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Tiffin council and CCA board working together

Future recreation center, crossing guards discussed at joint meeting
MORE PHOTOSTiffin City Administrator Doug Boldt addresses Tiffin City Council members and the Clear Creek Amana School Board of Directors at a joint meeting Wednesday, Dec. 7, in the Springmier Community Library. (photo by Shianne Fisher)

TIFFIN– Everyone just wants what’s best for the community.
That was the sentiment at a joint meeting Wednesday, Dec. 7, between the Tiffin City Council and Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School District Board of Directors.
At the hour-long meeting in the Springmier Community Library, the groups discussed multiple topics, including cost-shared crossing guards, upcoming Park Road construction and a future recreation center.
“The idea is that we can continue these meetings, as we both know that this community is growing and moving forward, so that we can create that kind of partnership that we want and present that image to the community and accomplish joint goals,” said Tiffin City Administrator Doug Boldt.
Boldt has been meeting with CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl on a regular basis, and they decided a few months ago a joint meeting would be beneficial to both parties.
“It’s been really good, a positive thing for our organizations,” Kuehl said.
Present at the meeting were city council members Peggy Upton, Jim Bartels and Al Havens, as well as Tiffin Mayor Steve Berner and Deputy City Clerk Ashley Platz. Absent were members Mike Ryan and Joann Kahler.
Present on the school board side were Board President Steve Swenka, Board Vice-President Bob Broghammer and members Matt McAreavy, Eileen Schmidt and Jennifer Mooney, as well as Kuehl and Board Secretary Lori Robertson. Absent were members Terry Davis and Jim Seelman.

The first agenda item was the possibility of sharing the cost of a crossing guard at the intersection of Ireland Avenue and Highway 6.
Kuehl noted the district has already hired Tiffin resident Dana Hummel at a contract of $13.75 per hour plus FICA/IPERS at 16.58 percent but would like the city to pitch in once the first few paychecks start rolling out.
Boldt said he did some research on how other cities split the expenditure but didn’t come up with any concrete results.
“It’s all over the map, whether the city pays for the whole thing, and of course sharing,” he said. “It’s just a matter of what cities and school for what jurisdiction works it out.”
A crossing guard became necessary once the construction of the Ireland Avenue extension began and it was made clear that kids might have trouble getting across the wide intersection.
Brad Fox, principal at the middle school, had been helping kids cross before the district decided to hire out.
“Mr. Fox has been serving as crossing guard since all the construction went crazy out there,” said Kuehl. “It’s not the best situation for us to have him tied up twice a day like that.”
With the Ireland Avenue construction now complete but with Roberts Ferry Road improvements scheduled to begin next summer, the City of Tiffin recently began to implore the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to allow traffic and pedestrian lights at the intersection to help with safety.
At a city council meeting in October, the city council discussed several traffic studies and warrants that point to a need for the lighted intersection, although no funding source has been officially identified for the $250,000 project.
“I just want everyone to know that the DOT is aware of that,” said Boldt. “They’re working with us on it. There’s no specific answer on it yet. They have goofy rules and regulations that they have to go through that dictates speed limits and school zones. I anticipate that relationship and some sort of compromise to continue.”
Schmidt asked if since a boy got hit in the crosswalk in October whether there were grants to speed up the installation of traffic controls.
Boldt said he wasn’t aware of any funding aside from DOT funding, and that funding, if approved, wouldn’t be available until July 2018.
“I think it’d be important that if we’re going to put the lights there, that we do it in the summertime,” Havens pointed out. He said it would allow drivers to get used to the stop lights and pedestrian controls before school started in the fall.
Kuehl also brought up the idea of an additional crossing guard at the intersection of Deer View Avenue and Highway 6. He said high school students currently use the crosswalk, but middle school students are still bused for safety concerns.
A crossing guard at Tiffin Elementary may eventually be necessary as well, he added.
Boldt noted the city does plan to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Park Road and Highway 6, near the elementary school, and later at the Deer View intersection.
“I see Highway 6 as you go fast, then you go slow, then you go slower, then you go fast, then you go slow, then you go fast again,” he said. “Part of what we’re trying to do with the roundabout… is somewhat add consistency to the speed limit through town.”
He noted that, ultimately, that decision falls on the DOT, but crossing guards can be implemented under the community’s jurisdiction.
“Anyone have concerns sharing cost?” Kuehl asked. He said Hummel is scheduled to work two hours a day– one in the morning and one in the evening– every day school is in session including early-out days.
At $13.75 per hour plus retirement, that’s around $160 per week and $640 per month, with an even cost-share split about $320.
“We’re not talking a big expense,” said Havens.
“I would like to think that we are all concerned about getting kids safely to and from school,” Upton added. “If that’s something we can do to help, I’m totally on board with that.”
The city council and school board decided to have a future 28E agreement drafted to officially address the shared cost of the crossing guard.

