City can’t help churches, school —Council’s hands tied due to ordinances

By Marcie Klomp

Marc Stockman of the United Methodist Church and Mel Johnson of Johnson Lawn Care and Snow Removal attended the Sept. 3 council meeting to see what council can do about snow removal at the church this winter.

For years, the City allowed employees to help out these non-profits by plowing next to the sidewalk, going into the boulevard to remove snow from parking spaces. Turns out that’s a no-no according to most city ordinances. If it is being done for one group, it should be done for everyone.

It is also against code for anyone to throw snow into the street or to move snow across a roadway. It seems silly that a person can’t push his snow across a street to an empty lot to remove it from the property, but currently that is how the ordinance reads.

There is always some reason for an ordinance and in this case it falls back to five percent of the population. Most folks would make sure to keep the street clean of their snow, but others would leave big chunks.

Stockman told council, “It is time for us to take our bids on snow removal. We had problems last year that are significant to the church in regards to cost. It isn’t working the way it is.”

Johnson added, “People complained I was taking up too much of Casey [city employee Sebastian’s] time.” Johnson had the contract at the church and school, where he had asked for the city to remove the snow by the road.

He continued, “I try to help him [Sebastian] out by plowing the park [and other places around town]. I don’t charge the city for doing sidewalks or keeping the fire hydrants cleaned. People don’t see that.”

City Clerk Carla Moser told council, “I get paid to tell you these things. If you allow Casey to move snow from private property or the school then you have to for everyone.”

Council member Gary Klomp asked, “Why can he do it on Main Street?”

She answered that it is zoned commercial. She went on to say, “You five [council members] can be sued for allowing it.”

Kevin Bill responded he wasn’t willing to pay that. The other members agreed.

Corey Gates asked the clerk to find out if exceptions can be made for non-profits. Bill suggested finding out if the ordinance book can be changed or is it a state code, which cannot be changed by cities.

Mayor Barb Robinson told Stockman, “All we can do is check it out.” He understood.

In a related matter, council is looking at putting dollar amounts on offenses. Currently, the harshest thing the council can do to someone not following ordinances is to send a threatening letter.

The Code of Iowa allows cities to charge no more than $750 for a municipal infraction and no more than $1,000 for repeat offenses. Those repeat offenses can be second day, third day, fourth day, etc. until the code is followed.

Council will discuss the matter with their constituents over the next month and bring suggestions to the Oct. 1 meeting.

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