City could be off 50% in hotel/motel funding

Council backs off move to eliminate parking on Avenue E’s south side


FORT MADISON – The city’s portion of hotel/motel taxes is taking a big hit as people around the country try to duck the coronavirus pandemic.

City Manager David Varley told the Fort Madison City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday night that there was good news and bad news with city finances.

Varley called the city’s finances a “mixed bag” saying the city has received more revenues than staff thought in two of the last three months in the road use funds, but those revenue contributions from the state have been up as much at 50% and off by as much as 37%.

Varley said he was projecting the road use fund to be down about $100,000 for the year, but it’s looking now like that fund will be off closer to $50,000.

“The bad news is the hotel/motel tax is taking a beating. We just received our second quarterly payment and if things continue the way they are that fund could be down about $90,000 to $100,000 out of about $210,000.”

He said that reduction will likely have an impact on Old Fort funding and could affect the budget for the Amtrak passenger depot maintenance.

During the last city council meeting, the council approved resolutions to initiate franchise fees on gas and electrical utilities within the city to help generate revenues.

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In an unrelated issue, the council voted 3-2 on the final reading of the ordinance banning parking on the south side of Avenue E from 2nd Street to 24th Streets. The 3-2 majority actually failed because councilmen Chad Cangas and Kevin Rink were absent and the three yea votes don’t constitute a majority of the entire council.

Councilman Tom Schulz and Rusty Andrews both voted against the move to eliminate the parking.

Schulz initially asked the council to table the discussion saying it was a policy decision and not a law enforcement issue and he said he had questions about the public safety concerns.

He originally voted “present” and then upon having to cast an up or down vote, or abstain, he voted no.

Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff has been advocating for the elimination of the parking, which was brought up by Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker and has been studied in a newly formed public safety committee for the past six months.

Rohloff said there have been 26 accidents in that stretch this year, up from an average of 15 in previous year. He said none of the accidents are speed related, but speak to congestion and poor visibility.

“It is a public safety issue,” Rohloff said. “It’s taken the city 19 years to complete from 2nd to 24th streets, but it’s only been the last three years that’s it’s been wide open. The detour route is when it became very visible. It’s come time when the city council needs to take action. Maybe not 19 years ago, but it is today.”

Rohloff said the street is not designed for the traffic flow is holds and city officials in the past have disregarded the issue citing not wanting to take down trees or eliminate parking.

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