City Council Discusses Blue Zones Project, Sets Hearing For Keltner Removal
By Eduardo Zamarripa, CRI Weekly News
Oskaloosa, Iowa – On Monday night, the Oskaloosa City Council discussed the Oskaloosa Blue Zones Project, and set a public hearing date to confirm or deny the removal of Water Board of Trustee Errin Keltner.
The council received a presentation from Oskaloosa Blue Zones Project Engagement Lead Miranda Cummings, Organization Lead Valinn McReynolds, and Community Program Manager Natalie Spray. The project is a community-led initiative aimed at suggesting ways for people to live a healthier lifestyle. A year ago, Oskaloosa was selected as a Blue Zones Project site as part of Governor Terry Branstad’s initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state in the country.
“My team is excited. We have the energy behind us to do this work,” Spray said. “There’s millions of communities that would kill to have this opportunity that we have. Our community has demonstrated that we are ready for this. We are ready for this environmental well-being approach”
The organization will host its Blue Zones Launch on Monday, April 14 at the Oskaloosa High School Gym at 5 p.m. Cummings asked the council for its support of the project.
“This project is only 18 months long, but we want the changes and the effects to last a lifetime,” Cummings said.
Council member Jason Van Zetten brought up a concern with the project.
“Are you guys going to start regulating companies and businesses to do certain things? I got a call that said, ‘I’ve got a put a burger on the menu now that’s not going to sell.’ So if I want to be a part of the Blue Zone Project, are we going to start changing what they put on the menu?” Van Zetten said.
Cummings responded to Van Zetten.
“We’re not telling anybody what to do. This isn’t about telling somebody to hop on a treadmill for 30 minutes, or that they have to become a vegetarian. This is providing people with an alternative menu of options,” Cummings said.
Van Zetten said he doesn’t want to regulate choices for businesses.
“I understand your concerns, but there’s more to it than that and we want to have the opportunity to prove that,” Cummings said.
The council also unanimously approved setting a public hearing to confirm or deny the removal of Water Board member Errin Keltner. Keltner requested the hearing after Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt, with the support of the council, removed Keltner from the board (effective April 6th).
Krutzfeldt sent a letter to Keltner saying he made the decision “based on the lack of communication and cooperation [the city] had in trying to make operations more efficient and effective,” along with “budgeted multi-year water rate increases.”
A year ago the city spent $19,000 on a study to identify areas to reduce costs and increase efficiency. The study says that $380,000 dollars could be saved if all the recommendations are implemented. But at a joint meeting with the water board in February, the city council learned that no cost saving recommendations have been implemented.
In January the council also learned that the department is forecasting a five percent yearly increase in water rates for the next five years. Water rates increased ten percent this year.
Krutzfeldt appointed Keltner to the water board in 2012, and Keltner believes it is unlawful for the mayor to remove him from that postion. The water board held a special meeting on Mar. 26 where it unanimously agreed to retain legal counsel and is expected to challenge Krutzfeldt’s decision. Krutzfeldt says his decision is lawful because water trustees are appointed by publicly-elected officials and refers to Iowa Code and Oskaloosa Code that permits the removal of appointed city officers if need be. The hearing is on Monday, April 21 at 6 p.m.
The council also unanimously approved a 28E agreement with Forest Cemetery. Following its budget work session in February, the city council agreed to give $50,000 to the cemetery at the end of fiscal year 2014, and $50,000 at the start of fiscal year 2015, to cover operational costs.
In addition to that, the council unanimously approved the following items:
- Pay request No. 5 to Delong Construction Inc. for work completed on the West Area Sanitary Sewer Improvements Project ($15,622.74)
- Purchase of a 2014 John Deere Model 624k, along with trading in the 1999 Daewoo, for a total cost of $194,761.20 for the Public Works Department
- Street closures for 2014 chamber events requested by Main Street Oskaloosa and the Oskaloosa Area Chamber & Development Group
- Directing the mayor to execute the agreement with Garden and Associates, Ltd. for the Third Avenue East Reconstruction and Storm Sewer Replacement Project in an amount not to exceed $182,450
The council received an annual activities report from Mahaska County YMCA Executive Director Dawn Collins, and unanimously appointed Matt Montavon and Linda Russell to the Oskaloosa Municipal Housing Agency.
The next city council meeting is on Monday, April 21 at 6 p.m.