BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Several members of the Fort Madison City Council pushed the city’s building director on what’s going on with nuisance properties in the city.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City Building Director Doug Krogmeier told councilwoman Rebecca Bowker and councilman Mark Lair that the city’s hands are tied on some properties due to no court proceedings happening in the wake of the coronavirus.
Bowker specifically asked where the city was in regards to the Humphrey Building at the corner of 8th Street and Avenue G.
“I know the courts are delaying things a bit, but as far as the Humphrey building have we heard from his contractor?” Bowker asked Krogmeier.
Krogmeier said he wasn’t getting a lot back from the owner’s contractor or engineer, but did see that a court date was set for September. An original court date was set for March 30, but the coronavirus put those cases on hold.
“We’re gonna try and continue to work with the contractor and engineer to keep moving forward, but there’s not a lot we can do until we get in front of a judge,” Krogmeier said.
Bowker pressed Krogmeier on why the city’s still working with them, when they haven’t been in communication.
“We need to be a bit more definitive,” Bowker said. “I’m a bit frustrated with this.’
Krogmeier said city staff was frustrated too, but the city has filed papers in North Lee County Court and the issue is in the hands of the court system.
Mayor Matt Mohrfeld said he was happy to even see a court date.
“If they don’t cooperate, it’s until we get in front of a judge, but I’d be open to anyone’s insight there,” he said. “This continues to be frustrating. The street’s open but it’s nonetheless frustrating. And it’s not the only frustrating one, I can tell you that.”
Bowker asked what other avenues the city could take to move the process along.
“It’s a dual statement,” she said. “On one hand you’re saying we’re not hearing from them, and the other is we continue to work with them. If we’re not hearing from them is there anything else we can do? It’s an eyesore.”
Krogmeier said he could continue to have attorneys send letters to the owner, but that would cost the city billable hours.
Overall, Mohrfeld said he was happy with the improvement he’s seeing around the city.
The city still has barricades on the 8th Street side of the building cordoning off sidewalks. It wasn’t until March 6, that the city reopened 8th Street after an engineer for the building’s owner Brian Humphrey told city officials the building was safe enough to reopen the street.
Lair said he has been talking with Krogmeier about another property, but didn’t disclose where that property was located.
“Doug, we’ve been having conversations about one certain property, but I’m hoping this corona think is not going to lessen the amount of effort we’re giving on getting these people going,” Lair said.
“Some properties in particular, instead of getting things done, it only made them worse.”
Krogmeier said he has a good list of properties for the court system, but he just can’t get in there right now due to closures.
Lair also asked about the property owned by Glen Meller where the old Iowan Hotel used to stand on the city’s west side.
“It’s going to get written for overgrown, but that’s it. The structure is standing, and it’s not in poor condition.”
Lair asked if the property was zoned for agriculture and storage, and Krogmeier said just about everything falls into that zoning.
“Well, it makes the whole area out there look bad,” Lair said.
Morhfeld said he’s had only one communication with the Meller family on the property.
Krogmeier said the city did have some abatements done in April, one of which was a structure falling down, and the other was the one that burned in March by Victory Park. He said the city got good numbers on those bids so it didn’t cost as much as others.