City Council Recap: Showboat Change Order, 990 N. Washington Street

It was a quick meeting for Lowell City Council last night with only three members present and six short agenda items up for discussion. Councilmembers Marty Chambers and Greg Canfield were absent which left Mayor Mike DeVore, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Salzwedel and Councilmember Cliff Yankovich left to run through business during the 36-minute meeting.

Showboat, LLP and Well Pump Repairs

Councilmembers started the evening by giving their ok to allowing members to call into council meetings if they cannot physically attend. However, a member calling in would not be counted for purposes of determining whether a quorum was present.

Next up was a change order for Moran Iron Works, which is crafting the steel hull for the new Showboat. In recent months, it was found that the plans for the Showboat called for the wrong ceiling height on the second floor. The change order corrects that mistake at a cost of $39,421.80 which represents 2.6% of the project total. “I had anticipated the change order might be higher,” City Manager Mike Burns noted.

Councilmember Cliff Yankovich said some people might want to try to place blame for the mistake on a particular person or group, but it seemed to be an unfortunate oversight. He said he would vote for the change order because he wanted the Showboat to be constructed correctly. When a vote was taken, the change order was approved unanimously.

Next up were two requests from Lowell Light & Power which were both passed unanimously as well.

  • Increase in board compensation: Noting that its board member compensation has not increased in six years and that meetings regularly run 2-3 hours long, LLP General Manager Steve Donkersloot requested an increase in board compensation from $35 to $45 per meeting, with the total annual cost not to exceed $900.
  • Change to retirement system: To address growing pension costs, Donkersloot said the LLP board wants to close the existing hybrid retirement plan to non-union employees and use a direct contribution system instead. The new plan, which needed City Council approval, has the following key components:
    • 9% employer contribution regardless of employee contributions
    • One-for-one employer match of up to 3%
    • Employee contributions can range from 1-15%
    • 5-year vesting period

Finally, the Lowell City Council voted unanimously to spend $9,633.74 to replace a pipe column and a pump bowl assembly in the city’s #4 well. This is part of a previously approved and budgeted project.

Discussion on 990 N. Washington

The final agenda item for the evening was an issue that may be familiar to long-time Lowell residents. It pertained to the lease of the property at 990 N. Washington Street. That lease is set to expire in six months, and Burns came to the council to seek direction on how to proceed.

The property in question was originally used by Lowell Light & Power when they had equipment at the end of N. Washington Street. The house there was at one time used by a caretaker employed by the utility but eventually abandoned. At some point after that, Gary Dietzel and Sandra Bartlett moved in.

By 1979, the city began renting the property to the couple for $70 a month. With no formal rental agreement in place, that arrangement continued for more than 25 years before a new generation of city leaders became aware of it. They questioned whether it was appropriate for the city to serve as a landlord, raised concerns about building code violations at the property and noted the rental price was far below market value.

Eventually, it was decided that it would be best to allow the couple to remain in the home they had lived in for so long, but the rental price was adjusted and repairs to the property mandated. Dietzel and Bartlett were given a 10-year lease agreement which was the longest allowed by city rules.

Now that the 10-year period is coming to a close, it appears the current city councilmembers have many of the same questions as their predecessors. Perhaps complicating matters is an offer from Lowell resident William Thompson to buy the property for $20,000.

“It looks like there is a lot to unpack there,” DeVore said. However, he felt it would be best to have that discussion when Chambers and Canfield were present so the matter was tabled for a future meeting.

Next Meeting Will Include Vote on Parkland Transfer

Although not announced last night, the next meeting of Lowell City Council will be a special meeting next Monday, January 27, at 7pm. At that meeting, the council will discuss a resolution to transfer a portion of Riverside Park to the Unity School Investors.

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