Police chief: ‘Pass ordinance’ banning illicit massage businesses’

At Monday night’s council meeting, Marshalltown Chief of Police passionately urged the city council to be proactive and direct City Attorney Roger Schoell to prepare an ordinance which would block “illegal massage businesses” from opening in Marshalltown.

“Frequently in police work, we are reactive” Tupper said. “Tonight I am asking you to help us be proactive by taking action against illegal massage businesses.”

Tupper came armed with information.

Specifically, he said such businesses are fronts for other illegal criminal activity such as human trafficking, prostitution, drug use/sales and more.

“Human trafficking has been investigated in Marshalltown,” he said. “When I worked in Ottumwa for 12 years we struggled in our fight against illicit massage businesses because they were established … and a massage business recently opened in Newton.”

Tupper said he had two ordinances from Iowa cities which have successfully blocked the illicit businesses.

Lynne Carroll of LastWatch, a local organization which combats human trafficking, heartily endorsed Tupper’s request.

“This is not a campaign against legal massage businesses,” she said. “Enacting an ordinance prohibiting illicit massage businesses protects legitimate massage businesses.”

Second Ward Councilor and Mayor-elect Joel Greer urged swift action, saying he has seen the extensive harm caused by illicit massage businesses.

His comments were endorsed by At-Large Councilor Bill Martin and First Ward Councilor Dan Kester.

Mayor Jim Lowrance directed Schoell to begin work on crafting an ordinance prohibiting the businesses.

Kester’s last meeting

Monday’s meeting was the last for Kester. Sue Cahill, who defeated Kester in last week’s municipal election, 162-68, will be sworn-in and take her place as the first ward representative at the next council meeting — Nov. 27.

Lowrance said “state statue” requires an appointed councilor to step down if defeated in an election.

Kester was appointed by the council in a 5-1 vote April 3 to replace the late Bob Schubert, who died in late February.

Kester won out over eight other candidates, including Cahill and recent mayoral candidate Gary Thompson in a interview-type format where councilors posed a variety of questions about city issues to each candidate.

The session was open to the public.

Lowrance thanked Kester for his service.

“I hope this experience sparked your interest in serving again,” Lowrance said.

Kester, 50, is vice-president for sales and marketing with Marshalltown Co.

212 East Street demolition soon?

After extensive debate, council voted 4-2 (Fourth Ward Councilor Al Hoop was absent) to approve a $16,770 economic development grant to Avita Properties to demolish what some called a “blighted property” at 212 E. State St. — the former State Street Chapel. Avita Properties recently purchased and extensively remodeled a former dental clinic at 204 E. State St. A cardiology clinic will open once inspections have been complete.

It also purchased 212 E. State St. from Anderson Funeral Homes, and wants to demolish that property to better develop the site and enhance the cardiology clinic.

Councilor At-Large Bill Martin questioned using funds to demolish private properties. He voted no, as did Kester.

Kester questioned the need to demolish based on its exterior appearance.

However, it was claimed the building’s interior was in poor condition, resulting in the “blighted” tag.

Voting yes were Greer, Gowdy, Lamer and Wirin.

Since the clinic will be associated with Unity Point Health-Waterloo, and Cedar Valley Medical Clinic, Lamer urged passage, saying “UnityPoint had invested millions into Marshalltown by purchasing the former Central Iowa Healthcare that was in bankruptcy. I think an investment of $16,770 is a good return to have a full time cardiologist in Marshalltown.”

In other action:

— Kinser announced a city council goal-setting session will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 29, at the public library. It is open to the public. No lunch provided.

— Unanimously approved a resolution approving agreement with Marshalltown Central Business District, authorizing support of the Main Street Program and Facade Improvement Program. City Administrator Jessica Kinser said the MCBD is scheduled to receive $26,000 from the city, up from $24,000 last year. The facade program will receive a separate amount.

— Following all other business, the council voted to enter into a closed session pursuant to Section 21.5, Subsection (1) Paragraph (i) of the Code of Iowa to evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring, performance or discharge is being considered when necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to that individual’s reputation and that individual requests a closed session. The City of Marshalltown has an attorney-client relationship with Attorney Roger Schoell, appointed as City Attorney on May 5, 2014, by Council Resolution #2014-047; and with Lynch Dallas P.C., by Council Resolution #2017-093, approved May 8, 2017.

The next regular meeting of the city council is 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27 in council chambers, Carnegie Building, 10 W. S. State St. For more information, contact 641-754-5701, or visit ci.marshalltown.ia.us..

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com