of the things that won’t work but we still have to find out what is the permeant solution which could range from water purification plant to drilling a new well.
Those are challenges to be solved in the future.
Speaking of solutions, a special thank you should go out to Elaine Drahn for her generous donation to help the city buy the little league diamonds and surrounding park. Once again the City of Belle Plaine with cooperation from the school and a generous citizen has met a challenge. That area will now be in the hands of our Park & Recreation Department so look for future developments to maintain & improve the facility.
I know special congratulations need to go to Coach Northrop & the Belle Plaine boys’ basketball team on their fantastic season & for taking the BP fans on a great journey thru the district tournaments & our first trip to the state basketball tournament. Congrats to the BP fans who followed that journey & had a great time in Des Moines. The sadness of the first round loss was best expressed when
Coach Northrop tweeted, “It’s the old saying “Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened!” “We were just looking at the (participation) trophy in the locker room. There have been some great athletes come through our school … It’s a pretty big deal taking some hardware home.”
Also congratulations to Coach Northrop on being named as the Cedar Rapids Gazette’s area basketball coach of the year. A well-deserved honor.
Now it’s on to those spring sports that have already started their seasons!
AS ALWAYS “GO PLAINSMEN”. REMEMBER IT IS UP TO ALL OF US TO MAKE BELLE PLAINE THE BEST HOMETOWN IN IOWA!
Dave Fish-April 2015