Boldt also summarized the upcoming Park Road improvement project for the school board members, as construction will undoubtedly affect activities at Tiffin Elementary.
“The council has not had any formal discussion on whether or not to assess any of the improvements along Park Road to any of the adjoining property owners,” Boldt noted. “Our philosophy informally is that if we can get the property owners to cooperate with the right of way and easements we need, there would not be a need for us to assess any of the improvements.”
The city plans to fund the project with tax increment financing (TIF) funds procured from the future Park Place development, to be located near the new Forevergreen interchange. Boldt said he estimates a $500 million taxable valuation potential.
“As long as he (the developer) puts some buildings up, it should happen,” said Berner. “It should be enough to pay our bills.”
Kuehl expressed some hesitation with using TIF but said he appreciated that it was only being used in the planned commercial district.
“I won’t say I don’t like TIF; it doesn’t take money from us,” said Kuehl. “We’re going to get our money. Not getting assessed, I’m very happy that’s probable. That’s money out of our budget that frankly we don’t have a lot of either.”
Kuehl said he thinks a lot of community members think TIF takes money from the school when it doesn’t.
“When you use it correctly, it pays off in the long term for us too,” he added.
Upton stressed the pending rooftops likely to accompany the Park Road improvements.
“This is a huge project,” she said. “You can imagine that the residential development will expand exponentially around it and that’s going to fill up the schools even faster than they’re already filling up. So something to put on the long-term radar there.”
“It’s there. That radar’s flashing,” Kuehl said.

Another noteworthy item on the agenda was the potential for a community recreation center and a joint-use or cost-sharing agreement between the city and school district.
Boldt said several individuals have approached him about prospective sites.
“Those are great conversations,” he said. “I’m glad they recognize that this a community that might work in. That it would be a good quality of life attraction.”
A community recreation center is on Tiffin’s current capital improvements plan (CIP), with $5 million in funds slated for Fiscal Year 2021-2022. The CIP notes a possible 28E agreement with CCA.
“The reason this was on here is because gym space is always a premium,” said Boldt.
Kuehl agreed, noting that the district’s facilities can’t quite keep up.
“It’d take some pressure off,” he said. “Honestly, our facilities… we’ve been working on our policies and stuff again lately. There’s so much pressure on them. We make a lot of people angry just by trying to protect our own practices, let alone all the youth groups that want to be in for volleyball, basketball, batting cages. If we could have something else available in the community, that helps a lot.”
According to chapter 905.1 of the school board’s policy, the use of school buildings and grounds by community groups is encouraged, but that use must be scheduled as to not interfere with district activities.
The policy includes general guidelines for use as well as a fee schedule.
Boldt said possible locations for the facility include City Park, the industrial park, the high school-middle school campus, and the future Park Place development.
“We recognize that the community needs more facilities just for general recreation,” said Upton. “It’s for the wellbeing of community members, but kids are likely to be biggest users of it.
“We haven’t done much more than say it’s time to get the community center facility on the radar, but we want to move forward with it,” she added. “We would love it if the school would like to participate with us, then we could all use it because we’re all members of the community.”
Berner said the agreement could be similar to how the city uses the Springmier Community Library, although it’s located within the middle school.
“It’s going to be North Liberty Community Center type facility, potentially a bit bigger,” he said. “It’s going to be a big deal.”
He added that the city has hopes the school would at least help with staffing.
“I think your timing’s right because Tiffin’s just about to that size where you need something for kids to do,” McAreavy said. “It all comes down to if we can find uses for the school.”
The group made no formal decision but committed to staying in the loop on the future project.
“It’ll be more fun than a road for a change,” said Upton. “We just wanted to gauge interest and it seems like it’s there.”
Both parties agreed to continue meeting at least every six months, most likely on Wednesday evenings.