Parking a hot issue for the City Council

By Clay Schuldt

Caledonia Argus


The Oct. 14 Caledonia City Council meeting began with a discussion concerning the 48 hour parking ordinance. Cindy Schuldt spoke to the council regarding the recent decision to once again start enforcing the city ordinance that requires all vehicles parked on city streets be moved once every 48 hours. The new ordinance had created a burden for Schuldt as her family’s camper is typically parked on the street in front of her house. Moving the trailer every 48 hours is not an option as there is not enough space available to move the trailer the required distance.  Since the majority of her property is at an incline, the ability to park the camper off street is limited.  Schuldt also explained that since she runs a daycare a trailer in the driveway would interfere with her business. When Schuldt was first given notice of the city’s intention of enforcing the 48 hour ordinance her husband, Mike Schuldt, moved the trailer out of town to a storage site. Schuldt said that it was an inconvenience to store the camper out of town as it limited access to the camper.

“It’s just May, June, July, August and September that my camper sits on the street from time to time,” Schuldt said, who further commented that her family does use the camper frequently and it does not sit on the street for months at a time. In addition, the camper sat on a wide street and did not obstruct traffic.

Mayor Robert Burns explained that the ordinance was originally written in 1978 in order to deal with abandoned vehicles that are left sitting on city streets, which is an ongoing problem in Caledonia.  Burns also emphasized that this ordinance was not limited to campers, but all vehicles.

Councilman Robert Lemke commented that the 48 hour parking ordinance allowed the city to take care of problem vehicles in a fair manner. “You’ve got to treat everyone equally; you can’t pick on one spot.”

Councilman DeWayne Schroeder added that in the 10 months since he joined the council he has received the most complaints about campers being parked in places for months at a time. Schroeder cited a camper that was parked on the wrong side of the road, with slide out section pushed further out into the street for over a month. In addition, this camper was plugged into a nearby house. Schroeder stated: “Our streets are not for camping.”

Schuldt admitted that she had seen these problems in town, but thought a more common sense ordinance could be written, and suggested it be amended to 96 hours. The Council agreed to take Schuldt’s comments under advisement.

Later in the council meeting the council returned to the discussion of parking ordinances. Mayor Burns suggested the parking time could be amended to 96 hours as it would solve the long term parking problem and would better accommodate residents. Burns repeated his previous statement that this law applied to all vehicles not just campers and 48 hours was not much time. “There is no distinction. Anything you park on the street is a 48 hour removal,” said Burns. “If I go away on a weekend and leave my car on the street, it is going to be there Friday through Monday and that is more than 48 hours.” Burns also commented that in order to enforce the law the police will have to check a vehicle every 48 hours to verify whether it moved or not. “Instead of 48 hours we could have 96 hours without any disruption.”

The rest the council questioned whether a four day or two day ordinance would be easier to enforce.  The Council decided to ask the Police Chief for a recommendation.

City Administrator Ted Schoonover questioned if the city owned a location where residents could park trailers if off street parking was not available. The Council thought it might be possible to utilize the fairgrounds for this purpose, however a deal would need to be made with Houston County.

The Council also discussed the possibility of changing the alternate side parking ordinance. Mayor Burns was in favor of starting alternate side parking later in the fall, starting Dec. 1 rather than Nov. 1. The Council had already agreed to step up enforcement of alternate side parking, and Burns believed it would be better to begin the ordinance later in the season.  Burns made a motion to move it to Dec. 1 with a second from councilmember Randi Vick.

Councilmember Lemke felt the ordinance should remain the same, as many residents are accustommed to the law going into effect in November and a change could cause confusion. Councilmember Schroeder also wanted to keep the alternate side parking on Nov. 1, saying that if it was to snow in November, the city would have difficulty forcing vehicle owners to move. The motion failed to pass due to a lack of a majority.

Councilmember Vick also cited an ordinance on the books that prohibits parking for the purpose of sale. Vick commented that despite this ordinance several vehicles have been parked near the road past Kwik Trip with for sale signs in the window. Under current ordinances this is illegal. The council was also able to confirm that dumpsters were also included in parking ordinance and could not be left on city streets indefinitely.

The council took no action at this meeting to amend Caledonia’s parking ordinances.


Zoning Applications

A public hearing was held during the previous meeting of the Caledonia City Council to receive input on the proposed construction of a new veterinarian clinic at 503 Old Highway Drive. Early in the year Naaren and Travis Kingsley made an application for a conditional use permit to operate a new clinic in highway business district. The current veterinarian clinic operated by Kingsley is on West Main Street near the dental office. The Kingsleys intend to move the clinic to Old Highway Drive, which is the site of the old creamery. The old building would be demolished and replaced with a new building.  No action had been taken during this meeting regarding the zoning application as the Council had a few questions regarding necessary variance and plans parking.

Since the last meeting a survey of the site was conducted and Administrative Coordinator Mike Gerardy concluded the building proposed would fit and room for parking was available on the south side of the building as well as the front. Gerardy did note that a 25 foot variance would be needed on the back of the building to meet a 50 foot setback from residential property. The only other issue of concern was how much parking would be needed at the site. Naaren Kingsley estimated a maximum of five or six customers would be at the clinic at a single time. Combined with the number of employees with parked vehicles Kingsley believed between 12 and 15 parking spots would suffice.

A motion was made by Burns to approve the application granting a variance of 25 feet on the rear of the building and the approval of a parking lot layout of 14 stalls. The Council approved the motion.

A zoning application submitted by Jamie Colsch was reviewed by the Council. Colsch proposed the reconstruction of his current garage on North Kingston Street.  The garage would be extended five feet to the west, three feet east. The north wall of the garage would need to remain the same distance from the property line. The Council approved the zoning application on the stipulation that no living quarters be put above the garage.  No additional variance was needed as the preexisting setback was not changed.

A public hearing was scheduled during the Oct. 28 meeting regarding a new home in Winnebago Estates.


Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator

The council discussed entering into an agreement with an executive recruiter, Dean Novak, to assist Caledonia in hiring a qualified individual to fill the operator position at the waste water treatment plant. Novak believed he could find a licensed employee who would be willing to move to the Caledonia area. Novak had previously worked for Spencer, Iowa and was highly recommended. Novak had already found a potential candidate who the council would be able to interview for the position within the month.

The Council believed that some action needed to be taken, as the current plant operator would need to be replaced soon.  A motion was made and approved to enter into a contract with Dean Novak with the intension of hiring a waste water treatment operator.


Credit/Debit Card Usage at City Hall

At the previous city council meeting a suggestion was made that the city place card readers in City Hall to allow residents to pay off utility bills with credit/debit cards. Administrator Schoonover explained that Caledonia is not currently set up for it, but thought it would be a good idea to allow it and would cost the city virtually nothing.

At the last Council meeting Schoonover explained the card machine would cost the city a dollar a month, but there is also a small charge attached to every transaction. The Caledonia liquor store’s credit/debit card machine operates in the same manner, charging a percentage for each credit/debit transaction. The percentage would be the same for the City Hall; however utility bills would be higher than typical sales transactions, making it impossible for the city to absorb the cost. Schoonover explained that there is probably a way to assess the cost to the card user, but asked for more time to research the issue.


In other business

A pump rebuild was approved on East Grant Street. A shaft in the lift station bent and requires repairs.

The council approved the hire of TJ Heiden as a fire fighter.

The council is considering raising the dog licenses from $7 to $10. No motion was made during the meeting. The council wanted to check into the cost difference between a dog and cat licenses.