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Is the public being left out of the virtual council meetings?

To the Editor:

Because of COVID-19, the moving of the meeting to a virtual setting was the correct action to take care of city business. With that came the elimination of the public comment section and the elimination of the public input into agenda items.

For example, I live on Fourth Street Southwest and the Fourth Street reconstruction was on the agenda for the April 6 meeting. The agenda item was to accept the contract for the project and I knew I couldn’t be there so I sent my questions for the city engineer to the mayor and council to ask. The city clerk forwarded the letter a week in advance to city administrator, engineer, mayor and council.

At the meeting before the Fourth Street agenda item, the city administrator announced that the city engineer would not be available, didn’t explain why. I was stunned and I think council was also because there was nobody available to answer questions. This wasn’t the only agenda item where the council would have questions for the engineer. At the April 20 meeting, the city engineer was available and answered questions

The question most concerning is that St John’s church sits on a 100-year-old city sewer line. On its west side is Fourth Street, where the sewer line will be replaced this summer. On its east side, the Third Street sewer line was replaced in the dryrun project. three years ago there was a failure of the sewer line on Fourth Street by the church. There are also two 8-inch sewer lines in Fourth Street combining to form a 12-inch feeder which runs under the church. This line will be handling the increased flow from the hospital expansion.

This situation was explained by myself and St John’s at the public hearing. The city engineer and Snyders (project engineer) have not explained their position on this. While Fourth Street is torn up all they have to do is lay the pipe in the ground to reroute the sewer line.

On April 18, the preconstruction meeting with residents was called off due to COVID-19 . The city engineer said the project will proceed because it is deemed essential. Public input is also essential and it is the law.

The project doesn’t start until June 1, and then they are going to install a turning lane coming down the hill by the cemetery. They probably won’t close Fourth Street until July. Plenty of time to have a neighborhood meeting. I am not the only one who has questions.

I question whether the city administrator and the city engineer are advancing the public trust or trying to squelch it. Transparency from City Hall has been foggy at best.

Dick Magnall


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