Developing business

The progress of Webster City Economic Development through several years and their customer satisfaction was presented by director David Toyer at the Monday meeting of the Webster City city council.

Webster City Economic Development is a function of the city, but is viewed as the city’s brand rather than an entity, according to Toyer. He said many projects get input from local business and organizations. Economic Development also does business development work for the city’s electric utility and provides input on issues that affect businesses and future development.

During his presentation, Toyer discussed the number of prospective businesses that were interested in and visited Webster City in 2012 and in previous years. Last year, there were 25 prospective new business projects. Of those, six businesses visited prospective sites in Webster City. That number is up from five prospects an no site visits in 2010 and from 2011 where there were 14 prospects and two site visits.

Toyer described the process that a business takes when it looks for prospective new locations. In one instance, a business looked at 300 communities initially. After research, that number was whittled down to 12, with only three communities visited.

“When you look at that, you realize we’re kind of at the tip of the iceberg and there’s all this other stuff that’s going on that no one else is seeing,” Toyer said.

Among the prospective businesses that looked at Webster City, 10 were manufacturing, six were retail or restaurants and four were food manufacturing.

Toyer also presented the results of a survey sent out by Economic Development. Of the nine respondents, all were positive and said their most helpful service was marketing. Councilman Geary Meyer thanked Toyer and Economic Development for their work, noting the increase in business visits to Webster City.

“I think it’s kind of important to note that various economic development entities in the state have got us pretty well up towards the top of their most favorable status lists,” Meyer said.

Political signs

The council approved a modified section of the city’s ordinances pertaining to signs after its second hearing. The ordinance says that political signs shall not be placed within the right-of-way, street or public grounds. Those signs may be displayed 45 days before the vote and must be removed within seven days after the vote, with the exception that signs from primary elections do not need to be removed until that seven day period after the vote. Those signs can also be no larger than four square feet using one or both sides and a property can have a total of 20 square feet of signage, using one or both sides, on their premises.

Sadler said that the exception for signs posted during the primary political season are aligned with Iowa’s political values.

“I think, for a state that prides itself on being the first caucus, it’s obvious that we needed to allow campaign signs prior to the caucuses for people to express their opinions,” Sadler said.

City attorney Gary Groves said that, through research, he had determined that the ordinance was legally sound because the city has reasonable regulation and has a basis for it.

“I think from the standpoint of legality of what we’re trying to do here, we are not in violation of the first amendment freedom of speech and being able to exercise it,” Groves said.

Archery Club

During time for public input, Jared Zimmer, vice president of the Border Brigade Archery Club, asked council members for an update on his club’s request for city sponsorship. The club had asked the city for assistance in filing for nonprofit status so they could request grant money from the Enhance Hamilton County Foundation. Zimmer said he had not received any notice of the council’s decision.

Groves said he was concerned about sponsoring the group. He had no official opinion at the council meeting, but said he was concerned about setting a precedent of the city sponsoring such a group.

Zimmer said he has since found out that the club can file for nonprofit status by itself. However, that process would take 90 days and they would not be a nonprofit group until after the deadline for Enhance Hamilton County grants.

Water Shortage

City manager Ed Sadler spoke about news he has seen of a possible water shortage in parts of Iowa. He said communities in Iowa that get their water supply from ground water are anticipating shortages even if the drought lessens.

Sadler said that he wanted to reassure people in Webster City that the community will not be affected by that shortage as the city gets water from deep ground water wells. Those wells are about 2,000 feet deep, and the city is in the process of drilling a new well. The aquifer the city uses comes goes as far as Canada, and the city maintains three wells at a time.

Other business

The council set dates for a couple public hearings during their meeting. A hearing for 2013-2014 through 2017-2018 capital improvement plan was set for Feb. 18 at 7:15 p.m. A hearing for the proposed 2013-2014 budget was set for Feb. 18 at 7:20 p.m.

The council also approved several renewals for alcohol permits, established depositories for the city and financial institutions and approved a motion to request bids to obtain a new skid steer loader with bucket for the electric line and substation department.