The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

June 7, 2011

Blakesburg mayor refuses answering questions to crowd

OTTUMWA — Mayor Randy Burton said he would see people one on one about recent issues instead of as a group during a public meeting.

That didn’t go over well with the 30-plus people who attended the Blakesburg City Council meeting Monday evening.

Many citizens still want answers to three questions:

• Why are city leaders withdrawing support for a USDA grant for the Blakesburg Historical Museum?

• Why does the city want to evict the Blakesburg Historical Society from the museum building, which is owned by the city?

• Why does the city need a historical commission to administer museum operations when Blakesburg already has the historical society?

Citizens in the audience wanted to hear those answers, but Burton refused to do so during the meeting.

“Come see me, one on one, and I’ll tell you about it,” he told the crowd.

Only “Appointment of Blakesburg Historical Society Commission” appeared on Monday’s agenda, and the council approved it. The mayor didn’t indicate whether the members have been chosen.

After the meeting, Sue Couse of Blakesburg said that she, “as a citizen,” is truly troubled about the mayor not answering council members.

“What I want are answers. Why does the mayor want another historical society?” she said. “This town can’t support two.”

The existing historical society hasn’t been contacted by the city and hasn’t done anything wrong, Couse added.

Patty Rowland, head of the historical society, received a letter from Burton, and some say it implied there’s a vendetta against Rowland, who’s a consistent community volunteer.

Part of the letter reads, “Dear Ms. Rowland: The City has decided to request that you not perform any volunteer work that pertains to or directly benefits the city.”

It’s still unclear whether the problem is missing items or a perceived lack of communication. The letter also stated Rowland was unwilling to meet with the mayor about “city property items that can’t be accounted for.”

After the meeting, the Courier asked Burton for a comment. The mayor declined the request.

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