Salem will address deteriorating buildings in the near future
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
SALEM — Action may be forthcoming in the future regarding deteriorated and dilapidated buildings in Salem.
Councilman Bill Wixom Jr. told the council Tuesday night during its regular monthly meeting that he began compiling information on “nuisance” buildings in Salem in hopes of receiving a grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). However, he did not have time to finish the project before the grant deadline of Feb. 28.
Wixom told the council that the city “has several buildings that are falling apart and nobody is living in them…We have dangerous buildings that present a safety hazard.” He added that the DNR has funding for removing such buildings.
Salem resident Jeannine Eltrich said she has a problem with that. “Why are we using public money on private property?” she asked.
“To make Salem better,” answered Wixom. “Kids could go in there and get hurt…I am not out to spend money, I just want to make the community safer and probably more beautiful in the process.”
Eltrich said the burden to either repair or demolish deteriorating buildings should be the burden of the owner. “I disagree with using public money. I don’t like you spending the money. I know it may be news to some people in Salem but there are laws and those laws can be enforced.”
City Attorney Patrick Brau said city code gives the council “the option of going back on the property owner.”
In a distantly related matter, Henry County Sheriff Rich McNamee presented his annual report to the council. He said that his office received 62,393 phone calls in 2013, 20,952 of which were calls for service.
The sheriff’s office was called to Salem 217 times last year for service and spent 318 hours and 51 minutes providing service in Salem.
He took the opportunity to alert the council that he is beginning plans for an expanded jail in the county. The current jail can house eight inmates and McNamee said the jail population has been as high as 39 inmates in the past year which forces the county to house its inmates in jails in other counties. Today, the county had 21 inmates, jail officials said.
The “farming out” of prisoners in 2013 cost the county $250,000, the sheriff said.
“In the near future, we will be looking at something different,” McNamee said. “We have to look at expanding.”
McNamee said he will commission a study very soon for expansion plans. “I am not looking for anything glamorous, but we spent nearly $1 million on inmates last year.”
Council members approved publishing the budget and notice of public hearing in The Mt. Pleasant News the week of March 17. The state’s deadline for filing budgets is March 15, but Salem received a 30-day extension due to a new city clerk.
“The budget is just a guideline, we have to approve the expenses anyway,” noted Councilman Chuck Kramer. “Nobody is going to blow any extra money.”
Wixom asked whether the $43,990 well repair bill from Northway Well and Pump should be included in the budget.
“They (Northway) said they will work it out (with us). They are going to get a bill to us and we can sit down and see what our options are,” remarked Mayor Dan Patterson.
Salem City Council members meet again in regular session Tuesday, April 1, at 7 p.m. in the Community Building.