Community Internet, Flood Mitigation, Eminent Domain

Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen Photo

Bronwyn's Council Preview

The City Council meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. this Tuesday at city hall. The agenda includes (but is not limited to):
 

  • 8. Motion approving Public Art Commission’s Birdhouse Competition program and authorizing the Commission to proceed with further development and implementation of the program.

    • The Ames Public Art Commission is suggesting a new competition to build, decorate, and place birdhouses in public parks. The Commission has already reached out to schools, preschools, and other youth and nature-based clubs to propose potential partnership, and broad interest was confirmed.

    • If this proposal in confirmed by Council, the competition will kick off in January of 2019, with submissions due sometime in March. 

  • 19. Flood Mitigation - River Flooding (tabled from 10-23-18).

    • One component of a 2013 flood-mitigation plan is the widening of the Squaw Creek channel as it passes under the South Duff bridge. The City had hoped for FEMA funding for this project ($5 million out of the project's total $7 million cost), but the first application for federal funding was unsuccessful. Staff are currently in the process of applying again.

    • One of the landowners in the area, Carney, represented by Hunziker, wants the City to act now (before FEMA funding is secured) in obtaining their land either via easement or purchase. They would like to develop their remaining property, and feel they are missing opportunities to do so as the City waits for an answer on federal funding. 

    • Staff recommend proceeding with obtaining easements on both sides prior to receiving notice of FEMA funding. The landowner would prefer the City purchase the front half, but staff note that an easement would be sufficient, less costly, and FEMA funding will not cover any land negotiations that are completed now.

  • 20. Resolution authorizing use of eminent domain, if necessary, to obtain easements and acquire land for East Industrial Area Utility Extension Project.

    • In 2016, Council approved the extension of utilities to serve the then-annexed East Industrial Area. To do so requires easements and land acquisitions across the properties. So far, as per the staff report, four land owners have reached agreement, six are yet in negotiations, and two have declined negotiations.

    • Council is being asked to authorize the use of eminent domain in cases when agreement can't be reached.
       

  • 21. Story County Housing Trust.

    • Council will be hearing a report from the Story County Housing Trust (SCHT) on their achievements over the past year, and considering their request to draw down their '18/'19 funding.
       

  • 22. Staff Report on Community Internet Improvements

    • At our annual January goal setting session (a very interesting yet poorly attended meeting, traditionally), Council added a goal related to examining how we can make internet access faster and more reliable for Ames users. This report from staff details four models of municipal involvement with internet.

      • Retail Model - The costliest model, as it involves building the actual physical infrastructure, as well as serving as a competing internet service provider. (Though it ultimately allows the most control of the final product.)

      • Wholesale Model - In this model, the municipality would build the network, but private companies would still serve as the ISPs.

      • Franchise Model - This model involves the city providing access to conduit and right of way for a franchise fee, but doesn't install the infrastructure or serve as the ISP.

      • Community Ownership/Deployment Model - This model would involve the City as well as other local entities (such as the university, school district, or hospital) collaborating to create a nonprofit that would invest in infrastructure and provide service.

    • The next steps for either the retail or wholesale model would be a feasibility study, followed by a referendum as per Iowa law. The staff report outlines options for funding both the capital and operational costs, but doesn't make any estimates of those costs at this times. (Presumably the costs would be estimated during the feasibility study.)

    • Staff outline other options for improving internet service, such as allowing for fiber-optic cables when laying electrical conduit, reducing pole attachment fees for providers, or requiring high speed infrastructure for new subdivisions.

    • Council is being asked to decide if we are interested in pursuing any of the aforesaid community internet improvements, and if so, which model we should pursue.

 

Non-Agenda Packet: There were no items in the non-agenda packet this week.

Thanks for reading,

Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen

At-Large Council Member

 

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