The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

December 19, 2012

'Political bias’ argued at City Council meeting


OTTUMWA — Shelter rental fee increase shot down

The City Council did not approve an increase in the rental fee of the Sycamore Park Shelter.

The Parks Advisory Board had approved 2-1 a fee increase for the shelter from $25 to $35. The City Council did not approve the measure 2-3, with Councilmen Brian Morgan, Mitch Niner and J.R. Richards as the dissenting votes.

Parks Director Gene Rathje said parks employees spend more time cleaning this shelter after it’s used than other park shelters. The shelter was rented 67 times this year, he said.

“If you’re going to do that, I don’t know why you wouldn’t, Monday through Friday, lower the other shelters by $10 to encourage weeknight rentals,” Niner said.

When the item was first presented to the Parks Board, it was presented as an increase to $50, Morgan said.

“It looked like a money grab, just another way to make 25 bucks,” he said. “Then, after the fact, it made it, to me, look like,  well, we can’t get another $25 out of ‘em, let’s get at least another $10 out of ‘em.”

Rathje said one to two parks employees go out every Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning — on overtime — to clean the shelters.

City Administrator Joe Helfenberger said the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2013-14 will likely hold to the same amount as the prior fiscal year, with some adjustments for union contracts, fuel and energy costs.

William Jones, an Ottumwa resident, expressed his concerns about increasing taxes.

“My real estate taxes were $500 when I moved here, and I thought that was a little high,” Jones said. “But since that time they have increased 600 percent. That doesn’t say much for this community.”

Jones said Ottumwa will never attract new industry due to taxes and “union attitude.”

“It’s worse in Ottumwa than any place I’ve ever lived,” he said. “If we’re not careful, we’re going to be in the same position many other communities are in today, going bankrupt.”

Jones suggested cutting all department budgets by 10 percent and getting rid of the Ottumwa Fire Department, making it entirely run by volunteer firefighters.

“We don’t need it,” he said. “It doesn’t do anything but chase police cars and ambulances.”

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