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INDEPENDENCE – The Independence City Council unanimously approved hiring Dave Niedert as the next Independence police chief at the September 13 meeting.

In presenting her selection, Mayor Bonita Davis stated she worked with At-Large Council Members Bob Hill and John Kurtz to interview five candidates.

Niedert has been in law enforcement since 1988. He is currently a first lieutenant with the Oelwein Police Department, but served as a patrol officer, narcotics investigator, and then patrol sergeant for the Independence Police Department from 1991 to 2016. At Monday’s meeting, he stated he was interested in the position of chief as it would be a challenge and felt he could make a difference to the community.

Niedert will be administered the oath of office later this month.

Public input into the use of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funding in the amount of approximately $915,000 was discussed. Two organizations, Celebrate Indee and the Independence Area Chamber of Commerce, submitted suggestions prior to the meeting. There were no extra comments from the audience. Mayor Davis said public comments on the issue would be accepted until the council takes a vote at the September 27 meeting.

The U.S. Treasury Department issued ARPA guidelines for eligible uses that include: supporting the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic; addressing the negative economic effects caused by COVID-19 by aiding workers and families, small businesses, nonprofits, or industries such as tourism and travel that were hit particularly hard by the pandemic; replacing lost public sector revenue; providing premium pay for workers performing essential work during the pandemic; investing in water and sewer infrastructure; and investing in broadband infrastructure.

The council discussed the possibility of using the funds for local road construction, but initial interpretations of the law did not support those projects. Also, any eligible projects would have to be new and presently unfunded.

Other areas suggested to consider include: child care resources; public health workforce/ambulance funding; water/wastewater delinquent payments; homeowner assistance – delinquent mortgage/rent payments; support for restaurants; and safe drinking water (water and wastewater infrastructure) – this does not include street or storm sewer improvements.

Other Council Business

- Strand Associates was awarded a $35,000 contract for a Nutrient Reduction Strategy Study. The study will include possible improvements to the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP).

- Approved a list of fire department items to be disposed. Some of the items will be sold or given to area departments in need. Some equipment or gear will be gathered county wide and sent to out-of-state departments in desperate need of basic items.

- Approved a seasonal sewer service usage averaging program to be implemented by Independence, Light and Power, Telecommunications in conjunction with WWTP.

- Approve a tax abatement application from Echo Development.

- Approved a Highway 150 change request in the amount of $1,210.14 with a split vote of 4-3. The council first discussed why the change order occurred, and some felt it should have been covered in the original contract. Dissenting votes were cast by council members Juan Rodriguez, Bob Hill, and John Kurtz.

- Passed a motion to direct staff to implement storm water planning efforts in the northeast part of town near the fairgrounds.

- Motions authorizing the mayor to send a letter of censure were discussed at length and failed. The topic, nor target of the letter, were publicly disclosed.

The meeting adjourned at 7:33 p.m. The next regular council meeting will be Monday, September 27, at City Hall.

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