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Local
City, Chamber take inaugural slides down Cone Park tubing hill

SIOUX CITY | Councilman Dan Moore threw his hands in the air as he coasted to a halt at the bottom of Cone Park's tubing hill Tuesday afternoon. 

"I love it! Let's do it again," called Moore, who was sporting a red Santa hat and matching scarf. "What a rush. It's fantastic."

Moore

Moore was among a trio of City Council members that also included Rhonda Capron and Pete Groetken who donned winter attire and slid down the 700-foot snow-covered hill Tuesday as part of a select group that also included members of the Chamber of Commerce, city staff and public figures, including Rep. Chris Hall.  

The inaugural tubing trips followed a ribbon cutting for the brand-new park in which city staff and members of the Cone Park Committee made remarks. 

After taking a few trips down the hill, Groetken stopped to talk about how much he had enjoyed the ride. 

Groetken

"It's for everybody from 5 to 75," he said. "What a great time." 

Moore later added the experience had been better than he had anticipated.

"It's invigorating. It's breathtaking," he said. "It's definitely been a blast from the past." 

Warm temperatures in the low 40s slightly affected the artificial snow on the hill Tuesday, slowing down tubes and preventing park staff from packing snow to create lanes along the hill. The result was a slow start for some of the tubes and a few mid-hill bumps as the tubes ran into one another. 

Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore said he's anticipating a more favorable turn of the weather by the end of the week, as temperatures will hover closer to the freezing mark with chances for a few real flakes to mix with the ones created by the park's snow-making machines. 

"We were hoping to have the lanes in today, but the weather's just not cooperating," he said. "We're hoping for that over the next couple days." 

Salvatore

Tuesday afternoon's event was followed by an invitation-only opening for donors and VIPs at 5 p.m. Another invitation-only soft opening will follow Wednesday to help staff prepare for the park's official opening 5 p.m. Thursday. 

Along with the tubing hill, Cone Park will feature a fire pit, day lodge and -- by mid-January -- refrigerated ice skating. In the summer months when the winter features shut down, park-goers will be able to enjoy a two-mile trail loop and a splash pad. The day lodge will also be available for event rentals.  

The park is located at 3800 Line Drive, near the IBP Ice Center and Lewis and Clark Park. 

The project has reached completion after being in the works for more than a decade, ever since the bequest of the late philanthropist Ruth Cone, the park's namesake, became available to the city in 2006. Since 1981 her more than $200,000 contribution has grown, with interest, to $2.9 million. 

During his remarks Tuesday, Mayor Bob Scott pointed to the approximately $4.2 million of the $5 million park raised through private donations. 

Ian Richardson / Provided 

Scott

"You should be congratulated for this," Scott said. "This is not a park about what the city did. This is a park about what you, the public, did." 

Salvatore said anticipation is building for the park, and several people have pre-registered their spots for upcoming tubing sessions. The hill can accommodate 300 people per four-hour tubing session. Admission for four hours of tubing, which will also include ice skating when it gets up and running, range from $7 to $10. 

"At this point we still have room for walk-ins, but we're still recommending people pre-reserve because we don't have any idea what kind of crowds to expect," Salvatore said. 

Pre-registration is available online at webtrac.sioux-city.org, calling 712-279-6126 or visiting the Parks and Recreation Office at 401 Gordon Drive.


Moore


Groetken


Salvatore


Ian Richardson / Provided 

Scott


Govt-and-politics
Woodbury County Supervisors aim for lower tax rate for 2018-19

SIOUX CITY | A new budget-setting season is at hand, but the goal remains the same: No increase in the tax levy for Woodbury County property owners.

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday made no cuts in a first look at proposed department budgets for fiscal year 2018-19, but Board Chairman Matthew Ung said more challenging deliberations lie ahead in January.

In a post-meeting interview, Ung said he's proud the county property tax rate has dropped three years in a row, up through the current year that runs through June 30, 2018.

"The goal is to reduce the tax rates for a fourth year," Ung said.

Prior to the financial plan that passed in March 2015, the county had not passed a budget with a lower property tax rate for at least 15 years.

The current budget is about $53 million. The next budget will run from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019. All Iowa counties must set their yearly financial plans by March 15.

Ung said the projected new cost increases sought by county departments run $2 million above current year spending. He said better financial news is present with an estimated $2 million in new revenues for FY 2019, due to the county's pleasing growth in assessed valuation.

"Spending-wise, it is going to be the most challenging budget I've seen, but it is going to be offset by a huge increase in valuations," said Ung, who is nearing his fourth year on the county board.

County Finance Director Dennis Butler spoke similarly to Ung in assessing how the budget talks might go.

"Their intent is to keep the (property tax) levy the same or drop it," Butler said.

Ung said the timeline looks to be similar to most years. The supervisors will dive into the budget at their regular Tuesday meetings through January and into February.  If enough cuts are not found by then, additional steps to find other revenues, tap reserves or cut expenses more deeply could be pursued in February.

A projection of the FY 2019 property tax levy will be aired as meetings progress in January.

The current levies in the $53 million budget are $7.41 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $10.38 for rural residents. The levies for the prior 2016-17 year were $7.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $10.50 for rural residents.

On Tuesday, the supervisors made no cuts as they reviewed the $1.6 million county treasurer budget, their own board office budget of $374,128 and the $274,004 human resources department budget.

"The treasurer (Michael Clayton) runs a continually lean office," Ung said.

Ung noted that it was helpful to get a jump on the budget work by tackling the task in December.

"We picked some of the easier ones to get through," he said.

There will be no supervisors meeting on Dec. 26. They will return to budget deliberations when Tuesday meetings resume Jan. 2.


Butler