During the latest installment of the city shop saga, a petition submitted to the city clerk will require the Manchester City Council to put the $2.6 million bond issue to the public for approval.
The petition, which garnered a little over 200 signatures, was in response to the council’s desire to use a reverse referendum to secure funding for a new city shop on the east side of town.
With a reverse referendum, Iowa law states that if 10% of the total number of citizens who voted in the last city election formed a petition to oppose the proposal, then a vote could be forced or the council could go back to the drawing board. With the last election drawing 331 votes, 34 signatures were required to force a vote on the project.
The Manchester City Council will now decide at its Aug. 26 meeting whether to put the bond issue on the Nov. 5 ballot or to scrap the current project.
City Manager Tim Vick said should the council elect to put the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot, the proposal would need a super-majority of 60% or more to pass.
While City Clerk Erin Learn said she didn’t have exact figures, she told the council the potential additional print costs to add the question to the Nov. 5 general election ballot would be significantly less expensive than a special election.
The council supported taking out a $2.6 million bond through a reverse referendum and also recently placed the city shop project into its Urban Renewal Plan, making it eligible for tax increment financing (TIF).
Vick told the Manchester Press since the city doesn’t have that kind of money in its reserves, it would have to borrow for the project, adding that if the bond passed it would not impact the city’s levy rate.
“We’re offsetting bonds that were previously passed that have fallen off, so we would not be changing the levy rate with this bond,” Vick said.
Kurt Meiner, who helped collect signatures for the petition, said it was not difficult to find people who wanted to see the issue put up to a vote.
“We got six times the number (of signatures) needed — I got 34 in just two hours,” Kurt Meiner told the council.
Jeff Ogden, who has been a vocal opponent of building a new shop on the east side, again said the project could be done for less.
“I understand we need some kind of shop. I do not believe in talking to every place else that you need a $3 million shop,” Ogden said. “The West Delaware bus barn — when they built that it was only $1 million. That would be more than sufficient for our city shop.”
Ogden also again took issue with the council’s desire to move the shop to the east side of town instead of leaving it in its current location.
The council and city staff have previously stated in part that the desire to move the shop is to improve accessibility during flooding events.
“When there is a high-water event and West Main Street is closed, all that traffic is diverted down West Marion Street,” Vick said. “It’s hard to get in and out of that area and to get the sandbaggers in and out. If there’s a train, you’re kind of euchred.”
Ogden then asked where the sand trucks come from during those flooding events.
“Where are they coming from? Think about it. Nobody’s ever thought about it. They’re coming from the south side of town,” Ogden said.
Councilman Dan Stelken said there would be a big difference if only a few dump trucks had to traverse that area when there’s more congested traffic.
“You’re talking about a couple of trucks compared to a hundred people coming out to get the sandbags,” Stelken said.
Should the council decide to go the renovation route with the shop, Vick said there would be some significant expenses for that as well.
“We did look at renovating the existing shop about five years ago and those estimates were coming in somewhere between $1.5 and $1.8 million,” Vick said. “We have some structural steel that is rusting through because of the salt and the exterior is showing its age — at some point we need to make a decision of what we can and can’t do and how much money we can spend on the existing shop.”