Judge fines Humphrey $150K and orders compliance

Fort Madison Fire Chief Joey Herren wraps caution tape around barricades on the west side of the Humphrey building in downtown Fort Madison. The road was opened up for the first time since November after Humphrey's engineers told city officials the building was shored up enough to reopen the street. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – A southeast Iowa district judge has fined Bryan Humphrey $150,000 and ordered him to get plans in order to either demolish his downtown Fort Madison building or make city-mandated repairs within six months.

The order was handed down on Sept. 25 after a 90-minute hearing on Sept. 22 in North Lee County Court.

Judge Michael Schilling suspended $120,000 of the fine in lieu of Humphrey either demolishing the building at 732 Avenue G in Fort Madison, or making repairs to the satisfaction of an engineer retained by the city.

The city has retained Michael Purol, a structural engineer with Poepping, Stone & Bach Associates out of Keokuk.

The order requires Humphrey to keep the westernmost parcel of the building vacant.

It also requires Humphrey to obtain permits to demolish the building by Oct. 31 or make all necessary repairs to bring the property into compliance with all applicable Fort Madison building codes within 180 days, which would be March 25, 2021.

Schilling wrote that if Humphrey chooses to make all the repairs, he must, by Oct. 15 secure the west exterior wall of the building per city engineer’s specifications and the work must be approved by a licensed engineer who must confer with Purol to ensure the work is completed correctly.

Humphrey has until Friday, Oct. 9 to inform city officials which options he will pursue.

If Humphrey fails to meet the Oct. 9 deadline or if he fails to shore up the structure’s west side, the city may assume he intends to take no action and may proceed in abating the property as a nuisance. If Humphrey fails to adhere to any other parameters of the order, he must vacate the property by Dec. 15 to permit the city to take any action necessary to abate the nuisance.

Repeated calls to Humphrey by the Pen City Current have gone unreturned.

Humphrey was also ruled to be in default at the Sept. 22 hearing as neither he nor a representative appeared on his behalf.

The city worked informally for the past several years to get the building brought up to safety standards and city code and served a notice to abate the ongoing structural issues on Sept. 20, 2019.

According to court records and testimony Sept. 22, Humphrey had hired an engineer with Klingner and Associates who compiled a report of required repairs and had done some of that work to include shoring up inside and outside the building, but Purol said those repairs are not significant enough to render the building safe for occupation, or pedestrian travel near the west side.

Purol said the many repairs will actually have to be removed to do the work correctly as additional settling has occurred.

The city still has barricaded off the western sidewalk and angle parking lanes to protect against any further settling of the building, that has caused bricks to fall onto the concrete below.

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