New procedure at city council special meeting

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The Guttenberg city council met in special session on March 23 using virtual technology due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There was a limit of 10 people allowed in the council chambers, and two council members communicated via video conference, as did several other meeting participants. Above, councilmember Virginia Saeugling appears on the screen. From left are councilmember Austin Greve, Mayor Bill Frommelt and City Manager Denise Schneider. The meeting was broadcast on Channel 6 and the public could participate online or by phone. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Shelia Tomkins

A new electronic meeting procedure was implemented when the Guttenberg city council met in special session on Monday, March 23.

In order to comply with social distancing recommendations, the meeting was opened to a maximum of ten people. Mayor Bill Frommelt and City Manager Denise Schneider were at the council table, along with council members Austin Greve, Fred Schaub and Jane Parker. Participating on video conference were council members Virginia Saeugling and Mick Pierce, along with several community members. The meeting was broadcast on Cable Channel 6, and the public could phone in comments or join the meeting from a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Until further notice, upcoming meetings will also be conducted in this manner.

Contagious disease resolution

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the council approved a resolution that deals with emergency procedures  such as social distancing, sanitizing offices and equipment, the donning of personal protective equipment when deemed necessary and the closing to the public of city hall and other public works buildings, including the fire station. The resolution also lists safety protocols for firefighters when responding to a call. Plans also call for the pool to be closed to the public. 

The city manager said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is encouraging split shifts for workers in order to minimize face-to-face contact. Schneider presented a proposal to have city employees work split or alternating shifts so that a minimum number share the same space, with sanitizing done between shifts. Discussion was also held about what to do about compensation for city workers when they are not working full-time. The council voted to approve split shifts and to make no reduction in wages or salaries at this time. The council gave the mayor authority to monitor the situation to keep abreast of changes.

Community development position

Mayor Frommelt introduced an agenda item proposing the creation of a community development position. "We want to talk about the functions of that position, the need for the position and how it will be funded," said the mayor. "The purpose is to help sustain, promote and grow business and the community as a whole. Basically we want to discuss the need and how to go about doing this."

Prior to the meeting council members reviewed a preliminary job description for the position. Parker suggested some changes to the wording and said she thought the new position was really important but wondered if the current four-person city office staff could be restructured, remaining at four including the proposed new position. Saeugling suggested adding grant-writing to the job description. 

Offering comments via teleconference were M.J. Smith and Russ Loven, representing the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities;  Molly Moser, representing the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, and  Mark Reinig  a consultant from ISU Economic Development.

During discussion on funding sources, it was noted that the Foundation for Cornerstone Communities is working with several donors supportive of this position for initial funding, after which it is hoped that it will be sustained with grants and increased tax revenue.

The council tabled further discussion until the next meeting.

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