Golf carts and UTV’s are now legal rides in Atalissa after the city council approved a new ordinance Monday night, Sept. 14, at their regular meeting following a quiet public hearing concerning the change.
The council followed the reading of the ordinance by Mayor Bob Schmidt with few questions and answers by approving the new ordinance, which starts immediately.
It was all part of a busy night for the council, which heard a proposal by the Atalissa Volunteer Fire Department to create a cooling/warming center for local residents in the fire station, approved a benefit car show, hired a nuisance officer, discussed the possibility of going high tech with virtual meetings while discussing other matters.
But the main topic of interest was hearing the new ordinance to allow golf carts and various versions of utility vehicles to be used by residents of 18 years or older in the community, something the city has never allowed legally even though there has been some use, officials noted.
Schmidt read the entire four-page ordinance that gave all the rules and regulations for such vehicles including details on the vehicle itself that included working headlights and taillights, a high visibility safety flag, slow moving vehicle emblem and proper registration, completed through the Atalissa police department. There is a $20 permit fee for such vehicles.
Vehicles were to be operated only sunrise to sunset and had to abide by regular traffic and parking laws.
The detailed document talks about the “full responsibility” drivers need to take in operating such a vehicle, including the use of seat belts. It states that all UTV’s must also be registered with the state, which must be displayed.
The entire board approved the ordinance except board member Randy Windus, passing 4-1 despite the fact no members of the community were present to witness the hearing or question the city, although there were nine non-board members at the meeting.
The city also approved creating a nuisance officer, giving police officer Matt Shook the position after he had made some calls with mayor Schmidt on a few nuisance violators in the community.
The mayor said he admired how Smock handled himself in the situations and seemed to ask the right questions to get results. “He’s not aggressive. Not intimidating,” Schmidt said.
“I’m more than happy to do it,” said Smock, noting he’s been on the other end of the situation himself in his lifetime.
The council would set special hours for Smock to handle the position and make calls on violators in the community in an attempt by the council to clean up Atalissa.
Mike Smock, a secretary/treasurer for the Atalissa Volunteer Fire Department, made a presentation on a proposed permanent heating/cooling center to be housed at the fire station.
He said the idea came about following the Aug. 10 derecho that pushed 100 mile per hour winds through the area, knocking down trees and power lines that left Atalissa without electricity for six days.
He said the department was about to create a makeshift center when power was returned, but said it was a difficult time for many area residents, including people living in rural areas outside the community.
Smock said the fire department was considering remodeling and updating their restrooms in the firehouse.
The entire project would cost an estimated $52,982, the bulk of those expenses for a $24,162 generator and installation as well as $25,300 for the restroom remodel to become ADA compliant.
Smock said the objective is to have the station ready to go on an as-needed basis by May 1, 2021, fulfilling the city’s recognition of the fire station as a designated heating and cooling center in the city’s hazard mitigation plan.
He said about 2,000 residents live in the fire district, many without a place to go if there are power outages in the heat of summer or the chill of winter. He said 25 percent of those residents are over the age of 50.
He said the derecho opened the eyes to the need of having a generator for charging items like cell phones and providing essentials like drinking water, showers, diaper changing stations, toilets and a clothes washer as well as lockable refrigeration for medications.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to provide much help for them,” Smock said of requests after the storm, noting the closest centers are located in Muscatine, Iowa City and the Quad-Cities. He said the Red Cross and United Way organizations are both supportive of the plan.
The proposal would include enough cots to sleep six although it was pointed out more bedding could be provided in an extreme emergency. He said the cost includes water totes, water hoses, a laundry washing machine and the refrigeration unit as well as bedding and other materials.
The fire department is seeking help in raising money for the center, asking the city council for aid. It was noted the city does have $1,000 in its current budget for community projects, but wanted time to think about the donation, tabling the discussion for the October 9 meeting.
Smock said the group has made application with the Ryan Trust Fund and is looking at other organizations and foundations, as well as grants, to raise the money to start working on the center in February.
In other business, the council approved a benefit car show to be conducted by the Atalissa Fire Department to help raise funds for the heating and cooling center. The show was to be held Sept. 12, but had to be postponed to Saturday, Sept. 24, when it will be held near the fire station from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Smock, who said Michael Smith of Muscatine was putting on the show, would include classic cars, street rods, sports cars, truck and motorcycles. The group hoped to attact at least 100 cars to the show that will also include music by a disc jockey, silent auction and various other fundraisers including a craft vendor show.
Anyone wanting more information can call 563-260-7452.
The council went into closed session with Mark Heckman to discuss a possible purchase of the former Rock Island Railroad Depot building and properties in Atalissa near the fire station. No action was taken by the council, it was reported by city clerk Samantha Parry.
The council also approved a street financial report totaling over $35,000 which included $15,000 in street work and $7,000 for street lights with the remainder to be used for snow removal, vehicle operations and other expenditures.
The council also discussed options concerning Halloween trick or treat events. Last year, the city held a “trunk or treat” event at the fire station due to cold weather. The council decided to table the discussion until the October meeting.
The city also heard of a plan to buy Chrome book computers for every council member to be used for council meetings and city business. The computers could have been purchased through a grant via the Iowa COVID-19 Government Relief Fund. After looking at the lifeline of the computers and concerns with repairs and maintenance, the council decided against going high-tech, but would apply for a webcam and extension cord that was slightly under $100.
There also was discussion on removal of a tree that landed on the city water tower during the derecho. Estimates on removing the debris was about $2,800, but the issue was tabled in order to get other bids before the October meeting.