Second ward discussion

Council vacancy appointment schedule discussed, proposed illicit massage business ordinance tabled

A new second ward Marshalltown City Council member is set to be appointed on Jan. 8, 2018, and the procedure for choosing Mayor-elect Joel Greer’s replacement at that seat was discussed at Monday’s meeting.

Marshalltown City Administrator Jessica Kinser said she and City Clerk Shari Coughenour have worked on a timeline for appointing a councilor to the second ward seat. She said that process was “very similar” to the one used to fill the vacancy of late council member Bob Schubert.

“That would probably … put us interviewing on Jan. 3, 4 or 5, so Wednesday, Thursday or Friday,” Kinser said of the Jan. 8 appointment date, adding applications for the seat would be due to her office by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18. “That, then, gives me the ability to get that information posted and put out to all of you ahead of potentially having something the next week, when we’re back at work.”

Fourth Ward Councilor Al Hoop questioned the need to have second ward applicants collect 25 signatures prior to being interviewed for the position.

“I would question the need for the 25 signatures,” he said. “I just think a good letter of an applicant would be enough.”

Kinser said that no such signature requirement was made to replace Schubert earlier this year.

“With the appointment that we did earlier in this calendar year, we just asked for a letter of application,” she said. “Prior to that, the last appointment process had involved an application and the collection of 25 signatures.”

The council voted 6-0 to direct city staff to proceed with the appointment schedule as discussed, with no signature requirement for appointees. Interview times are not yet set, and the appointment of a new second ward councilor is scheduled for Jan. 8.

Also discussed Monday was a proposed ordinance designed to combat the establishment of illegitimate massage therapy businesses in town; the item was ultimately tabled to come back at the Jan 8 meeting.

“This is a proactive measure, on our part, to try to be ahead of the game and, hopefully, keep those businesses out of our community … from a law enforcement standpoint, I’m very concerned about human trafficking, I’m very concerned about drug activity and prostitution issues,” said Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper. “I just want to make it very clear: we support business, we support legitimate business in town, and we want to do everything we can to help them out.”

Several licensed massage therapists (LMTs) practicing in Marshalltown shared their concerns about the proposed ordinance.

“I contacted some massage therapists in Johnston, just to get some fair feedback about how the ordinance went for them; there were mixed reviews on it,” said LMT Cheryl Case, who has practiced in Marshalltown for four years. “One concern that they voiced was the turnaround in actually getting the license issued from the city, one therapist I spoke to said it took three months to get her initial license.”

She said she had questions about the license application process outlined in the policy, and wanted to know how the city would “streamline” the licensing system to ensure efficiency.

Other LMTs raised concerns about whether such a measure would be effective in stopping such illegitimate businesses from becoming established in Marshalltown, and whether the ordinance would duplicate existing efforts by the state, including background checks.

Councilor Bethany Wirin moved to table the item, seconded by Councilor Bill Martin.

“That’s the type of input we as council people want,” Martin said. “It’s a collaborative process in this, we want to be proactive, we want to avoid problems; I want to make it effective for our police force to do something that is indeed proactive.”

One item approved was an agreement with Bolton and Menk Inc. for a study of the Iowa Highway 14 corridor in the north part of town.

“This was a study that we sought some grant funding for; specifically, the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation contributed $25,000 toward this, and the Region 6 [Planning Commission] is contributing $25,000 in federal transportation planning funds,” Kinser said, adding the city is contributing $25,730 for the study.

Marshalltown Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Spohnheimer said the study has been a city goal for several years.

“This was one of the areas that, when we did our comprehensive plan back in 2012, was designated as an area that needs more study,” she said. “We’re really excited about focusing on this North 3rd Avenue corridor.”

Bolton and Menk Landscape Architect Casey Byers said the study will begin “in the coming weeks,” with completion set for the end of May of 2018.

“The study is really going to try to expose what the potential is along this corridor for land use, streetscaping, all those things,” he said. “It’s about a 20-week process.”

The council also heard an update on the joint fire and police facility currently under construction.

“We are on schedule,” said Marshalltown Public Works Director of the project. “We had excellent weather in the month of November, that allowed our concrete foundation company to pour the majority of the concrete foundations.”

Additionally, he said much of the underground piping and utilities work has been installed under the slab of the building. Structural steel is not set to arrive until after Jan. 1, 2018, he added.

The next Marshalltown City Council meeting is set for noon Wednesday, Dec. 28 in the council chambers on the second floor of the Carnegie building, 10 W. Main St.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com