Council looks to rename permits

Webster City officials are looking at renaming the City’s demolition permits.

At Monday’s meeting of the City Council of Webster City, the Council approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment to change the name of the permits to “utility disconnect and debris disposal permits.” According to a council memorandum from Karla Wetzler, the title of “demolition permit” is misleading.

The purpose of the permits, according to City Manager Ed Sadler, is to ensure that utilities have been properly disconnected and debris have been properly disposed of.

“Those are really the only two things that this permit has ever done,” Sadler said. “What we are attempting to do is rename this permit so that people’s expectations are correct.”

According to a Council memo, the name change will “alleviate the confusion that the City is actually responsible for more involvement in the actual demolition.”

The proposed ordinance amendment follows the Council’s unanimous decision on Dec. 16, 2013 to post several unsafe building signs around Fuhs Pastry Shop. That decision followed over a year of discussions about who is responsible for the exposed wall on the east side of the shop. A report from engineer Jim Tometich from May, 2012 said the wall is in danger of collapse. At that Dec. 16 meeting, Pat Chambers, attorney for the building’s owners Tom and Shirley Fuhs, said, “It’s not fair to make them fix the wall when they had no part in creating the condition.”

Webster City Mayor Doug Getter said the public will have a chance to voice any questions or concerns about the amendment at the next two hearings at later meetings.

The Council also approved a resolution for David Stoakes of 3DK Enterprises LLC to purchase city-owned property in Southeast Industrial Park #4 on Commerce Drive near Mitchell Machines. The 2.11 acres of land will be sold for $52,500. Sadler said the land will be used for a warehouse distribution center for veterinary products and space for an office. Several recreational amenities are also planned for the land, according to Sadler.

In other business, the Council adopted zoning ordinance amendments regarding fences after its third reading. The adopted amendments include Planning and Zoning Commission recommendations to require a zoning permit for new or replacement fences, fences in a street side yard on a corner lot can be a maximum of six feet tall with a 10 inch setback from the property line and no barbed wire or electric fencing is allowed in a residential district. Sadler said the permits are inexpensive and will allow the City to be certain that new fences will be up to this new standard.

Fences not in compliance with these changes can remain until a new fence is installed. A Council memo said replacing half of a fence constitutes a new fence. If an existing fence is adjacent to an alley or driveway, it must meet current code no matter what the replacement percentage is.

The Council also approved a request to purchase a wire trailer for the city’s Line Department. The department had received two responses after it sent out specifications for the single-reel wire trailer to four vendors. The low bid of $11,154.75 from Ditch Witch did not meet minimum specifications for the trailer, according to Sadler. A bid for $18,710.02 from Sauber Manufacturing was accepted.

The memo said the Council budgeted $19,500 for the trailer purchase through the Capital Equipment Plan.

During time for public information, the Council welcomed new Webster City Economic Development Director Bill Demuth to the meeting. He is set to begin working in Webster City on Wednesday.

Also during public information, Sadler said Webster City has been designated as a Tree City, USA community for the 13th consecutive year. A news release from Recreation and Public Grounds Director Kent Harfst said the award recognizes the City’s commitment to tree planting. Webster City is one of 80 communities in Iowa and one of over 3,000 nationwide to receive the award this year. Sadler said that the designation does not award money. However, he said it makes the City more likely to receive grant money in the future.

Before adjourning, the Council held a closed session. The agenda stated the session was to discuss strategy with counsel in matters that are presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 3.