BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With the unexpected death of former Fort Madison attorney Bryan Humphrey, city officials are now relying on their attorneys to sort out the future of Humphrey’s building in downtown Fort Madison.
A court hearing was held Friday morning at the North Lee County Courthouse to show cause as to why Humphrey hadn’t acted to shore up his building on the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Avenue G, including a possible contempt charge.
No confirmation has been received on the cause of Humphrey’s death, but parties involved in Friday’s hearing learned of the situation at that time.
Fort Madison Building Director Doug Krogmeier said Monday due to the circumstances no contempt order was requested or issued, but a district judge gave the city some rights to correct building deficiencies.
“We did get the right to evacuate and secure the building,” Krogmeier said. “But how we proceed from here, our attorneys don’t even know yet.”
He said the building may end up in an estate and then legal proceedings would sort the issue out.
Humphrey was facing possible contempt of court charges for not following court orders to shore up the building before Dec. 15, 2020.
Krogmeier said the city’s attorneys are now looking into how the case will progress in the wake of Humphrey’s death.
Humphrey’s building has been a source of contention between him and the city. Humphrey lived on the top floor of the building, but the west side had deteriorated to the point of structural sagging.
The city had cordoned off the north half of Eighth Street beyond the alley to Avenue G when bricks started falling from the building in 2019. The sidewalk remains barricaded. Humphrey did some shoring up on the outside of the building, but had not communicated with city officials or their engineering representatives, as ordered by District Judge Michael Schilling in September of 2020.
Schilling gave Humphrey until Dec. 15 to get the building brought up to safety codes in coordination with city officials. Krogmeier and Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld both indicated no efforts were made on Humphrey’s part to work with the city on the building.
Krogmeier said the city has the right now to go in and shore up the building, but to whom the ownership is now transferred will have to be sorted out.
“Everything’s just too fresh right now for any answers,” he said.