City comes to agreement on milkweed situation

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The City of Monticello’s fight with Mike Felton over the milkweed growing on his property on S. Chestnut Street appears to be over.

     “I think it looks a lot nicer than last year,” comments Council member Johnny Russ of the condition of the property. “I don’t recommend removing any more habitat.”

     Felton is growing milkweed to provide a local habitat for monarch butterflies. Last year, the city suggested an alternative location for the milkweed on city property, of which Felton was against.

     “That would be doing something I really didn’t want to do,” he told the council. “We were asking me to take everything out and start over.”

     The city also brought in a milkweed “expert” from Iowa State Extension, along with Casey Reyner (Parks and Rec) to work with Felton, but Felton said he wasn’t comfortable following through with the Extension’s recommendations.

     Police Chief Britt Smith took photos of Felton’s property a couple weeks ago, and it showed significant change.

     “He’s vacated what largely used to be milkweed,” noted Smith. “Now it’s standard grass vegetation.”

     Smith said Felton created milkweed beds using garden pavers to section off the areas. There are mowed strips between the rows as well for ease of mowing.

     Mayor Brian Wolken questioned Felton as to why he stopped corresponding with the Extension. Felton, again, said he didn’t feel the recommendations were doing any good.

     Felton’s wife, Nancy, got emotional addressing the council as well, standing up for her husband by saying if he had gotten rid of any more milkweed, they would have killed off the butterfly eggs.

     “It’s frustrating,” she said. “It’s a beautiful bush and we were told to tear it out. I don’t you people care very much.”

     Wolken said the Feltons won’t get any sympathy from him because of the time spent lining up assistance and having it turned down.

     “We had to send Britt to reach out to you because there was no response,” said Wolken. “That’s why we’re in this situation.” However, Wolken did agree the property looks better now than in the past. “I hope it continues to look that way throughout the summer.”

     Russ and Council member Rob Paulson said they felt if the property was well maintained, they didn’t see any further issues.

     “I’ve been working on this for two years,” said Felton. “It’s hard to maintain, and I sense you want quality versus quantity and that what I am working toward. It is time consuming, but I am working on smaller, defined beds.” He said he would like to see diversity of plant life growing in the community. “I would hope to open the door for people who want to grow milkweed and not be afraid to do so,” concluded Felton.

     Smith informed the council that he has also been in contact with a neighbor of the Feltons who has overgrown vegetation growing in the city’s right of way.

     City Administrator Doug Herman said the city would move forward from this situation assuming the current state of Felton’s property is suffice.

In other city business:

     • The council approved a dig permit for Veloxium (Jerry Pasker and Brock Schneiderman) to begin installing fiber lines for high-speed Internet in city right-of-way.

     The council did not approve a right-of-way agreement with Veloxium until Pasker and Schneiderman had time to review the city’s proposal.

     Herman said the city could put together a new ordinance to address the situation, but it would take three separate readings (meetings) to pass. “These guys are anxious to get started,” he said.

     Pasker said the approval of the dig permit allows them to start some work while trying to come to a consensus on the agreement. “We are agreeable to an agreement,” he offered.

     • The council approved an agreement between the city and Snyder & Associates for the reconstruction of a portion of N. Sycamore Street.

     For planning purposes, the city is considering reconstruction of the street from First to Seventh streets, or potentially from Third to Seventh. The project will include the undergrounding of overhead utilities, period light fixtures, and reconstruction of sewer, water, and storm water mains where appropriate.

     Current project estimates are between $2.6 and $2.9 million.

     The agreement with Snyder, at $206,515, includes project design, letting, bidding, and contractual work.



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