Hamburg Council deadlocks on alley decision

Veronica Barreto-Rosa
Hamburg Reporter

Odessa Hall came to the Hamburg city council meeting, on July 12 with an interest in buying an alley from the city of Hamburg. With only four members present out of five, the decision ended up being postponed as members could not reach an agreement.

Hall told the council members she they wanted to build a tent shelter over an RV her family has on the property. 

In Iowa, in most cases, the mayor does not have a vote, and decisions are made between the council members. Hamburg has five members, but Kent Benefiel was not present at the meeting.

Mayor Cathy Crain said that, in the past,  the council has never agreed to sell an alley but told Hall to explain what she wanted to do with it. 

Council member Earl Hendrickson said the city does not use the alley, but said he would not want the council to start a precedence for selling land, especially after saying no in the past. However, Hendrickson said that the city does not use that specific alley and that he would not have a problem letting them use it temporarily until the city needs it back.

Council member Russell Stockstell said that,  if the city decided to vacate the alley,  the city would have to consider the other neighbors. He also questioned what the city would do if other residents start to use the city's alleys in the future. 

When it was time to vote on the motion to allow the residents to temporarily use the alley, it was a tie. Earl Hendrickson and Willie Thorpe voted yes, Russell Stockstell and Michale Gregg voted no.

Citing the state of Iowa ordinances, the mayor voted yes to break the tie. But, Stockstell said the city ordinance has the power of law and wanted to see where it says that the mayor could break the tie. 

Code of ordinances 380.4 from the state of Iowa says that:

“Passage of an ordinance, amendment, or resolution requires a majority vote of all of the members of the council, except when the mayor may vote to break a tie vote in a city with an even number of council members, as provided in section 372.4. P”.

Stockstell stated that the city is normally a council of five members and that even though one was missing during the meeting, that ordinance did not apply to them.

After failing to reach an agreement, the discussion was postponed for the next city council meeting. 

In other news, Michelle Franks with Golden Hills came to the meeting to ask for the city’s permission to apply for a grant which will benefit Hamburg. There will be no cost to the city for the application, but Golden Hills still wanted the city's endorsement. 

Golden Hills' mission is to collaboratively develop and lead the community, conservation, and cultural initiatives to improve the quality of life in rural western Iowa. Their official region includes eight Southwest Iowa counties: Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby.

USDA Rural  Development manages the grant.

The City Council approved a motion to make a letter in support of the application.

The city council approved a motion to close F Street on the north side of Colonial Theatre for the theater's 100th-year celebration on July 24.

Ellen Longman, the new librarian, reported on her first weeks at the library. She said they received a grant and will be used to place four new computers.

A resident brought up concerns about multiple people living in campers in properties. Council members said they understand the problem, but said people are living in campers because of the floods of 2019, and further said that Hamburg does not have enough apartments for rent to meet housing needs.

Council members said they will have to make a distinction between people living in campers because of the flood, and people who are coming from other places to put their campers on properties. A discussion will be entertained on the topic at the next council meeting. 

Elaine Howard and other Hamburg Hometown Pride members also came to the meeting to ask members of the city council to have a conversation regarding the future of the Hometown Pride organization. The city council agreed to have such a discussion in the coming weeks.