BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After about eight months of deliberating on what to do with the current home of the Fort Madison Food Pantry and United Way offices, the city of Fort Madison is transferring the property to the county.
A public hearing and a resolution will be in front of the Fort Madison City Council on Tuesday night as part of a short regular meeting agenda.
The move is part of a process to get the Idol Rashid Memorial Building in the hands of the Food Pantry permanently.
The city, by law, cannot sell the property or deed it to the food pantry because Iowa code requires the property be sold for market value. However, code allows for the property to be transferred to another governmental agency.
Iowa code, for some reason, does not put the same restriction on county boards in the state. Therefore the property can be transferred to the county and then deeded to the food pantry.
Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld said at the city council meeting last week, that the county had agreed to transfer the property to the food pantry.
The United Way of the Great River Region also has offices in the building, but current plans include allowing the United Way to stay in the building.
The city is looking to divest itself of some the properties it owns to reduce maintenance costs. Originally the Head Start program was interested, but then decided it wouldn’t work with their program and DuPont’s property.
“Mr. Mohrfeld came up with the idea that we should give it to the food pantry and he’s been pushing that so we’ve been working with an heir to the Rashid family,” City Manager David Varley said.
He said when the family realized the Head Start program wasn’t going to work for the property, they agreed that the food pantry would be a good option. The family then got the papers signed to allow the transfer.
“The conditions are that it must always be used for a public purpose and must always carry the name the Idol Rashid Memorial building and they also wanted some assurances from the food pantry,” he said.
“The food pantry said they had the ability to maintain it over the long-term and can maintain it as a functional building.”
He said the food pantry will then own the building outright.
Councilman Mark Lair said the food pantry is ready to move ahead with ownership.
Mohrfeld said the food pantry has committed to a capital campaign and to bring the building to a certain level of maintenance including the roof, and HVAC, and eventually the aesthetics out front.
“They’re the epitome of a helping hand and it’s a good commentary on our city to have one of that quality. It’s a great project,” Mohrfeld said.
Varley said it’s a win-win for everyone, but it took a little longer than anticipated.
In an unrelated issue, the council will also vote on a resolution to set a public hearing for Feb. 4 on the reconstruction of Old Highway 61 from 2nd to 6th streets.
The city wants to rebid the project after costs in 2019 came in way over engineers estimates. Jones Contracting out of West Point bid on the project last year and were the only company to bid the work. Officials said rebidding in the spring may result in better bids.