Lifeguard shortage leads topics in busy council session

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Alta City Council is concerned about a shortage of lifeguards that has forced the city to shut down the pool at times. In searching for staff as far away as Cherokee, the Park Board found Aurelia, Schaller and other area towns to be in the same dilemma, but did get one applicant from Kings Pointe.

The sporadic hours are no fault of the parks board or the council, say Mayor Al Clark. The city had sought employees since the first part of the year, including reaching out to the high school. “There have been a lot of complaints and moaning and groaning - and it’s justified,” he said, suggesting that the city may have to rely on volunteers to keep the facility open as many hours as possible. The problem is, volunteers don’t have lifeguard certification, and safety has to come first, Clark said.

The council plans to hold a special public meeting September 10, 6:45 p.m. to discuss how to continue pool operations, following a park board meeting at 6 that night. All interested community members are encouraged to attend.

Among initial ideas are to have pool managers take lifeguard training, encourage some parents who might be willing to volunteer some hours to be certified, and possibly working with the Aurelia pool to share some staffing efforts.

“We spend money on an extra pump, and now we can’t even keep the pool open,” Mayor Clark lamented. “We want the public to be involved in this discussion.”

In other action during this week’s Alta City Council meeting:

• The state has agreed to moving a 45 mile per hour speed limit sign 300 feet west on Highway 7, in hopes of slowing down traffic coming into the city, The city may have to tweak its ordinance to reflect the change. City officials were pleased that the change was allowed without requiring an increase in speed near the Casey’s store.

• A sheriff’s representative reported on ongoing efforts to locate a radar trailer at Alta locations to gauge speeding issues. So far, results are finding most drivers within a few miles per hour of the speed limit. The trailer will be in place again after school starts to make sure drivers in that area are obeying.

• The deputy also reported that Alta unknowingly had a brush with a serious crime recently. After a gang-related stabbing incident in Cherokee, the search for the suspect ended in Alta when then man was found wandering alleys “trying to hide out.” He was taken into custody around 1 a.m. without further incident.

• Library leaders reported receiving a grant from the Siouxland Human Investment Partnership for children’s programming. The StoryTime at the Pool summer program has also proven very popular, the council was told.

• The council briefly touched on the possibility of purchasing expansion property near the sewage plant. Cost was estimated at $22,000 an acre with 2.5 acres under consideration. City officials say the DNR would have no issues with snow being dumped there, or dead ash trees stored for removal. No action was taken at this time.

• Lingering issues with meter reading at Lake Creek were discussed. The situation has gone on for a number of months, so the council decided to apply a significant charge to the responsible party in order to motivate the repairs.

• The city code officer reported that some foreclosed property homes with issues are being improved, but problems persist in setting meetings of the Planning and Zoning Board. Two positions are open, there is no chairperson, and some members aren’t replying to the city’s email contacts to try to gather the board. The mayor said the situation is like not even having a P&Z entity. Councilman Denny Weber added that members who do not want to serve should be removed so the city can find other people willing to be on the board.

• A resident reported that clean up efforts are continuing in the West View Trailer Park. The owner brought in dumpsters and three or four loads of refuse was removed recently, City officials said they appreciate the improvement efforts.

• The council agreed to allow two properties to be released from local utility obligation, to be served by Iowa Regional Water. Extending water main to the locations would be cost prohibitive for the city - about $68,000 per block. The agreement stipulates that if the city should annex the property in the future, Alta Municipal Utilities will have the right to serve the properties.

• Resident J.C. Eaton approached the city about burning trees on his property, where a large number of ash trees have died. City officials said that brush could be burned, but not entire trees, per DNR regulation. The man was also told he cannot haul the trees to the city’s disposal site, despite a plea for an exception, with the man saying that property owners will soon be “overwhelmed” by dying, infested ash trees.

• Eaton also questioned some stop signs in Alta, suggesting that they are an inconvenience. Mayor Al Clark said the signs, in the Lake and Main areas had been placed because of children and daycare in the areas, more than a year ago. Clark said that it only takes seconds to stop for a sign.

• Property owner Ross Parcel approached the council with a plan for tiling Maple Creek on his property, saying that the creek was causing his pond to fill with silt. He proposes to eliminate 150 feet of creek to create useable land. City officials expressed concern whether the project could cause backup at some newer homes added in the area that was formerly an executive golf course. Parcel said the old foot bridge on the property is about to wash into the creek, and hopes for permission to proceed as soon as possible. City officials tabled the issue until later this month, planning to check with their street official on potential impact.

• The council agreed to purchase materials to build a divider wall in the community center between the kitchen and the hall where celebrations like wedding receptions take place, to improve privacy. Council member Wes Bunjes and others volunteered to construct the divider.

• The council will meet August 21 at 6 p.m. to work on a comprehensive plan, and their next regular meeting, delayed due to the Labor Day holiday, will be Sept. 9.