CLINTON — The Camanche City Council is considering seeking assistance from state officials in getting one local property up to code.

Camanche Fire Chief Dave Schutte addressed the issue with the City Council this week with the assistance of Justin Wade of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Schutte offered some background on the problem, stating that in 2004 a building owned by Greg Jasper was inspected and the building was issued several violations under the state fire code.

Schutte said that some of the minor violations were taken care of, but the building continues to have only one exit, which is a violation of the fire code and a serious safety issue. He added Jasper is disputing that having one exit should be an issue because the building has been in place for more than 30 years.

Wade noted the city of Camanche recently adopted the 2006 International Fire Code, but city buildings were subject to the code previously anyway. He remarked that Schutte has made several attempts to take care of the problem and have communications with Jasper, to little effect. He said Jasper contends the building should be grandfathered in under the code, but Wade noted that there is no grandfather clause to cover the problem because it is a safety issue.

Councilwoman Linda Kramer asked Schutte if he contacted Jasper’s insurance company regarding the problem. Schutte acknowledged that he did, remarking that he suggested to Jasper that a fire escape ladder could be installed, providing another exit, but Jasper’s insurance company sent Schutte a letter saying a fire escape would not be safe because children could climb on it and burglars potentially could use it to break into the building. Schutte said there was a statement from the company official on the letter stating if he had any questions or comments he could call, and he did, notifying them the building was not up to code.

Schutte said the issue has been ongoing for over two years and it seems every time he thinks progress may occur on the problem, it doesn’t. Wade added the building has to be up to code and remarked it is “ridiculous this has gone on this far.” He noted that Jasper’s argument that the requirement shouldn’t apply to his building is moot because the city was subject to Iowa Administrative Code at the time of the violations. Wade added that he is letting Schutte handle the situation, but is willing to assist and work together for a solution.

Schutte said of four violations, Jasper took care of the three most cost effective problems and complained that installing a fire escape would cost too much. Schutte said that in his opinion, “human life is worth more than anything.” Kramer agreed that the issue is about saving people’s lives.

City Attorney Tom Lonergan told the council that he has a conflict of interest in the issue because he has represented Jasper before and would not be giving legal advice on the matter to the council or Jasper.

Lonergan said he spoke to local attorney Dave Pillers who could advise the city regarding the issue. Kramer asked if the county attorney could step in for the city and Wade remarked that the county attorney could intervene on his behalf. Wade stated the city has the options of a municipal infraction or possibly condemning the building.

Councilman Trevor Willis said the first issue at hand is issuing a legal response to the letter sent to the council on Jasper’s behalf by his attorney Robert McGee. Lonergan said he would make copies of the 2006 International Fire Code available to Pillers and McGee and stated that Pillers could review the information relating to the issue and report back to the council.

Mayor Jim Robertson asked what would be the best course of action, filing an infraction under state charges or having County Attorney Mike Wolf represent the city in the matter. Schutte said it wouldn’t matter to him as long as the situation is resolved.

Lonergan suggested Schutte talk with Wolf and see if he would be available to assist the city with the case, and if not, the city would work with Pillers. Schutte said he would contact Wolf.

Later, the council discussed the city’s clean-up plan for properties in disrepair.

Willis said that the city picking on one or two property owners was not right and said it would be more proper if the city followed up on all the nuisance letters sent out last year. Robertson said following the mass mailing of nuisance letters to property owners, the letters were supposed to be put in a file and followed up on within 30 days. Willis stated that was not done and it isn’t fair to go after a select couple of residences without getting on all the other property owners notified that their property is a nuisance.

Kramer said in that case, the council needs to get the list back out and do so. The council discussed who is in charge of determining that progress has been made on the properties in question. Public Works Director Dave Rickertsen volunteered to make those determinations.

Willis told Rickertsen to contact him and he would go along to inspect the properties in question.

Robertson stated once the nuisance letters have gone out and the property owners are given 20 days to take care of the problems, a reinspection could be performed and if no progress has been made toward a solution, Lonergan could begin work on citing the property owner with a municipal infraction.