WC residents voice concerns

Town hall meeting features talks on city ordinances and communication needs

—Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Adri Sietstra Webster City City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez addresses concerns at Monday night’s quarterly town hall meeting at the Webster City Middle School.

Webster City residents voiced their concerns about the lack of communication between the council and city during Monday night’s quarterly town hall meeting.

John Laird, a Webster City resident, explained his displeasure at the council’s action concerning the fireworks ordinance.

“I wish you would reconsider and keep it the way it was,” Laird said.

He expressed his love of shooting off fireworks and wished the council would not have limited the hours to only the Fourth of July. The recently approved ordinance states that fireworks can only be shot off in city limits from 10 a.m. to midnight on July 4.

“I also think there is a group of people out there, like myself and some of my friends that enjoy shooting fireworks, that are responsible,” said Laird. “What happens is now the people that are irresponsible are costing the people that are responsible and shooting them properly.”

Webster City City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez explained that at the last town hall meeting, an overwhelming majority expressed disdain with the amount of time residents were able to shoot off fireworks.

“To this date I don’t know that we have heard anyone speak up to try and propose middle ground with this situation,” said Ortiz-Hernandez.

This prompted the change in the ordinance. According to Ortiz-Hernandez, the current fireworks ordinance was discussed at the last town hall meeting. Changes to the ordinance were then discussed at a recent council meeting. Then the topic was placed on the agenda for a first reading. After the approval of the first reading, the council approved the second reading at the next meeting. At the same meeting, they waived the third reading and passed and adopted the ordinance.

“This wasn’t swept under the rug or passed through fast and loosely. It took a long time,” Ortiz-Hernandez said. “That’s not to say that it can’t be changed and that’s the reason I invited you all to speak up so the council and everyone here is aware of your concerns.”

Webster City resident Mark Moberly stated that a big part of the problem with the fireworks this year was the lack of communication concerning dates and times residents could legally shoot them off.

“People did not realize when the cutoff was at the end of the day,” Moberly said. “Some thought it was seven, some thought it was nine, some thought it was 11. It was not well published.”

Councilman Logan Welch apologized for the city not relaying the information across the community well enough. Welch attributed this to the original ordinance being expedited quickly.

“Obviously we didn’t reach as many people as could have been reached,” said Welch, “so we’ve got to do better.”

“I think what I’m hearing mostly is poor communication from the city,” said Welch. “Because you guys heard this too late and that’s the main issue. We need to be more transparent and open about what’s coming out and what is coming up.”

Councilman Brian Miller asked attendees on how to better get the word out to community members.

“Right now we have newspaper, radio, Facebook…,” Miller said.

Welch noted that the CityScene is another source for what is happening at the city. He also added that council meetings are now available for viewing on YouTube.

City Clerk Karyl Bonjour noted that the council agenda is available on the city’s website the Friday before each Monday meeting.

Webster City School Board member Michelle Walters was present at the meeting. Walters informed attendees that the petition for reorganization between the Webster City and Northeast Hamilton School Districts can now be signed.

“I’m here tonight to collect some signatures because the school districts for Webster City and Northeast are looking at putting on the ballot in the April election the conjoining of Webster City and Northeast Hamilton School Districts,” Walters said.

The approval to begin collecting signatures was approved at last Monday’s Webster City School Board meeting.

Another individual present at the meeting questioned where the city was at with Kwik Star.

The individual explained that she works at KMart and got a notice a few months ago about Kwik Star coming.

According to Ortiz-Hernandez, Kwik Star had originally been looking to buy property between Maharry Dentistry and Webster City Financial. They had to submit a rezoning application to the city to change an amount of city land to commercial property in order to possibly build in the area.

Kwik Star went to the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this summer with their request.

“There were a couple issues that the Planning and Zoning Commission had identified that didn’t meet the criteria they would need to be able to recommend approval to the council,” said Ortiz-Hernandez.

One issue was the design of the facility, which would accommodate semi trucks and truck parking. Another issue was traffic concerns on Fairmeadow Drive and Superior Street.

“Due to the possibility of not being approved, Kwik Star withdrew their application so that they can evaluate those issues and try to determine what they can do to address those issues so the council possibly doesn’t deny that rezoning,” Ortiz-hernandez said.

If Kwik Star’s petition request would be denied, they would have to wait a year to reapply.

“They wanted to be good corporate neighbors and take the time to really do their due diligence and address their neighbors’ concerns and the issues the Planning and Zoning Commission pointed out,” Ortiz-Hernandez said.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included housing needs in the community, updates on current city projects, and looking towards the city’s future goals.