Thanks to dialogue and a proposal offered during the citizens’ comments portion of the La Porte City City Council meeting last week, a solution to the problem of maintaining the viability and drivability of 4th Street may be in the offing.
Maintaining the surface of 4th Street has been an ongoing challenge for the City, as the road is commonly used by farm traffic hauling grain to the Co-op. Unfortunately, 4th Street is not a designated farm to market road. Without additional financial support for the maintenance of 4th Street that a farm-to-market designation could bring, the responsibility of its upkeep falls solely on the taxpayers of La Porte City. The City Council had scheduled a second reading of an ordinance that would place weight restrictions on vehicles traveling on 4th Street before several citizens expressed concerns about such an action at the meeting.
During citizen comments, Glenn Moore commented that he did not agree with the proposed ordinances to set weight limits on 3rd and 4th Streets.
Rick Ogle with Mid Iowa Coop also spoke regarding traffic at the elevator. He stated that he did not think that 8th Street and the intersection at Cedar Street are wide enough for multiple trucks.
Marc Mahood said that the proposed ordinances were a slap in the face to farmers and agreed that the 4th and Commercial intersection is too narrow and will become too congested during harvest. He said that the City is making it too difficult for farmers to get their crops to the Coop.
Council member Brent Sadler said that the City Council is not trying to make things more difficult for farmers. He explained the City has an obligation to its citizens to maintain the streets.
Mayor Neil stated that the loads of grain coming down 4th Street to the Coop get larger and larger every year and the road is quickly deteriorating. 4th Street recently received an asphalt overlay costing $53,000 in an effort to preserve the street surface until it can be reconstructed. The weight limit ordinance was proposed as a way to further preserve the street. Estimated costs to rebuild 4th Street are over $1 million and the City is approximately 3–5 years away from being able to bond for the project without a substantial tax increase.
Neil also stated that while the City does receive approximately 295,000 each year in Road Use Tax for street repair and maintenance, none of it is designated for farm to market roads. 8th Street, where the City would prefer to have heavy vehicles travel, is a designated farm to market road and could be eligible for farm to market road funding in the future. Neither 3rd or 4th Street are designated farm to market roads. As such, neither would ever be eligible for farm to market funding and their repair and maintenance costs are the sole responsibility of the City and its residents.
Steve Hager addressed the City Council, also indicating that he was opposed to the weight limits, as it inconveniences farmers bringing their grain in from west of the community and would likely cause traffic backups along both sides of 8th Street. He asked if the Council would consider instituting the weight limits for 10 months out of the year and allow heavy truck traffic on 4th Street during harvest.
Alice Werner indicated that she thought farmers would take their business elsewhere if the City put weight limits on 4th Street. She suggested that the City should forgo other street projects to repair 4th Street for the farm traffic.
In response to the concerns expressed, the Council decided to take no action on the second reading of the Ordinance 556, which would establish weight restrictions on vehicles traveling on 4th Street. Instead, the Council instructed the City Clerk to prepare an ordinance placing a 5-ton weight limit on 4th Street between Commercial and Cedar Streets except for the months of October and November each year. The ordinance will be considered for adoption at the November 11, 2019 City Council meeting.
The Council did pass the second reading of Ordinance 555, which will prohibit vehicles weighing more than 5 tons from operating on Third Street between Commercial and Cedar Streets. School buses, city vehicles and vehicles making deliveries would be exempt. The third reading of Ordinance 555 will take place at the November 11, 2019 meeting.
In other business, Library Director Jolene Kronschnabel gave a report detailing third quarter activities at Hawkins Memorial Library. The library hosted 73 programs during the three month period of time, as patrons circulated over 7,000 items, saving more than $54,000 over the cost of purchasing them outright.
The Council also approved the City’s annual financial report and adopted Resolution 19-69, which amends the fee schedule to require a $300 refundable deposit and proof of insurance for anyone requesting to have city streets closed for private events.