Council to receive human rights commission, pit bull updates

·3 min read

May 16—Two of the more important issues of the last year will continue to be tended to during Tuesday's Ottumwa City Council meeting, as the council will receive a draft version of a charter for the human rights commission, as well as an update on the sausage-making that is the revised animals ordinance.

The human rights commission has been explored for the past year as the city looks to bring it back. Lack of funding and lack of volunteers to serve on the commission led to its demise in 2015 after 33 years in existence.

The city is not obligated to have a commission according to Iowa law, which only calls for cities with populations of 29,000 to have a funded commission. Ottumwa's population is about 25,000.

At a meeting in February, the council unanimously passed a framework for the commission, such as how many people would serve on it, and what the goals of the commission should be. The next step is for the city to draft a charter, which will be presented at this meeting and is the first step in developing the commission.

City administrator Philip Rath at the council meeting May 3 said there are two paths the council could take. Because the charter will become an ordinance, it normally would require three readings, which would push adoption into July. Or, the council could receive the first reading, and then waive the second and third, which would fast-track the process.

Rath also said the plan was for any revisions to the draft charter be brought to the council in ordinance form at the June 7 for the first reading.

Whether the council decides on three readings or waives the final two, the appointment process will then begin. Once those are in place, there will be an orientation process for the commission with the Iowa Department of Human Rights.

Either way, the entire process should be completed by early August, at the latest. Council members Marc Roe and Cara Galloway have signaled their interest in waiving the second and third readings.

The council also will receive an update from Rath regarding the revised animal ordinance, which was tabled from the May 3 meeting so amendments could be made. Since then, the City of Muscatine lifted its ban on pit bulls on a 5-2 vote last week after having it on the books for 19 years.

Ottumwa is looking to create a new "high-risk" category for animals, potentially the pit bull. Defining the dog as high-risk would lift the ban, but also put responsibilities on owners as well as create guidelines for enforcement. Council members had some issues with the revised ordinance, such as tethering, animal characteristics and a fee schedule for violations.

From the consent agenda, the city is expected to set June 7 as a date for two public hearings that would allow the city to sell Legion Memorial Field and Pickwick Park to the Ottumwa Community School District for $1 apiece.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. inside council chambers, and will also be available on the city's YouTube channel.

Wapello County Board of Supervisors

The supervisors will set a date of May 31 at 5:30 p.m. for a public hearing regarding a potential cattle confinement operation in Competine Township between Farson and Hedrick.

James Sterling, under the name of Farson Livestock LLC, recently received approval from the county to waive the separation distance for manure storage structures, and has received a construction permit to build a confinement will will have a capacity for 2,384 animal units, including 400 head of cattle.

The supervisors also will be discussing the conservation board's contract with Waste Management, as well as approving payment for crossing culvert pipe for the City of Chillicothe.

Also, the supervisors are expected to approve the hire of Tanya Rodeffer as a Clerk 2 in the recorder's office.

The supervisors meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. in the third-floor courtroom/board room of the courthouse.

— Chad Drury can be reached at, and on Twitter @ChadDrury