Concerns raised about building renovations
Mayor Sandra Johnson found herself having to explain some issues with a building she owns just off the square in Washington during the public comment portion of the Washington City Council meeting Wednesday evening.
During the discussion, it was identified that the city does not have a policy for giving a permit to contractors to take up parking spaces with dumpsters. The council also questioned whether the e-mail to contact them on the city’s Web site works. At the meeting, Doug Collette raised two problems about a downtown building owned and being renovated by Johnson. He also questioned whether Johnson had been given special treatment because she is the mayor.
“My two issues are why has TK Enterprises – Terry Philips — been allowed to block several parking spaces at 210 and 212 Marion Avenue all summer long a half a block off the square,” Doug Collette, who identified himself as a resident of Washington County, said. “Philips had not been granted a permit for this project nor had he applied for one. I think it was a shame all the work Main Street Washington did on the square this summer had to include a boom truck and trash dumpsters. I also inquired about a memo dated July 12, 2013, from the Iowa (Department of Natural Resources). Council members were provided with information where to obtain this report. This memo involved a building at 210-212 Marion Avenue — owned by Mayor Sandra Johnson being renovated by TK Enterprises — Terry Philips. This memo concludes that no asbestos inspection prior to removal had been done and asbestos was found in the dumpster and that other potentially hazardous dumpsters had already been sent to the SEMCO Landfill.”
Collette said that on Sept. 15 he had contacted the mayor and city council members using the city’s Web page in reference to the issues. Most of the city council members indicated during discussion that they had not received the e-mail. Johnson said that she wanted a copy of the report and said that she had not received a copy of the e-mail. Collette gave the council members copies of the DNR report.
“There is no application process for a permit,” Johnson said, regarding a permit allowing contractors to take up parking spaces on city streets. “The city will attempt to correct that.”
Collette asked if he parked a school bus on a side street off the square all summer long, if he would be ticketed.
“It is typical as far as contractor work — the officers have a policy not to ticket contractors working,” city administrator Brent Hinson said. “It presents many challenges working in a downtown area. This is not the first instance where contractors have had to work for a sustained amount of time.”
Hinson said there has been conversation about a permitting process for contractors. He said that he didn’t believe there had been additional consideration because of the people involved.
Council member Bob Shellmyer said that he favored allowing permits for this type of thing.
“It should have existed six months ago when we had the problem with the Patterson building,” he said. “We are kind of a do-nothing council. It makes a lot of people mad when I say that, but we should have done this six months ago.”
Johnson said that she had contacted the DNR and that she had hired a specialist to take asbestos samples. She also said that the dumpster was covered and properly disposed of. She confirmed some asbestos had been found. She also said that nothing had been taken to SEMCO, even though it says so in the report. She also said that no one had indicated an enforcement action was pending because she was complying with the requests.
“There are so many contractors that don’t have knowledge of this EPA code that is buried in administrative law and is the jurisdiction of the DNR,” she said. “We are setting up a workshop this winter and we will have contractors, the city, Main Street – all of the development partners are coming together to help educate contractors about the requirement that commercial property, when being renovated, that if you disturb more than 160 square feet you need to have asbestos sampling on anything you are working on.”
Johnson also said that Collette had made her a target, based on the idea that he had not mentioned another contractor that had a dumpster in the downtown area over the summer.
In other business, the council:
• approved a request to hold Relay for Life 2014 on the square on Aug. 30, 2014. The theme next year will be a tailgating theme;
• approved a request from the 175th Anniversary Committee to allow the group to insure its weeklong event next year on the city’s policy. The committee will reimburse the city for the cost of the insurance;
• discussed a ground water storage reservoir design and agreed to allow the engineering firm working on the project to proceed with a two-chambered design;
• approved the job descriptions for billing clerk and accountant;
• approved a project to televise 6,000 feet of sewer;
• approved allowing the water department to enter negotiations with Mt. Pleasant to purchase EDR units;
• approved a resolution authorizing the purchase of a police record management system;
• approved the third reading of an ordinance deleting a residency requirement in the city;
• approved the second reading of an ordinance amending the nuisance codes after discussing several changes;
• for more information on the meeting, see the Oct. 4 edition of The Washington Evening Journal.