OTTUMWA — Tuesday saw the beginning of a new police chief’s tenure in Ottumwa and the end of a long career with the department.
Chief Tom McAndrew announced his intent to retire in March. He became chief in 2013, after the retirement of Jim Clark. Like Clark, he saw an officer he had worked with for years succeed him in the role.
Chad Farrington took the oath of office during the council’s Tuesday session. He joined the department in 1998, made sergeant in 2005 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2013. He spoke only briefly after taking the oath.
“I’ll do my best to not let you down, and I look forward to the challenges of serving our community and my officers,” he said.
While that portion of the meeting was celebratory, especially since it was the first meeting in months that was not restricted to 10 or fewer people, council members later had a less pleasant item of business. Ottumwa is looking at a sewer rate hike.
The proposed increase is 8 percent, less than two dollars per billing cycle, and the first increase since 2013. City staff said it is needed due to the continuing sewer separation project.
The project began more than a decade ago, and is a mandate the city must complete. It will eventually replace the city’s combined sanitary and storm sewers with separate lines. While work has been quiet for a couple years, that lull was to prepare for the next segment of the project.
Officials expect another rate hike will be needed, but the later increase should put the city close to the amount it needs for the project. While council members said they understood the need for the increase, the gap since the last increase was cause for concern.
Past councils have generally preferred to wait on rate increases until they are unavoidable, which has led to larger jumps each time. Both Councilman Marc Roe and Mayor Tom Lazio said the city needs to shift to an incremental approach in which increases are lower but more frequent.
The city may be able to get an extension if rates approach a certain percentage of the median household incomes for Ottumwa, but that is not guaranteed.
Council members split 3-2 later in the meeting on a transfer of $7,654 to Bridge View Center due to losses caused by COVID-19 cancellations. It was a repeat of a similar vote May 19, with Roe and Councilman Matt Dalbey opposed the measure.