Hammell sworn in as Lansing Mayor; Council addresses updates to City Code

New Lansing Mayor sworn in ... Melissa Hammell was sworn in as the new mayor of Lansing following the September 14 special election held to fill the vacancy in that office created with the resignation of former Lansing Mayor Kyle Walleser due to a change in his employment status. Mayor Hammell (left) is pictured above being sworn in by Lansing City Clerk Katie Becker (right) at the September 20 regular meeting of the Lansing City Council. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

by Julie Berg-Raymond

Following a special election Tuesday, September 14, Melissa Hammell was sworn in as mayor of Lansing immediately prior to the Lansing City Council’s regular meeting Monday, September 20. Hammell will serve out the remainder of the current four-year mayoral term through the year 2023.

Michelle Barness of Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC), Postville spoke via Zoom at the meeting, regarding City Code items about which Barness said she needed more information and input from the council. Barness has been working with the council to update Lansing’s City Code, which Iowa’s State Code recommends to be updated every five years. According to UERPC’s website, “(its) staff uses a model code that is provided by the Iowa Association of Regional Councils (IARC). Ordinances passed by the city since it last recodified are incorporated into the model as are those ordinances in the city’s existing code that do not appear in the model.”

Among the items discussed Monday night were the requirement of bonds for Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem, Clerk and Treasurer; the regulation and licensing of dogs; the licensing of bicycles; procedures for naming a street; Dutch Elm Disease control for trees; and a pit-bull ordinance passed in 2015. The council agreed to remove the section of the Code detailing the licensing of bicycles, but it will revisit all other items discussed and advise Barness accordingly during a second conversation scheduled for Monday, October 18 during the council’s regular meeting that evening.

The council approved a request for the same street closures it approved last year for the Driftless Half-Marathon event, to be held Saturday, October 9. The “Celebrate Lansing” event is also scheduled for that day, following the Half-Marathon. Time has been allowed for moving fencing to accommodate the needs of both events.

Lansing Police Chief Conrad Rosendahl told the council he has no problems with the street closings related to the Half-Marathon; but he expressed concern about ruts being made in the ball field during the course of transporting the band set-up to the outfield for the “Celebrate Lansing” event. Mayor Hammell said she would reach out to Bruce Carlson, sponsor of “Celebrate Lansing,” and City Clerk Katie Becker said she would send an email to the Parks Board, to review the matter.

The Council agreed to start receiving bids to remove several pine trees near the pool area at the Lansing Swimming Pool. “We’re not approving getting them removed,” council member Mike Manning noted. “We’re approving the receiving of bids to remove them.”

Council member Curtis Snitker, who volunteers at the swimming pool, said, “You wouldn’t think the pine trees would be a problem; but they are. My only concern would be the expense. The trees are large, and there are at least 10 to 15.”

The council also approved earmarking $2,000 out of the Parks & Recreation budget toward matching funds for a recently awarded Wellmark Foundation Grant. The $25,000 Matching Assets to Community Health (MATCH) grant will benefit the Lansing Trails Expansion & Promotion Project - one of 29 initiatives to receive this year’s funding (see story in the September 15 edition of The Standard - and will be used in mapping and marking the trails that emanate from the Mt. Hosmer Park at the north end of 6th Street North.

In other business, the council approved reimbursement to Jennifer Davis of $50 for pool party giveaways. It also approved installation of a cement trough at 1091 North Front Street.

In business carrying over from its last meeting, the council addressed a permit request for a two-story garage at 301 Center Street. The original permit request - for a single-story garage - had expired; and the resident submitted a new application. The new application covered the expired permit but this time included a second story. Neighbors contacted the council and expressed concern that the second level would block their view.

At the September 20 meeting, the resident requesting the permit told the council that “the second level of the garage is lower than the first level of our house, and lower than the neighbors’ house.” Council member Snitker said he will meet with the resident and the neighbors, to see what kind of elevation might be acceptable to all parties.

In other citizen action, Kristie Ringelstetter told the council about an effort she and others are undertaking to try to humanely control the feral cat population within city limits, by forming a trap-neuter-return program and acquiring 501(c)(3) status for the program. “(We’re) in the early stages,” she said. “We’re trying to get more organized, so we can be more effective. I’m not seeking any funding; I just want the City to be aware of our efforts.”

Ringelstetter said she will be speaking with volunteers in Heart Animal Rescue, and with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about some of the concerns raised by council members - unintentionally trapping animals other than feral cats, for example. She said she understands those concerns and is taking them seriously.

“I’ve personally altered cats out of my own pocket for the last four years,” Ringelstetter said. “We’ve identified at least five neighborhoods where this is an issue. (Our program) is a measure to prevent continued growth of a cat population that is out of control.”

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for  7 p.m. Monday, October 4 at Lansing City Hall.