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Council to announce intent to fill Ward 2 vacancy by appointment

Councilors also expected to discuss curbside recycling pick-up times

At tonight’s regular meeting of the Newton City Council, it is expected that councilors will announce their intent to fill the Ward 2 vacancy by appointment.

The Ward 2 seat was previously held by mayor Mike Hansen, who was required to vacate the seat upon his appointment as mayor. No one has publicly announced interest in the seat, but it is likely the council will seek applicants for the position in much the same manner it solicited applicants for the mayoral position.

The meeting has a full agenda, which includes further discussion on the possibility of contracting legal services. City Administrator Bob Knabel, in a Nov. 14 memo to councilors, said he had completed a requested analysis to “ascertain where the population threshold would be for those cities retaining full-time staff attorneys.”

He said of the 25 largest cities in Iowa — Newton is 26th largest — 11 had contracted city attorneys and 14 had on-staff attorneys. He said the threshold for on-staff attorneys appeared in the 46,000 to 56,000 population range.

Newton’s population, as of the 2010 Census, was 15,254.

Knabel said he also was asked to review potential conflicts of interest. He said that question may be difficult to address in general terms. He suggested one way to avoid the bulk of potential conflicts would be to enter into an agreement with the Jasper County Attorney’s Office for prosecutorial services.

Knabel also recommended sending out requests for proposals, which could be reviewed to determine interest from law firms in the region, the potential cost of contracting those services, and where potential areas of conflict of interest may occur.

Councilors also are expected to discuss the city’s trash and curbside recycling pickup contract with Dodd’s Trash Hauling and Recycling Inc. of Newton. Knabel ultimately recommended that Dodd’s either be held to its existing contract, or that the contract be amended.

David and Liz Dodd sent a letter to the council explaining why their company has been collecting the curbside recycling earlier than the contracted time. The Dodds said the earlier start time had been approved by previous Public Works directors and city administrators dating back nearly two decades.

They have asked that they be allowed to continue starting their collection process at 12:30 a.m. The current contract states collection should begin at “6 a.m. or sunrise, whichever is earlier.”

“Following, or not following, the contract should not be arbitrarily decided upon by the City Administrator and/or the contractor,” Knabel wrote in his Nov. 14 memo to councilors. “To not enforce the contracts as they are written would mean that the city administrator would be shirking his responsibilities as outlined and inferred in the [City Code].”

The council also is expected to approve the annual financial report for Fiscal Year 2012. A draft of the report shows the city’s general fund balance fell nearly $1.6 million from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012. It also shows a general obligation debt load of slightly more than $28 million, which is 68.2 percent of the city’s total debt capacity.

In all, the agenda for tonight’s meeting contains nearly 20 items.

Bob Eschliman can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 423 or via email at

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