Charles City Council revises traffic code around Pure Prairie Farms
By Mary Pieper, Special to the Charles City Press
The Charles City Council Wednesday voted to change the name of one block of Lane Street to North Main Street and revised the traffic code for the area around the Pure Prairie Farms chicken processing plant that is expected to begin production this fall.
Last month the council agreed to vacate the northerly portion of North Main Street and its current intersection with North Grand Avenue to allow the plant, located at the former home of Simply Essentials, room to expand.
The city then proposed changing the name of Lane Street between North Main Street and North Grand Avenue to North Main Street to maintain the North Main/North Grand intersection and allow North Main to continue uninterrupted to North Grand.
During the process of vacating North Main Street by Pure Prairie Farms, the City Council discussed using signage and pavement markings to direct traffic in the interim period until street improvements can be constructed.
The plan was to create separate turning lanes for the North Grand to North Main Street traffic by offsetting the existing North Grand centerline and eliminating parking along North Grand and the easterly side of North Main.
“Right now, we just have the signs on the poles but they are bagged because we wanted to wait until action was officially taken,” said City Engineer John Fallis during Wednesday’s council meeting. “And then tomorrow morning we will actually do the street pavement. We will paint the pavement markings, and when we get all that, the street department will put up barricades on each end of the vacated portion of Main Street.”
He said permanent street changes will be madae during the 2024 construction season.
Regarding the renaming of Lane Street to North Main, Mayor Dean Andrews said one of the biggest concerns members of the public seem to have is, “How do people know this is where you turn when you go on Main Street? We want to make that pretty evident.”
There’s already a wayfaring sign at the intersection by Pure Prairie Farms with three spaces to tell drivers which way to go, according to Fallis. He said the bottom space is blank, so the words “Main Street” and a left arrow can be placed there so drivers know how to keep on Main Street.
The city also will be getting signs similar to its gateway sign only half the size which say “Welcome to Main Street Charles City” to place on either side of North Main, according to Fallis.
Council member Phoebe Pittman said this plan will not only help drivers but also give the city time to “work out some of the kinks” before making permanent street changes.
“I think Main Street will be even more noticeable now, especially with that signage addition,” she said.
City Administrator Steven Diers gave the council a general update on Pure Prairie Farms.
He said the company plans to begin production in either October or November.
Diers also said the original plan was for the city to lease the vacated portion of North Main Street to Pure Prairie Farms, with the city being able to get it back after a certain number of years and potentially use it as a street.
Now, however, the company’s preference is to buy that property from the city, according to Diers.
He said this option could be a topic for an upcoming City Council planning session.
In other business, the council approved the first reading of an ordinance to impose a $75 penalty for mobile food vendors that fail to register for a permit from the city, as well as increasing the application fee for those permits from $2 to $5.
However, the actual amount of the penalty for failure to register may be increased before the council approves the second and third readings of the ordinance and adopts it.
City staff have been spending a lot of time after the fact tracking down food trucks that come to the city without getting a permit, according to City Clerk Trudy O’Donnell.
She said the city has contacted one food truck owner three times since he came to town without getting a permit in order to get him to pay the $55 single-day permit fee, and he still hasn’t sent in the payment.
The proposed penalty for failing to get a permit would be a municipal infraction. O’Donnell said this means the police would not have the authority to shut down a food truck operating without a permit while it is in town, but the city could issue a fine.
Council member DeLaine Freeseman asked why the city requires food trucks to get a permit if it can’t be enforced while they are in town.
“Seems kind of stupid to me,” he said.
O’Donnell said the purpose of the permits is to get the food trucks to prove they have been inspected by the state.
Freeseman asked why the proposed penalty is only $75.
“That seems kind of paltry,” he said.
City Attorney Brad Sloter suggested the $75 amount, according to O’Donnell. She said she could ask his advice on changing it to a higher fee.
Police Chief Hugh Anderson said his personal feeling is $75 might be too low to act as a deterrent.
Council member Patrick Lumley agreed.
“We all love the food trucks,” he said. “The message here is almost all of them abide by the rules, but for the ones that don’t we need some teeth.”
Diers suggested asking Sloter about the possibility of a $150 penalty.
Council member Phillip Knighten said he’s not sure even that amount would be enough of a deterrent.
Diers said a $225 penalty “will get attention.”
Andrews said although $75 may not be enough, $225 might be too much. However, he said the council could just pass the first reading of the ordinance with the $75 penalty and change the amount before approving the second and third readings at a later date.
Also on Wednesday, the council:
• Heard from Diers that Floyd Township still has not entered into an agreement for fire services. Historically the township has contracted with Floyd Fire Services, but the June 30 deadline to renew the contract passed with nothing signed, “so technically Floyd Township doesn’t have fire coverage,” he said.
Diers has discussed the issue with the Charles City police chief, fire chief and city attorney. He said they agreed the city will provide coverage to Floyd Township if called upon.
• Adopted a revised ordinance on off-road utility vehicles so the language is compatible with a new state law. The biggest change is the elimination of the city’s registration fee for those vehicles, according to Diers.
• Set a public hearing for 6 p.m. on Sept. 7 on preliminary plans and specifications for the one-million-gallon clearwell tank at the water treatment plant.
• Approved amended employment agreements for Diers and O’Donnell for work so they can be compensated for work they did on the city telecommunication utility project from October 2020 to June 2021. Diers is to be paid $5,472, while O’Donnell is to be paid $1,023.
• Approved a request to close the streets around Central Park for Art-A-Fest on Aug. 21, contingent upon all the property owners along those streets being informed.
The next City Council meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Aug. 10. It will be a planning session.