Q: Does the City spray for mosquitoes? If not, why not?
Answer: The city has spent a significant amount of money on spraying over the years. This spray is a contact spray, meaning that if it comes into contact with a mosquito, it will kill it, but no future mosquitoes will be prevented. During the spraying (or fogging), flying mosquitoes within the treated area are killed. Therefore, if they are not directly touched by the spray, it has no effect. Although the local mosquito population is reduced for a few days, spraying/fogging does not prevent mosquitoes from re-entering the area. Also, some people have a reaction to the spray that is used, so must be notified prior to spraying as it could have a negative health impact. Eliminating the spraying will save the city money and time on an activity that has little to no effect on the mosquito population.
How can I protect myself from mosquitoes?
Answer: Individuals should always use personal protection when mosquitoes are present:
• When possible, avoid places and times when mosquitoes bite.
• Wear light-colored protective clothing. Tightly woven materials that cover arms and legs provide some protection from mosquito bites. Keep trouser legs tucked into boots or socks, and collars buttoned.
• Make sure door and window screens fit tightly and all holes are repaired.
• Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure, and to protect small babies any time they are outside.
• If participating in outdoor activities when mosquitoes are biting, wear protective clothing (shoes, socks, shirt and long pants). For additional protection from mosquitoes, use an insect repellent. The more DEET a product contains, the longer the repellant can protect against mosquito bites. However, concentrations higher than 50 percent do not increase the length of protection. For most situations, 10 percent to 25 percent DEET is adequate. Apply repellents to clothes whenever possible; apply sparingly to exposed skin if label permits. Consult a physician before using repellents on young children.
Q: Can the City relocate the Fire Department to the 6322 Hickman location which the city owns?
Answer: The 6322 Hickman address is not feasible for the city to use as a fire station. First, the value of the commercial property makes it cost prohibitive to place a non-profit building on it. The City would lose money normally collected in taxes from commercial business. Although the City owns the property currently, the City plans to make the property available to for developers for a commercial buyer to occupy. Second, the location of the building is not a convenient spot for a fire station. Ideally, when a fire station is placed, it should be as close to the center of the city as possible. The current location of the fire department allows its members to respond quickly to any location in the city without difficulty. Also, the current location makes it convenient for members to respond to the station after hours for responses without having to negotiate high traffic areas that may hamper response such as the Hickman/63rd Street area. Finally, the cost to retrofit the building at 6322 Hickman could reach a level that easily equals or surpasses that of a new building.
Q: Recently a citizen asked why the grass height in Windsor Heights is limited to six inches instead of ten inches, which is the limit in some of the adjacent communities?
Answer: The City's grass height was 10 inches until 2003 when it was changed to six inches. The reason behind the changes was related to some problems the city was having at the time with out of town property owners who were less than diligent about mowing. The City found that when the grass height started at 10 inches, by the time the abatement process was completed, the grass was to the point of being so tall it was nearly unmanageable. With a six inch height, it is much easier to be able to address problem grass before it reaches a height that is not only unsightly, but potentially becomes home to vermin.
Q: What is the oversight process for how the City spends its money?
Budget: City expenditures are actually approved on numerous occasions. First, the City Council approves expenditures in the budget document, which is reviewed by Council Committees as it is being developed. The Council votes on the City’s budget each year and must certify its budget to the State in March.
- Double signature required: Then, when the City makes expenditure the check is written by the Chief Financial Officer. The CFO reviews invoices to determine appropriateness and writes a check. The check must then be signed by two people, one authorized staff person (either the CFO or the City Administrator) and by one of the designated elected officials (either the Mayor or the Mayor Pro Tem.) The Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem reviews the expenditures while signing checks.
- Claims and Payroll: Once a check is written, copies of the supporting documentation are placed in a file along with a summary called the Claims and Payroll. This summary (Claims and Payroll) includes the amount of the check, the purpose for the expenditure and the amount. The Claims and Payroll is placed on the agenda (and posted on the City’s website and in three, 24-hour locations around the community) for review and approval by the entire Council at its business meeting. Once the expenditure is approved, that information is published in the newspaper and also kept for review by the City’s auditor. At the end of the year, all of the City’s expenditures are compiled into the State Annual Financial Report (SAFR). The SAFR is then published in the newspaper and posted on the website and at the posting locations. The SAFR is placed on the agenda for review and approval by the entire Council and then kept for review by the City’s auditor. Additionally, when the budget for the next year is developed, the expenditures appear alongside the figures for the following year’s budget, for comparative purposes.
- Independent audit: Each year the City engages an independent auditor to review processes, procedures and City accounts. The auditor also provides guidance for City staff members on new laws or procedures or suggestions to improve current processes. The City is audited annually by an independent accounting firm. The City’s auditor is Denman and Company, LLP in West Des Moines. In its audit document, they conclude, “The results of our tests disclosed no instances of noncompliance or other matters that are required to be reported under Government Auditing Standards.” Additionally, Dave Ellis from Denman appeared at the July 20th, 2009 Council meeting to present the City Council and the public with the City audit. At that meeting, he noted, “the audit report is a clean opinion” and the best opinion they can give.
