The Ottumwa Courier

October 3, 2012

Number of vacant lots in city decreasing

Haunted house still looking for volunteers

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — The city has generated more than $16,000 this year in sales of placarded houses and vacant lots.

After approving the sale of one vacant lot and two placarded houses, Jody Gates, director of health, inspections and solid waste, said in 2012, the city has sold seven houses and six lots.

“It’s substantially less than what we generated last year, which was over $83,000,” Gates said. “The condition of a lot of the houses this year have been a lot lower, with more work required.”

There are now 12 vacant lots left on the vacant properties list, “the lowest I can recall in a long time,” Gates said.

More than $185,000 has been generated from the sales of 115 vacant lots and placarded houses since the city started the program three years ago.

The council approved nearly $8,300 in extensive electrical work done in the basement of City Hall to make the haunted house compliant with city code.

Half of the payment will come from City Hall’s budget, and the other half will come from proceeds from the haunted house.

Councilman Jeremy Weller also noted that the haunted house is still looking for volunteers to work the nights of the haunted house, which will be open Oct. 19, 20, 26 and 27.

Police officer candidates sign an agreement prior to being hired that they will reimburse the city for nearly $6,000 in costs incurred for attending the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy if they leave the department within four years.

In February, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that these types of agreements are lawful and enforceable, but they need to be approved with a city resolution.

Police Chief Jim Clark said he has not had any problems of this kind, as anyone who has left within four years has paid the bill.

“If there is a problem with them paying, our way to go after payment would be through small claims court,” Clark said.

Mayor Frank Flanders also said he will begin meeting individually with council members and has heard interest from people to serve on a task force regarding urban reforestation.

The council also approved:

• The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) totaling $4,055,525, which will go toward the city’s 25 percent match for a $12 million FEMA grant for sewer separation and protection surrounding Ottumwa Water Works and Hydro.

• Awarding the contract to McClure and Company Concrete, Inc. for $6,810 for the Woodshire Drive pavement repair, which will be funded through Local Option Sales Tax.

• A final change order to the $457,000 City Hall Reconstruction Project, which was funded in part by a $229,500 I-JOBS grant.