Council strengthens ordinance on dangerous buildings

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY The building formerly housing the Golden Land Asian Grocery store, 27 N. Center St., is shown. City Councilors voted unanimously at Monday night’s council meeting to put more “teeth” into an ordinance prohibiting dangerous and dilapidated properties not cleaned-up since the July 19 tornado. Others mentioned were 2 W. Main St. and 201 E. Main St.

Clean-up of commercial and residential structures extensively damaged by the July 19 tornado, and discussion on revising the city’s burn ordinance dominated Monday night’s city council meeting.

Regulating dangerous buildings

Councilors voted 6-0 (Third Ward Councilor Mike Gowdy was absent) to strengthen a 2013 ordinance on dangerous buildings and later voted unanimously to waive the third reading. Resident and local businessman Lonnie Hogeland told the council he was concerned about 2 W. Main St., among others.

“The building is dangerous,” he said. “There is stuff on the sidewalk … it is not safe. There is stuff about ready to fall.”

Mayor Joel Greer said the ordinance was a mechanism which gives the city more power to deal with property owners who have been slow to clean up after the tornado.

“Our city administrator has been in touch with the property owner you are talking about,” Greer said. “I have been in touch with owners of 201 W. Main St (Marshalltown Senior Residences) since we have had reports of bricks falling.

I think people are doing what they can. I know some are underinsured. If they can not improve things, this will give the city teeth to step in and do what we need to do.”

Burn ordinance

Fire chief David Rierson asked the council for direction on how the Marshalltown Fire Department should prepare a new fire code. Rierson said an open burning policy would have to be included.

“As the current policy is written, it puts the department in a position of being civil arbiters … resolving disagreements between neighbors,” he said. “Because someone can be burning leaves in their backyard and doing it exactly the way the ordinance specifies, but if someone calls and complains the smoke is offensive, the we are required by code to go out and do something. Either the person puts it out, or we extinguish it. This is not right. It puts us in a position we should not be in.”

Rierson clarified that the disputes involved open burning and not recreational burning. The former is primarily the burning of garbage and yard waste. The latter is typically confined to an open fireplace or fire-pit, so long as seasoned wood is used.

Rierson said he contacted a number of other Iowa cities to learn of their policies. He said it ranged from no open burning to policies which were quite liberal. Mayor Joel Greer asked Rierson if he had a recommendation.

The chief said the “cleanest” way to go was to implement a no open burning policy.

“My feeling is, a no open burning ordinance would not be popular in Marshalltown, since limited open burning has been allowed for a number of years,” Rierson said. “My recommendation is we limit open burning to a special calendar period. For example, Nevada allows spring burning between April 1 and May 15. The fall burning is Oct. 1 through Nov. 15.”

At-Large Councilor Leon Lamer told Rierson and council that residents “packed council chambers” when the issue was last discussed.

First ward councilor Sue Cahill said she had received many calls from her ward asking for limits on burning for health reasons, such as asthma. Greer also cited health concerns as a key motivation to limit open burning.

City Administrator Jessica Kinser said the city would schedule open houses or other public forums.

Mayor comments

Greer cited national and local media for promoting Marshalltown’s tornado recovery efforts.

“I have done 31 media interviews (since July 19) to get the word out. Donations are still needed to help get businesses and people back on their feet,” Greer said.

Greer also cited the Sept. 6 opening of the Tremont Grille. Ocean City, another Central Business District restaurant, is expected to open in the immediate future with a new menu.

In other action

• Unanimously approved numerous change orders increasing prices on numerous construction items for joint Police and Fire headquarters.

• Unanimously approved numerous change orders decreasing items on several construct items for join Police and Fire headquarters.

• Unanimously approved a motion to set public hearing for Oct. 8 regarding voluntary annexation request from Interstate Power and Light Co. for a parcel.

• Adopted a resolution by 4-2 vote approving the purchase of a 3.95 acre parcel on East Southridge Rd. for $88,500.

• Heard a report from Kyley Leger, executive director Vision Marshalltown.

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


Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or