Q: What programs are available for homeowners in need of assistance in maintaining their property?
In July of 2007 the Metro Home Improvement Program was formed. This program is an expansion of the WestHELP. The Metro Home Improvement Program is a collaborative effort of nine metro cities with the purpose to preserve affordable housing stock in these communities. The participating cities are Ankeny, Altoona, Clive, Grimes, Johnston, Pleasant Hill, Urbandale, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights. The program has a Management Committee, consisting of one representative per city, which oversees the policies decisions for the program. Assistance is for housing repairs and correcting code violations. The awards are in the form of a five-year forgivable loan to eligible households with income less than 80% of the Area Median Income. Eligible property types are single family dwellings and do not include mobile homes, homes being purchased on contract, duplexes or rental units. The house assisted must be the primary residence of the applicant. WestHELP, the original program, was in existence for five years and assisted over 78 homes.
The Metro Home Improvement Program is administered by the City of West Des Moines. The program is funded through the participating cities and the Polk County Housing Trust Fund. The program began in Windsor Heights in 2002. Since that time, $186,695 has been invested in houses in Windsor Heights. A total of 17 houses have been assisted.
Q: What does the City do to communicate with its citizens?
There are a number of ways you can find and receive information about Windsor Heights. First, the City’s website has a tremendous amount of information on it. There are agendas, minutes, and meeting packets, the City’s budget, the City’s audit, the Street Financial Report, the Annual Financial Report, Special Events programming, newsletters, Council member biographies, etc. The City also has a listserve where you can sign up to receive emails, press releases and other information. You can also read through the Council packet, claims and payroll, and the Council packet in the front vestibule at City Hall. Agendas and claims/payroll information can also be found at Bankers Trust and Hy-Vee. You will also find the City on Facebook and Twitter (iwindsorheight). The City inserts a newsletter in the monthly water bill and has information in the monthly Windsor Heights Living Magazine. If you are unable to locate information that you wish to have in these ways, or if you prefer a human touch, you can join us at the monthly Community Coffee Club (typically the last Saturday of the month at Grounds for Celebration at 9:00 am) Also, if you have any questions, you are welcome to call us at 279-3662 and we will be happy to help you with any information you need.
Q: What is the City doing to keep rental housing in Windsor Heights safe and well-maintained?
The City has a stringent rental code policy. Multiple family properties are inspected annually and single family homes are inspected every 18 months. Properties must pass inspection to permit them to be rented. Also, the City requires that special signage be used when offering a property for rent. If a rental property becomes the subject of nuisance abatement, the rental certificate is automatically revoked and the property must be re-registered and re-inspected. This a particularly useful tool when dealing with an out-of-town or out-of-state landlord. The City also passed an ordinance restricting the number of unrelated persons who can live in a rental home and passed an ordinance declaring properties that have constant, on-going problems that require law enforcement actions, as nuisance properties. If you have any questions regarding these policies, please call the City Administrator at 279-3662.
Q: How does the City collaborate with other cities in the area?
The City collaborates and partners with surrounding communities and organizations in a variety of ways. First, the City has 28E agreements with a variety of communities for Public Safety assistance such as fire, ambulance and police services. Windsor Heights provides backup for surrounding communities when needed and the communities assist Windsor Heights in return.
The City also has a housing program for low to moderate income homeowners that was developed and operated in conjunction with a number of surrounding communities. The program is called MetroHelp.
Recently, Windsor Heights also partnered with Clive and Urbandale to build a joint fire training facility. Windsor Heights, West Des Moines, Urbandale, Johnston, Clive, Waukee, Grimes, Des Moines and Pleasant Hill also recently built a salt storage facility. This enables Windsor Heights to purchase salt during the summer when it is less expensive and more plentiful and store it for use in the winter. This not only lets us have salt when we need it for our streets, but reduces the costs of salt procurement by purchasing it jointly with the other communities during a time when it is more easily available.
Windsor Heights also participates in many area organizations such as the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Metro Advisory Council, the Metro Advisory Council-Legislative Action Committee, BRAVO cultural arts alliance, Visitors and Convention Bureau, the Mayors Group, the Metro Managers group, Polk County Emergency Management, the Police Chief group, Polk County fire Chief’s Association, the Metro Waste Authority, Des Moines Area Regional Transit.
The City also partners with area schools on a variety of projects. For example, the development of the playground at Colby Park was done in partnership with the students at Cowles Montessori School.
Q: What grants does the City receive?
The City has been extremely successful in receiving grants and other outside funding. Since 2001, the City has received more than $6.4 million in grants, which is over $400 per year per household.