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Homeowners south of Maple Heights ask council to sever property from city limits

  • Council member Keith Starr (from left to right), deputy clerk Virginia Titus, and City Attorney Brad Sloter sit in on a City Council planning workshop on Thursday at the water treatment plant. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Council members Michael Hammond (left) and Dan Mallaro listen in on a City Council planning session held at the water treatment plant on Thursday evening. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

Two homeowners addressed the Charles City Council to have their properties at 195th Street, just south of Maple Heights, to be severed, or removed, from the city limits, during a planning workshop Thursday evening that was held at the water treatment plant.

Maple Heights is outside the city limits and situated just north of the properties owned by Casey Mallory and Sam Offerman, who were at the council planning session.

“The way that we look at it is we’re not getting anything from the city that Maple Heights is not getting,” said Offerman. “But with the city taxes we’re paying for the infrastructure for all of those things.”

Residents who live on 195th Street receive no garbage or recycling pickup from the city. Floyd County plows their street during winter. The Floyd County Sheriff’s Department responds to law enforcement calls and the homes are in the St. Charles Township for fire protection.

“The initial step is the property owners, by unanimous consent, have to file a petition with council. And then council, by resolution, would agree to the severance, in which there are multiple steps after that. Or council could vote to not allow the de-annexation,” said City Attorney Brad Sloter.

Sanitary sewer services are provided by Maple Heights. The city has an arrangement with Maple Heights whereby it compensates the city for those services.

“The staff’s position right now would be we would not support a petition for the de-annexation of those two properties with the understanding that, again, potentially we’ll bring Maple Heights into the city corporate limits as well,” said Sloter. “The legal standard is that the city has to be incapable of providing service at some point in the future.”

Council member Keith Starr said the recycling and garbage service could be fixed right away with a phone call. As far as other services to that area, Starr said the council would have to discuss the matter further.

“You knew going in that those services weren’t there,” Starr said to the homeowners.

Council member Jerry Joerger thanked each property owner for attending the meeting and bringing the issue to the council.

“The thing is, they’re in the city limits. They should be provided city service like the rest of the town is provided. They have a very valid concern about paying city rates when they’re actually working with Maple Heights people,” said Joerger.

“I think this puts the pressure on us, and rightfully so, if we are interested in annexing Maple Heights. That’s been talked about for years. If we’re not going to do that in the foreseeable future, I think they have a very valid concern,” Joerger said.

Iowa Code provides specific information regarding severance of territory and requires approval of the council. The point was also made at the meeting that even though services have yet to be extended, it does not show that the city is incapable of providing the service.

“I’d say right now we are capable. The question would be are we willing to take the cost?” said Mayor Dean Andrews, talking about the city not receiving property taxes from those households.

Mallory asked that the council review the issue and come back relatively soon with a determination as to whether the properties could be severed from the city limits.

“I guess what we’re asking you to do is just to review the now more than the future,” said Mallory. “If you want to annex us back in with the city with Maple Heights in 5, 10, 20, 100 years, whatever you guys are thinking. For right now we’d like you to at least look at and see.”

The city also discussed increasing the water-meter access fee for larger water meters outside the city limits. Currently the city code goes up to as high as an eight inch-rate, but City Administrator Steve Diers said there will soon be a need for a 10-inch water meter access fee for Valero. The city is requesting a 50 percent increase to the out-of-town water users effective on Jan. 1, 2020.

“The rate we charge for our non-city water users – it’s 15 percent higher than the city rate,” said Diers. “Comparatively speaking, not only with the water that we produce, that’s kind of low threshold for outside of city use.”

The addition of a 12-inch meter rate was also brought up at the meeting in the case a bigger consumer of water would bring its business into town.

Diers stated the Valero had a water line installed about 13 years ago and there was a lease purchase agreement with the City that runs out at the end of this year.

The North Iowa Safety Alliance is currently researching the possibility of creating the position of an Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU) safety coordinator that would be shared among 11 entities, including Charles City.

The position would offer on-site safety training. Charles City’s share would come in right around $25,000 for the salaried position that would make $130,000 annually according to Diers.