The May 22 City Council meeting provided the Polk City councilmen with not one, but two difficult topics to consider.
After multiple incidences and being deemed vicious, the council members were faced with a hearing regarding the Jacobs family pit bull, along with the consideration to uphold or deny the order of the removal issued by Polk City police chief Kendig on May 9, 2017.
“I would just like to compliment and thank my cohorts up here for a couple of difficult decisions tonight. First of all, for talking about a pet, which is a part of your family, and being open to exceptions and making it work. I appreciate everyone’s open-mindedness because that’s a tough one,” Councilman Dave Dvorak said.
According to the city of Polk City, three conditions must be met for an animal to be considered vicious. First, the animal must have attacked another domestic animal without provocation. Second, the animal must have caused injury or death. And finally, the attack must have taken place off the property of its owner.
Throughout the meeting, council members not only heard from representatives of the police department, but also from the family members and neighbors of the family, themselves.
“I want to thank you guys for being here. I understand you love your dog and that this is a tough spot to be in. I don’t want to be the guy who takes a pet away from a child or anything. I apologize we are in this spot and I wish we were in a better situation,” Councilman Rob Sarchet said.
“I’m an animal lover myself, but the police department is doing everything they can. You could have the best dog in the world. And, after this, now if something were to happen in town, everyone would be saying ‘why didn’t you do something,’” Councilman Rob Mordini added.
In the end, Councilman Dvorak made a motion to uphold the order of the removal issued by the Polk City police chief, with the condition of relocation of the animal to outside the city limits at the police department’s discretion. This motion carried with a unanimous vote.
“I know we’re talking about the police chief a lot this evening. I want you to know that he did take this very seriously. We discussed it at length as far as the best way to handle this. And, he was sick about it, too. He didn’t want to go down this road,” Mayor Jason Morse said.
In addition, the council also addressed issues regarding the recent changes in state firework laws. These laws address two important issues — the use of fireworks and the sale of fireworks.
Under the new regulations, the law permits the use of fireworks (first class, second class and novelty fireworks) unless the municipality or county prohibits this use in some way. Under current Polk City ordinances, the use of fireworks is at this moment prohibited. Therefore Mayor Morse, along with the Polk City council, discussed the restrictions that would take place if changes to these ordinances were to occur.
These restrictions would permit the use of fireworks only from June 30-July 7th of each year. It would also put time constraints on the terms of usage, stating that citizens would only be permitted to use fireworks until 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July and 10 p.m. on all other days in that week’s span. Although the current state law says that citizens must be 18 years of age to purchase the fireworks, this ordinance would also expand on those terms, constraining citizens to being 18 years of age to discharge them as well.
The other main important issue to address is that under new law, cities cannot prohibit the sale of fireworks. Therefore, the regulation of this sale through zoning becomes that much more important. Cities, including Polk City, will need to determine whether or not the sale has to take place in a permanent and/or temporary (such as a tent) structure. They will also have to consider terms of zoning for the sale of fireworks. For example, how far away from a school would this need to take place? And, would any fire code restrictions be required within the permanent or temporary structure where the sale occurs?
However, one of the biggest challenges that will need to be considered when implementing new firework laws will be the concept of enforcement.
“There probably hasn’t been a day in the last two months when I haven’t talked fireworks with someone. If there is any consistency, it’s that there is inconsistency across the board. I don’t believe there is a single community that is doing it the same way. And, I think it will make enforcement on this issue a nightmare,” Mayor Morse said.
The city continued to talk regarding the punishment that would take place if regulations were not followed, along with whether an warning would be issued or whether to enforce the new restrictions without a warning.
“My only comment to that is that I think this first year it’s going to take some education, because no one is going to know what everyone is doing,” Mayor Morse said.
While the road to fireworks could be a long one, council members did vote to approve the first reading of Ordinance 2017-500, which addresses the definition and regulations of fireworks, along with resolution 2017-47 that imposes a moratorium on the sale of consumer fireworks within the city of Polk City.
Council members also heard from Rachel Woodhouse of Bravo Greater Des Moines (an organization that supports art, culture and heritage organizations across Central Iowa). In her presentation, Woodhouse addressed the three main contributions of Bravo Greater Des Moines — investing strategically in the region, measuring economic impact in the region and the leading vision for the future of the region — and how these contributions have affected the Polk City Area.
Although no applications were received from Polk City organizations, studies have shown that Polk City residents are participating in paid programming and benefiting from the programs that are offered.
“I want to thank Polk City and the City Council for your contribution since 2011 and for the impact you have had on the region,” Woodhouse said.
And finally, introducing a new opportunity to the Polk City area, representatives from Wesley Life addressed the council on the consideration of issuing conduit bonds on their behalf. Each city can request up to 10 million dollars annually. While 501 c3 nonprofits can request bonds through the Iowa Finance Authority, receiving conduit bonds from the city would allow these nonprofits, such as Wesley Life, to borrow money on a tax-exempt basis. For the not-for-profits, this may mean more expense upfront, but it will save them a lot of money in the long run as it means a lower interest rate.
So, then what would that mean for the city of Polk City? Providing such services would not create any effect on the city’s lending abilities in the future. It also would not create any liability for the city since such responsibilities, like the tracking of payments or the liability of default, lies purely between the bank and the nonprofit. The city would also be reimbursed for any attorney fees, document fees, etc. And, they will receive a fee that will go straight into the general fund.
“I think it’s putting us out there as a player and it’s putting our name out there. I can’t say it’s going to happen, but I don’t think it’s going to hurt. And, if we continue to do what cities such as Bondurant have done — it’s ended up being an economic tool for them,” Mayor Morse said.
In the case of Wesley Life, the providing of conduit bonds would not have any influence on the the location for building their project.
In the end, the council approved Resolution 2017-48 regarding the issuance of conduit bonds.