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12th Avenue sidewalk project offer heads to fair board

The Marshalltown City Council continues to be at odds with the Central Iowa Fair Board over the 12th Avenue sidewalk project.

During the Monday night meeting the council voted to offer $14,000 to Central Iowa Fair, in what could be the first step toward using eminent domain to take land for a 5-foot sidewalk and easement.

Mayor Joel Greer tried to ease the idea of using eminent domain.

“The way it really works is the owners get paid a fair price, often a better price than they would have gotten had they negotiated at arm’s length,” Greer said.

City council member Gary Thompson was in favor of using eminent domain to seize the property from the Central Iowa Fair Board.

“As much as I hate eminent domain against the public, I don’t have a problem with the fair board,” Thompson said. “We’ve got to put this stuff to bed.”

Thompson asked Greer if eminent domain was being considered and added he thought the fair board was being “totally unreasonable.”

“For us to give them money to buy the equipment and pay an employee. That’s crazy,” Thompson said. “Are we, as a body, willing to exert our power over them?”

Previously Thompson suggested using a different route for the path to avoid the fair property, but the different route option was voted down at the March 9 meeting.

Council member Al Hoop was the only council member who voiced his displeasure with eminent domain.

Maintenance

The city would pay $4,000 for an easement and up to $10,000 for site improvements.

“They could use those funds to purchase a piece of equipment to provide snow maintenance on the new sidewalk or trail,” said Justin Nickel, Public Works director. “I believe the Central Iowa Fair board is looking for a third item to go with that, which would be compensation for their employees to perform that snow removal.”

The board will be able to propose a counter offer to the city.

City council member Gabriel Isom was only in favor of the 5-foot sidewalk offering, not an 8-foot which the Central Iowa Fair Board would prefer.

“I do not like the language of paying for an employee for an unknown amount of time,” Isom said. “I’m having a hard time understanding the hurdle of them being an obstacle to being a community partner.”

Jessica Kinser, city administrator, said the city has options to modify the sidewalk.

“We could always amend the definitions of sidewalk and recreation trail in our ordinances,” Kinser said. “You can dead-end it at their property.”

If the city wants a 5-foot sidewalk, the city needs to negotiate with the board or use eminent domain, Kinser added.

Isom was not in favor of dead ending the sidewalk at the property.

“I think negotiating is the right path forward,” Isom said. “I think we’re being more than fair, if not overly fair.”

City council member Bill Martin advocated for an 8-foot trail with the city taking care of the snow removal.

Isom pushed back against Martin’s idea and said it would set a bad precedent.

Nickel mentioned at a previous meeting the city wasn’t able to take care of the snow removal of the area.

“We don’t have the capacity to provide snow removal for them,” Nickel said.

The city has 17 miles of trails, but it doesn’t clear snow from those trails for active use.

“If we can’t go 8-foot and you’re saying we can’t plow it, I would lean toward throwing it away,” Hoop said.  

Thompson motioned for council to move forward with the 5-foot sidewalk and offer the fair board a total of $14,000 for the easement and new equipment.

The council voted 5 to 1 with Hoop as the sole vote in opposition.

If the board rejects the offer the council has to make one more offer before it can move forward with eminent domain.

“We’ve been at this long enough,” Thompson said.

Michael Duffy, president of the Central Iowa Fair Board, had no comment on the meeting on Tuesday.

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Contact Thomas Nelson at (641)753-6611 or tnelson@timesrepublican.com