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The council discussed alternative ways of remedying four properties that are no longer occupied in addition to other city projects at the regular meeting of the Mount Ayr City Council Monday, July 17.
City superintendent Brent Wise presented four vacant properties to the council, noting there were more houses that will need to be addressed, but that he recommended starting with these four:
303 W. Van Buren
203 N. Cass
104 N. Webster
503 W. Monroe
Wise explained that letters have already been sent to property owners in an attempt to allow time for them to take care of properties deemed a nuisance to the public.
Some letters were returned, leaving the council with the difficult decision of pursuing other options to remedy abandoned structures.
One method cities use to try to maintain properties within city limits is to pursue municipal infraction. The city can either work with an attorney to start the legal process, or request the Ringgold County Sheriff’s office issue a civil citation to a person who commits a municipal infraction.
The citation is then served by personal service, by certified mail addressed to the defendant at the defendant’s last known mailing address, return receipt requested, or by publication.
A copy of the citation is retained by the issuing officer, and the original citation is sent to the clerk of the district court. The citation serves as notification that a civil offense has been committed, and imposes a fine on property owners.
Council members noted that starting with empty homes would likely be less trouble for the city, and addressing vacant mobile homes may have the biggest impact.
Superintendent Wise stated he had met with Jodie Geist to discuss how the city and Ringgold County Development could work together in the future to improve housing. They discussed the possibility of establishing a plan and form an agreement that would allow new development once the city is able to clean up nuisance structures and properties.
They also discussed whether the tax abatement process could be boosted by offering incentives.
Council member Brad Elliott asked “Can the city offer to buy properties?”
“That would work if you know how to get a hold of them,” stated council member Jessica Bishop.
Superintendent Wise stated there are some programs out there the city could look into, and he would need to talk with Jeremy Rounds with Southern Iowa Council of Governments (SICOG).
While the council noted they have an interest in pursuing other options, they ultimately moved forward with pursuing municipal infractions for the four initial properties brought before the council. Council member Ken Robertson made the motion to proceed with municipal infractions for all four properties, seconded by Jessica Bishop, and council members unanimously agreed.
Water Tower Proposal
Rob Jongquist with Viking Industrial Painting attended the meeting to present his findings from a preliminary inspection of the city’s water towers, and a proposal for future inspection, cleaning, and maintenance.
Jongquist recommended painting the exterior of the 75,000 Leg Tank in 2024 to maximize the coating life, closing up openings and addressing wiring that is currently running over the top rim of the tank, in addition to cleaning it regularly.
He also recommended replacing the vent with a frost-proof, fail-safe vent on the newer 100,000 sphere tank. Superintendent Brent Wise shared that the city previously had a maintenance program contract with Utility Services, but he has sent notice to them as the city no longer wants to continue the agreement.
Wise also noted they do have $20,000 in the budget for the current year. The city will need to budget additional money for the next five years since they now have two water towers to maintain instead of just one.
In other business, the city council approved:
• a building permit for the Ringgold Outdoor Alliance Building. Council member Ken Robertson abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest.
• Budget Amendment No. 1 for fiscal year ending June 30, 2024 after the public hearing. • a water tower maintenance contract with Viking Industrial Painting for the 75,000 Leg Tank.
• a water tower maintenance contracts with Viking Industrial Painting for the 100,000 Sphere Tank. The second agreement includes a visual inspection the first year at a cost of $10,000, and an ongoing cost of $38,741 per year to cover exterior coatings, repairs, clean out and interior coating through 2030.
• an estimate from Swartzentruber Construction in the amount of $25,343.62 to install water mains, set a fire hydrant at the northeast corner where the main goes south, and 4 -2” flush hydrants at the new Excel Engineering site on S Cleveland Street.
• a resolution hiring Chloe Saville for Deputy City Clerk at $15/hr. A total of nine candidates applied and seven were interviewed for the position.
Superintendent Wise also noted the city crew still has a lot of tree clean up to do. They were able to get some done on Monday the 17th, but they will continue to pick up tree debris as time allows.
Future banking promotions were also discussed.