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The council revisited how to best address properties that are no longer occupied, in addition to other city improvements at the regular meeting of the Mount Ayr City Council Monday, August 7.
The council opened the meeting by first renewing an agreement with Lamson, Dugan & Murray LLP to retain the services of Attorney Jason Palmer. The council then asked Palmer to stay for additional discussion regarding nuisance properties.
Lynda Triggs addressed the council regarding a rental house that she owns at 303 West Van Buren Street. The house has been sitting vacant since a fire damaged the home.
Legally, the property needs to be brought up to Iowa Code or torn down.
Triggs offered to give the property to the city, noting she has reached out to see about demolishing it, but is having trouble getting anyone to start work on it.
City attorney Palmer stated that a “quit-claim deed to the city” could be drawn up.
Mayor Fetty cautioned “If we start there, we need to be consistent in how we deal with properties.”
However, Palmer advised the council they could be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Superintendent Wise estimated that it would cost between $7,000-$10,000 to tear the house down. Alternatively, he estimated the city may incur roughly $5,000 in legal fees to pursue abatement of the property.
Council member Brad Elliott stated, “I think it’s a great presentation. It’s a great opportunity. I’d like some more details.”
The council discussed getting quotes from three or four local companies to demolish the structure and revisit the request at the next meeting on August 21.
City superintendent Wise then presented the council with seven nuisance properties, in addition to the four parcels previously discussed at the July 17 meeting. All of the properties are believed to be vacant.
The “Rice Building” across from the fire hall on the south side was noted to be a safety concern.
It was also noted that the roof is caving in on the orange brick building located at 112 E Madison.
The current owner of the building has moved away from the area and no one has been able to contact him. Another company has been paying the property taxes through the delinquent tax sale, but they have not yet applied to claim the property deed.
Other vacant properties included:
209 S Harrison
202 W Jefferson
105 Van Buren
203 S Grant
806 E Madison
Council member Brad Elliott addressed Palmer, asking “At what point can we enforce our ordinances? Or, can we just buy it [vacant property]?”
Superintendent Wise clarified the question being asked, “Are you asking what the best course of action is, to address them before they are left to rot?”
City attorney Palmer noted that if the property is abandoned, he recommended the city “try to get the deed for it. Then it can be abated.”
The council members then discussed whether or not they could or should just go in and clean up properties and then charge the property owners similar to how lawn care is currently done.
Superintendent Wise asked “Why would we want to abate the issue if we don’t own it?” He noted that it would cost the city time and money that may not ever be recouped.
Downtown Revitalization Grant Project
Greg Roth with Veenstra & Kimm, Inc. addressed the council regarding a Technical Assistance Grant. Roth noted the grant offered by the Iowa Department of Transportation could help pay the cost of engineering fees associated with the downtown revitalization project, if it was awarded.
Superintendant Wise recommended the council “move forward with applying for the grant, due on August 15.”
Jessica Bishop motioned to move forward with applying for the Technical Assistance Grant, seconded by Chandra Poore, becoming the first initiative Poore has been involved in after joining the city council. The council ultimately approved having Veenstra & Kimm apply for the additional grant.
In other business, the city council approved:
• a Downtown Revitalization Agreement with Veenstra & Kimm, Inc.
• a renewal of a Class E Retail Alcohol License for Casey’s General Store.
• an amended development agreement #22-ARPDH-037 between the City of Mount Ayr and 38H Properties, LLC and 38H Construction, LLC
• payment request No. 4 WTFAP Grant #22-12 from Garden and Associates in the amount of $17,797.83.
• a change order in the amount of $6,000 for the SWIPCO Rehabilitation Program.
The city council also reviewed Zoning Ordinance 9-4-6(6) and considered changing the language in the ordinance to be more consistent. However, the council did not take any action at the August 7 council meeting.