BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – And round and round we go.
The Fort Madison City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to not put forth a special election for two vacant council seats, and proceed with potential appointments to fill seats in the 3rd and 2nd wards.
The vacancies were created by the resignation of Tyler Miller in the 3rd Ward and the death of Bob Morawitz on Sept. 30 in Ward 2.
The move sets the stage for the city to publish on Nov. 2, an intent to fill the positions by appointment. At that point, residents have 14 days to file a petition to force a special election, or 14 days after an appointment is made.
Jerry Hamelton, one of the candidates seeking the 2nd Ward seat, said it is his intention to file the petition to put the seats in front of voters.
Mayor Matt Mohrfeld put the item on the agenda for the council to discuss and act upon the options.
He said putting a special election on a ballot wouldn’t happen until Dec. 15, possibly Dec. 8 at the earliest.
Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker expressed concern that the city wouldn’t be just looking at a special election, but possibly an additional run-off election which could extend the open seats for up to three months.
“Running with a five-person council is irresponsible to the voters who elected us,” she said.
Bowker said the council could possibly find itself in a position where they don’t have a quorum and may not be able to go about the business of the city.
Mark Lair initially said he thought the council should support the election because there are five people showing interest in the two seats.
“That means to me that we should allow the people to make the decision. I know it’s costly and we won’t have people right away, but in the long run we’d be better off,” Lair said.
However after the discussion, Lair changed his mind and voted to not move forward with the election.
Councilman Chad Cangas said he was appointed and there were five or six people running for that seat.
“I’m of the opinion if appointing is what we were planning on doing – they have a means with a petition, why don’t we wait and see if they actually go through with it,” he said.
Mohrfeld has said at the Oct. 6 meeting he would like to accept letters of intent until Nov. 10 and then make an appointment on Nov. 17.
But Mohrfeld confirmed Tuesday that no closed session interviews will be conducted with candidates and moreover, no closed sessions for interviews will be put on the agenda.
To be considered on a ballot, all candidates will need to collect and turn in petitions with the required number of signatures to be placed on the ballot. However, appointments are simply a majority vote of the council.
Tom Schulz, who’s also running for the 2nd Ward, said ward residents deserve representation on the council.
“As a council you’re responsible for seeing the residents of this community are represented,” Schulz said.
“We could potentially be looking at two wards that are unrepresented for several months, and potentially be looking at City Council meetings that don’t take place because we can’t seat a quorum.”
Donna Amandus, who’s petitioning to run for 3rd Ward said transparency is important in today’s political climate.
“I know the city’s in trouble and we have a lot of challenges ahead of us very soon, but on that note, transparency would be the best way to go and let the people decide,” she said.
In other action, the council:
• voted 5-0 to reappoint Charles Bock to the City’s Board of Adjustment and Appeals
• voted 4-1 to approve two change orders for work being done on the Hwy. 61 project in the amount of $89,951, and on the parking lot project behind City Hall in the amount of $17,591. A change order on the Amtrak Depot project was pulled from agenda.