City gets no response from Humphrey on court order

One deadline has passed in a southeast Iowa judge's order to remedy structural issues on a building in downtown FM. PCC file photo

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – One deadline has passed and another is set to expire today in a southeast Iowa judge’s order regarding the Humphrey building in downtown Fort Madison.

The building located at 732 Avenue G has experienced structural settling and crumbling of the west exterior wall. City officials barricaded the sidewalk and parking stalls on the west side of the building for fear of additional crumbling. At one point the entire street from the 8th Street alley north to Avenue G was closed off.

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

On Sept. 25, 2020 District Judge Michael Schilling gave Bryan Humphrey, the owner of the building, until Oct. 9 to let city officials know how he was going to proceed with the building. He also fined Humphrey $150,000 with $120,000 suspended based on completion of the court order.

City Building Director Doug Krogmeier said he’s heard nothing from Humphrey on the court orders.

“Thus far we’ve received nothing from him, so we’re not sure where he’s at with it,” Krogmeier said.

“I’ve passed it back to our city attorney with some questions on how to move forward, but haven’t heard back from him.”

The court order gave Humphrey until Oct. 9 to inform the city whether he was going to repair the building per recommendations from an engineer hired by the city to evaluate the building, or get permits to demolish it.

That evaluation took place under a warrant in early September with structural engineer Michael Purol of Poepping, Stone & Bach Associates of Keokuk.

The order also mandated that if Humphrey chose to repair the building to the city’s recommendation, he had to shore up the western portion of the building by today, Oct. 15.

Krogmeier said those repairs would be internal repairs so he doesn’t know if anything is being done.

“We haven’t seen any evidence of it – unless they’re working without any visual changes. But that’s part of a bunch of questions I sent back to our attorney,” Krogmeier said.

“We will continue to move forward at the direction of our attorney.”

Krogmeier said it’s possible that Humphrey mailed in a response to the judge’s orders, but said it’s been almost a week since the original Oct. 9 deadline, and that’s long enough.

Under the order, all the repairs have to be done in coordination with a licensed engineer who is required to confer with Purol to make sure the repairs are in line with his, and city, recommendations.

Krogmeier said he has not heard anything from Purol.

“He would let me know if he heard from them.”

If Humphrey is deemed to have failed to meet the Oct. 9 deadline, or if he fails to shore up the structure’s west side by the end of Thursday, the city may assume, under the order, that 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.

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