Council hears issues related to fireworks, fair parking

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Fireworks and city street parking during the Five Best Days of Summer, the Great Jones County Fair, were hot topics during the July 17 Monticello City Council meeting.

     Per the new state law, fireworks were legally allowed to be discharged within city limits between June 1 and July 8. One note Police Chief Britt Smith made in his memo to the council pertained to a shorter timeframe: June 28 through July 6. “This will reduce the number of days people will be subject to continuous firework noise,” he stated.

     In compiling stats on the new law and how it impacted Monticello, complaint calls stem from June 12 through July 4:

     • 12 complaints of noise.

     • 1 written complaint mailed to the Police Station.

     • 3 complaints of debris, ash, or sparks falling onto neighboring properties.

     • 1 personal injury. In this case, Smith said a female was hit in the face with a bottle rocket while sitting on her porch. Her neighbor was lighting them off when one flew and hit her. She was treated at Jones Regional Medical Center for her injuries.

     • 1 property damage. Smith said fireworks are suspected of causing a burn mark on a deck. The property owner said neighbors were lighting off fireworks the previous evening.

     On several occasions, Monticello Police Officers noticed people shooting off fireworks on city streets, which is prohibited. Fireworks cannot be shot off from city parks, which includes the fairgrounds.

     “It would be something to consider,” suggested Smith, “allowing an area for people to utilize fireworks in an open area like the fairgrounds. However, liability would need to be considered.”

     The next timeframe for fireworks is Dec. 29 through Jan. 7. Smith didn’t anticipate a major issue then due to the winter weather during that time of year.

     “Just because you can shoot off fireworks,” warned Smith, “doesn’t mean you should.”

     City Administrator Doug Herman said he would look into state data and that of other cities in Iowa to see how they fared following the new law.

     Gary Pratt, Bradview Ct., said he is totally against the legality of fireworks in Iowa.

     “They serve no purpose and no reason,” he said. “Why make a law if it can’t be enforced?”

     With the local law enforcement gearing up for the fair this week, Smith also spoke to an ongoing issue that will only grow as the fair progresses: parking on city streets. Particularly, bus parking in residential areas surrounding the land-locked fairgrounds.

     During the week of the fair, Sixth St. is closed to parking on both sides of the street. However, for concert nights (Thursday through Saturday) buses are allowed to park on the south side of Sixth St.

     While there is designated bus/limo parking along Maple St., Smith said that is not enough room for the dozens of buses that drop off and pick riders up during those nights.

     Bud Coyle, a resident on Sixth St., is opposed to the idea because the buses get in the way of property owners trying to allow for public parking on their property, a chance to make some money during fair week.

     “I’ve never had a problem until the last couple of years,” said Coyle. He told the council as a taxpayer in town, he should be allowed to park people on his lawn. But the buses make it nearly impossible. “Is the fair more important than the people who live here?” asked Coyle.

     With the fair upon us as we speak, the council and Mayor Dena Himes came to the conclusion that it would be too late now to not allow buses to park on Sixth St.

     “The closer the buses are to the front gates, the faster we can get them in and out of town,” said Smith.

     The council decided to investigate the issue after the conclusion of the fair.

In other city business:

     • The council awarded the E. First St. Bridge replacement project to Taylor Construction, Inc., the lowest bidder, for $504,845.24. The city received two bids for the project. The engineer’s estimate was $683,466.10.

     The start date is late July/early August with 70 working days, and an anticipated completion date some time in November.

     Council member Rob Paulson was opposed.

     • The council accepted the completion of the E. South Street reconstruction project, and with that, ordered a schedule of property assessments.

     The total project costs came in at $863,213.88. The city incurred costs related to the undergrounding of wiring and seeding, with another round of seeding to take place yet this summer.

     The council previously indicated that the interest rate to apply to the assessment should be 2 percent. The total amount to be assessed is $38,537.70.

     Herman indicated the assessment includes that of Monticello Family Dentistry. At a previous council meeting, Dr. Brian James requested his preliminary assessment be waived due to issues at his property associated with the project.

     • The council and Mike Felton, who resides on S. Chestnut St., spoke in-depth about Felton’s milkweed growth in his front lawn, which is a registered way station for monarch butterflies. Herman said he’s received some complaints about the haphazard look with the way Felton has allowed the milkweed to grow.

     The council exhausted the issue, but came to the conclusion that Felton needed to manage the milkweed, try to keep it contained, and define a milkweed bed of some sort. Felton offered that the council’s suggestions were something he could work with.

     Council member Johnny Russ said as long as Felton kept the milkweed out of the line-of-sight for the intersection of Washington and S. Chestnut Street, he saw no problem. Felton said he eliminated the growth in question.

     “As long as there’s no safety concerns,” said Russ, “I don’t want to us tell you what to do on your lawn so we don’t mess with the habitat right now.”

     Russ said coming to a middle-ground solution so both the city and Felton are happy will benefit both sides, and allow Felton to continue supporting the monarch butterfly cause.

     “I don’t think it looks the nicest, but I respect you for what you’re trying to do,” concluded Russ.

     Felton thanked Russ for his leniency on the matter.

     Herman suggested he meet with the Master Gardeners and Felton to iron out the habitat growth.

     • Chief Smith gave an update on the Wernimont house fire at 230 W. Grand St. He said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Local law enforcement and a fire investigator hired by State Farm would be on scene on July 27 “to determine a more definite cause.”


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