After nearly two decades of serving on the Manchester City Council, Ron Struble has elected to resign effective immediately with a little more than two years left in his term.
Mayor Milt Kramer said Struble, who represented an at-large seat, is stepping down due to health concerns.
“It’s a lot of experience that we have to replace,” Kramer said of Struble’s 18-year tenure.
Previously Struble was a school teacher for 32 years, served 24 years with the Iowa Army National Guard and was the State Department Commander for the American Legion from 2013-14. Struble was also mayor pro-tem for 15 years and served on a variety of committees for the City of Manchester.
City Attorney Jim Peters stated Struble is the only councilmember to teleconference into a meeting while serving with the armed forces overseas. In Struble’s case, he was sitting in a tent in Egypt casting votes during a deployment.
Struble’s announcement also comes on the heels of Councilmember Dan Stelken opting to not seek reelection. Between the two of them, Kramer said, the council is losing 34 years of experience.
With the timing of the resignation, it is too late to place the vacancy on the upcoming Nov. 5 ballot. Instead of holding a special election, the council has signaled they would like to appoint a replacement as soon as its next meeting.
Kramer has recommended former at-large councilmember Connie Behnken, who resigned from her seat with a little of two years left on her term in July 2018, to serve out the remainder of Struble’s term. Current councilmember Tania Bradley was appointed to fill Behnken’s spot in Aug. 2018.
“(Behnken) has been off the council for about a year-and-a-half and she misses it,” Kramer said.
Councilmember Mary Ann Poynor said that since Behnken was previously elected by voters but unable to complete her term due to personal matters, Poynor feels the council has a duty to reappoint her.
“We’re basically asking her to complete that four-year term,” Poynor said. “So I feel like we have a mandate from the voters — Connie has been elected to a four-year term and we’re allowing her to finish it.”
After the discussion, a motion was made by Stelken to accept Struble’s resignation and publish the council’s intent to appoint Behnken.
Struble, who is notoriously a man of few words, quipped that Stelken was moving to accept his resignation just because Stelken was tired of giving him a ride home.
The Council also declined to release a $28,000 retainer for the Hwy 13 Water Main Loop Project or formally accept the work due to several concerns raised by John Houlihan.
Houlihan told the council he allowed the contractor to use his property to stage portions of the project, but the land hasn’t been restored to its original condition. He told the council he is also having issues with backflow in some of his drainage areas, rock is missing from his driveway and he would like the ditches on the property to be returned to the same slope angle and condition so he can mow them again.
“All I’m asking is for the property to be put back to the way it was so we can continue caring for it like we were before,” Houlihan said. “Most people who come into town from the south come past (the property) — it’s the gateway to the community and I’d like to see it look the way it used to look.”
Poynor said she could not in good conscience release payment to the contractor until the issue was resolved but Stelken pointed out that due to weather conditions, it could be nine months before the contractor could reasonably get back to that area without causing more damage.
After more discussion, the council opted to release a $10,108 payment to Top Grade Excavating for work done from Nov. 25, 2018 through Aug. 30 while holding onto the final $28,018 payment.
City staff, project engineers and the contractor are being asked to meet with Houlihan to resolve the issue before the council will consider accepting the project.
The council also unanimously approved a “conduit” bond for the Good Neighbor Society for an amount not to exceed $6 million.
By going through the city, the Good Neighbor Society will have access to the low-interest bond while the city bears no financial burden or responsibility.
Cristina Kuhn, an attorney with financial firm Dorsey and Whitney, said Iowa law allows this kind of pass-through process where a non-profit can borrow money on a tax-exempt basis.
Kuhn said the City of Manchester has the ability to access up to $10 million in tax-exempt funding each year. After the calendar year is complete, the borrowing ability resets and the city will have full access to that $10 million again.
“Once we close, you folks are out of the picture,” Kuhn said.
Matt Carpenter, CEO of Good Neighbor Society, said part of the project will include a 16,060-square-foot rehab-to-home facility that will add 13 news private suites.
Carpenter said they are working to solicit $1 million in donations to offset costs and have already received over $570,000 in pledges.
“So we’re looking to finance roughly $3.2-to-3.5 million,” Carpenter said.