Residents shine light on Avenue F neighborhood

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

(Editor’s Note: It was the decision of the Pen City Current to withhold the names of residents in the 1400 block of Avenue F voicing concerns at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.)

FORT MADISON – Several residents living in the 1400 block of Avenue F spoke out about the occupants of a home on the block that are creating an alleged harassing and unsafe environment.

During the public comment period of Tuesday’s regular Fort Madison City Council meeting, three residents spoke up about the environment in the neighborhood, and pleaded with city officials to take action.

Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld told the group that although the council couldn’t speak to the issue because the discussion wasn’t an agenda item, it wasn’t falling on deaf ears.

“I want to say again, that even though we can’t discuss these issues because they aren’t on the agenda, the information you’re giving us will be forwarded to city staff,” Mohrfeld said.

One resident who lives on the block said the city has been responsive to the issue, but the issue requires more attention.

“The police, (Building Director) Doug Krogmeier and the city have been more than willing to help out. Every time there’s been a complaint they’ve taking care of it,” the resident said.

“We’re just requesting the city work with us as much as possible and do what we can to clean up this neighborhood. Sometimes there’s as many as six adults living in that house and people living in a pop-up camper in the back. We just ask the city council to help us take care of this.”

Another resident broke down in tears recalling alleged regular harassment and harassment toward the resident’s child including name calling and threats.

Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff said the department is aware of the situation and has made repeated stops at the property.

“We have a long history and some additional concerns to be addressed with them. There are conflicts with abatement, trash and rubbish, noise and disorderly behavior,” Rohloff said.

According to city records, since from July 20, 2019 to July 20, 2020 there have been 92 calls for service in the 1400 block of Avenue F. Just over 1/3 of those calls have been to 1413 Avenue F. Six were four harassment, five for disturbance, four for animal complaints, among 15 other categories.

The next highest service calls were to 1409 Avenue F with 11, five for disturbances and two for harassment.

“This issue is particularly disconcerting to the City. Usually a notice or occasional enforcement corrects the problem,” Rohloff said. “The neighbors are suffering from a quality of life issue, and cannot enjoy the peace of their own home and yard.”

“I’ve made a personal appearance down there, but a long-term solution is necessary. I’ve floated the idea of a civil action against the homeowner, but that may take buy-in from all the neighbors.”

In an unrelated issue, City Manager David Varley said the city ended the fiscal year on June 30, in better financial shape than they had anticipated, but he said the current fiscal year will be more difficult.

“The general fund ended in better shape. We had some one-time revenue infusions and ended up with minimum working capital of 850,000 which is good,” Varley said.

“But the current budget year will be more difficult. Some revenues were keeping an eye on because of the virus situation.”

Varley said road use funds were down a bit due to reduced travel with the pandemic, but he said expenditures were up a bit as the city continues to put more money into street repair.

“That will pay dividends and it’s nice to see the work that’s being done,” he said.

Varley said the city’s water fund underperformed compared to previous years with electricity usage up almost $100,000, an added expense he’s looking into. Revenues were off for the year about $450,000.

The city’s waste water, sewer and solid waste funds all performed close to budgeted figures.

In other action, the council:

• approved 5-0 to set a public hearing on a project to relocate a sewer on Henry Ladyn Drive as part of a project to allow the state DOT to build a slip ramp for Siemens-Gamesa wind blade transportation on Hwy. 61.
• approved a sharing agreement with Lee County and the DOT for salt storage.
• approved three resolutions that will pave the way for additional progress on the PORT trail including the Great River Health System-Fort Madison Community Hospital Community Foundation’s trail along 15th Street and X32 between the city and Rodeo Park.
• approved a $29,000 bid from Brockway Mechanical and Roofing in Burlington to reshingle City Hall.
• discussed amending City Code to allow hiring outside the 10 mile restriction for city employees. No specific mileage was set, but City Manager David Varley said he’d like to look at different restrictions for each department based on needs.

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