Council agrees to lower farm rent with FFA
The Washington City Council talked about its farmland lease with the FFA at its meeting Wednesday.
The council decided to reduce its rent next year from $300 an acre to $265 an acre on the ground the FFA farms. The councilors agreed to the reduction in light of the lower quality of farmland the FFA will farm in 2013.
The city owns 90 acres northwest of town known as the “School 90” because it once belonged to the Washington School District. The council has an agreement with Duane Redlinger to swap 46 of those acres for 46 acres to the south, near Fifth Street, in order to build a wellness park there. In the meantime, the FFA will farm the 46 acres until the wellness park is built.
The 46 acres the city would receive is lower quality ground as judged by its Corn Suitability Rating (CSR). The 46 acres Redlinger would receive has a CSR of 81 while the 46 acres the city would receive has a CSR of 61.
Zeus Knupp and his son Tanner attended the meeting to speak on behalf of the FFA. Zeus suggested the rent should be $225 an acre per year since that would be a 25 percent reduction in rent to match the 25 percent reduction in CSR.
Councilor Bob Shepherd said he was not comfortable giving the FFA a 25 percent discount considering farmland values have risen so much in just the past couple of years. He said that ground that might have rented for $300 an acre a few years ago could rent for $400 now.
After the council agreed to offer the land to the FFA for $265 an acre, Tanner told the council the FFA would accept that price. The councilors agreed that, in the near future, they wanted to work on an extended lease with the FFA so the group could continue farming the ground beyond 2013.
Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman told the council about a speed trailer he would like to purchase. The trailer shows drivers how fast they are going. It also records speed data in a computer as it displays it to passing drivers. Goodman said the trailer could be moved from throughout town to monitor speeding on various streets.
Councilor Bob Shellmyer asked Goodman how often the police would use the trailer once the novelty of it wore off. Goodman responded by saying the police would use it as much as possible.
The trailer costs about $6,400, of which $4,500 will come from a grant. The city has to pay a match of about $1,900. Goodman said the police will use money from their asset forfeiture fund so that no taxpayer dollars will be involved. Shellmyer said he would support the trailer as long as no taxpayer dollars are spent.
The council voted 5-0 to approve the speed monitoring trailer.
In other news, the council talked about the newly made gravel road, West Buchanan, leading from Highway 1 to the sewer plant. The road was built by the contractor who made the plant and is not technically city property yet. However, a few citizens have driven on the road to drop off yard waste at the sewer plant.
City Administrator Brent Hinson said West Buchanan was not intended as a through street. Some of the councilors said it is not ready for public use. The council decided to put up a temporary barricade on the new road.
The council approved the second reading of an ordinance to allow sidewalk cafés in the downtown. A sidewalk café refers to a dining area on a public sidewalk that is adjacent to a restaurant.
Shepherd said he does not like the idea of “off-building” cafés, which are islands of seating not adjacent to the café’s building. He said he walked through the Ped Mall in Iowa City and did not like the off-building cafés he saw there.
In other matters, the council:
• approved a resolution establishing a housing improvement task force;
• approved a resolution adopting a strategic priorities work plan for 2013 and 2014;
• approved a resolution assessing taxes to delinquent accounts;
• approved a resolution to accept final payment for the Highland Drainage Phase 2 project;
• approved a resolution to release retainage for the 2012 pavement patching project;
• approved a resolution to release retainage for the 2010 pavement project;
• approved a resolution to release retainage for the 2012 overlay project;
• approved a resolution to release final payment for the South Avenue E reconstruction project.