With the city of Dyersville preparing to accept bids on the demolition of the next set of federal flood buyout properties, community leaders seek to avoid the appearance that some condemned properties are being looted of valuables before they meet the wrecking ball.
During the City Council's Oct. 3 meeting, Councilman Dan Willenborg reiterated the concerns of some nearby property owners in neighborhoods where the flood-prone properties are being bought out.
"Basically, it is a still a free for all for whoever wants to go in (the houses)," Willenborg said at the council meeting.
Later in the week, Willenborg stated he does not believe buy-out homes have been victimized by looters. However, Willenborg said the bigger concern is the lag time from when the houses are bid out and torn down.
Nicole Turpin, of East Central Intergovernmental Agency, is facilitating the demolition projects on behalf of the city. She explained contractors selected for the demolition projects have the authority to salvage items from the properties, or provide others with the ability to remove items. Turpin said the policy has been put in place for two reasons: to help reduce the number of items sent to the landfill, as well as to try and reduce the bid prices to demolition and remove debris from the properties.
Contracts for the demolition of 11 homes are being bid out as part of the next round of buyouts, Turpin said.
Willenborg said the concerns that have been brought to him stem around the unsightly appearance of some of the homes after they have been stripped down.
"It just makes the whole area look terrible," he said. "It makes the whole area look shabby."
Additionally, Willenborg addressed security concerns. He said doors have been removed from homes, making them inviting places for transients and wild animals to take up residence.
Acting Police Chief Brent Schroeder said "miscommunication" has resulted in items being removed from the properties prematurely, giving the perception to some that the homes are targets of thieves. He said police officers have asked some individuals to leave properties when they were at the homes at the wrong times.
"We have not charged anybody," he added.
Schroeder said penalties for illegally taking items from buyout homes could range from federal penalties, as the properties are part of a federal program, to the issuance of municipal infractions, such as trespassing.