Council gives a smile to dental office grant
RIVERSIDE — The Riverside City Council awarded a $5,000 grant to a dental office in Riverside at its meeting Monday. The decision did not come without some controversy as a few councilors said the steps of the project were not done in order.
The vote was ultimately 4-1 in favor of the grant. Kevin Kiene cast the no vote while councilors Bob Schneider, Nate Kasdorf, Christine Kirkwood and Ralph Schnoebelen voted yes.
Tammy Grimm, who owns Riverside Family Dental, renovated her office in late September. She spent $46,000 in the process and presented invoices to the council proving she had spent more than $10,000. The city of Riverside’s business incentive program will match half the cost of an eligible business renovation up to $5,000.
What bothered some members of the council was that the council had never really approved the project in advance. At an earlier meeting in September, the council learned Grimm was applying for the grant. Grimm had only gotten a single bid to renovate her office, and the program guidelines stated that she needed to get two bids. The council advised her to seek a second bid.
Kirkwood said that her understanding of the earlier meeting was that the council was still waiting for more information and that it had not approved funding for the project. She said the council always approves funding a project in advance.
City Administrator Rusty Rogerson said that was not how he thought the process worked. He said the council told him earlier that it doesn’t approve business grants until the work on the project is complete.
“When I brought it to you initially, you said we don’t approve these if the work’s not done,” Rogerson told the council.
Kasdorf said that, if that really was the case, he hopes the council doesn’t do that in the future. He said he’d hate to see a business start a project, thinking it could get a grant later on, and then come up short if the grant is not approved.
Rogerson said that’s exactly how the city manages its residential grants. The homeowner is not reimbursed until the work is done.
Kiene said that he didn’t want to point fingers at anybody in particular but said he could not support the grant request because the guidelines were not followed.
“This should have been approved before the project started,” he said. “I don’t care whose fault it is. If I’m a busy person, I’m going to make sure my money is there. That’s part of your responsibility of doing business.”
The council also voted down a motion to rent ground west of town for a welcome sign. The sign would be on the north side of the road outside of town. The vote was 3-2 as Kiene, Kasdorf and Kirkwood voted against it while Schneider and Schnoebelen voted for it.
The land belongs to Dennis Walker. Walker is willing to lease the ground to the city for $1,200 a year for up to 20 years. He is also willing to mow and maintain the ground around the sign.
Schneider said he thought that was a good deal since Walker was willing to mow the land. Kirkwood was less enthused.
“So, we’re going to pay $20,000 for a sign that people think is on the wrong side of the road?” she said.
Kirkwood was referring to earlier criticisms of the sign for forcing motorists to look to their left instead of their right.
Rogerson said if the city wanted to put the sign in the ground this year, it would have to act fast. Poch suggested that since there were doubts about the location and the fact that the land would be leased and not bought outright, the city should wait to install the sign next year.
In other matters, the council talked about allowing a Highland high school student participate in council meetings by allowing him or her to sit up front beside the councilors for a few months. Mayor Bill Poch said the student would not vote on the motions but he or she would be called upon to speak.
The idea was welcomed by most members of the council with the exception of Kirkwood.
“It bothers me that someone would come in, who is not remotely familiar with Robert’s Rules, to join in our conversation,” she said. “There needs to be some groundwork done and some ground rules.”
Poch said he thought it was unlikely the student would say very much and he expected the student to remain quiet for the first few meetings.
“I don’t want to make this a big deal,” Poch said. “I’d like to put this in place at our next council meeting.”
Rogerson said the student council operates under Robert’s Rules of Order, so the students would be familiar with it.
Nate Schneider, son of Bob and Lois Schneider and a senior at Highland High School, said all Highland students must take government to graduate, so they have some idea of what the council does. He said the student who participates on the council will probably be a junior or senior.
City Clerk Lory Young said she has received a few complaints from residents who have been bothered by burning leaves. Rogerson said he reviewed the pertinent city ordinance and found that residents may burn yard waste whenever they wish.
Kirkwood suggested that the city find a way to reduce the need to burn leaves. She suggested the city borrow Washington’s leaf vacuum, which would allow residents to dispose of their leaves without burning them.