WAPELLO — Even though he may face charges, a Muscatine man told the Wapello City Council that he disputed the city’s determination that six mobile homes in the PAWA Trailer Court were considered dangerous buildings.
Jaime Benitez, identified in online records as the owner of Benitez Properties LLC, 3413 Mulberry Ave., Muscatine, told city officials and over a dozen local residents that he bought the trailer park from former Wapello Police Chief Wayne Crump about 18 months ago and had plans to improve it.
“It was a disaster when I acquired it. I didn’t do my good diligence, (but) I want to know what I can do to make this right,” he said.
For city officials who had reported earlier on inspections they said determined the trailers were no longer habitable; and for neighbors who claimed drug activity, illegal fires and other issues were occurring in the park, the answer was clear.
“Six trailers are considered basically condemned. They need to be demolished,” Mayor Shawn Maine said.
Benitez said he owned five of the trailers and was planning to obtain a bank loan for new siding, metal roofing and other upgrades that would resolve the trailers’ condition. He also vowed to make a stronger effort to control who rented the trailers, but setting rules and developing a rental agreement.
One neighbor said Benitez has owned the property for 18 months and had moved too slowly.
“You haven’t decided on any rules?” she asked.
Wapello Police Chief Brandon Marquardt, who toured the trailer park with Maine and other officials earlier in the day agreed Benitez was moving too slowly.
Marquardt reminded Benitez he had been issued a 90-day warning earlier this year to resolve the dangerous buildings or face possible citations. He later said he felt Thursday’s meeting served as a public hearing for Benitez, who told the council he would remove or demolish the trailers.
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“If you are refusing to comply with what we’ve ordered, then criminal charges do immediately apply,” Marquardt said.
In a later discussion involving the PAWA Trailer Park, the council agreed to delay a decision on installing one main water meter for the park. Several years ago, Crump asked to separately meter the trailers, and the city approved.
During Thursday’s meeting the council appeared poised to order the single meter, but dropped any decision after city clerk Mike Delzell suggested that decision might create additional problems at this time.
The council also learned the Wapello Transfer Station could possibly be closing. The station is used by local collectors and the public to dispose of garbage, which is then hauled to a landfill.
According to city officials, the current operator no longer cares to operate the station and no one has stepped forward to assume the management. Officials suggested if the station is closed or even if someone else agrees to manage the site, it could Wapello residents could see higher garbage collection fees in the future.
A meeting will be held at the transfer station on Sept. 9 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the situation.
In final action, the council:
Voted down a fall burning season for this year on a 3-4 vote;
Accepted a $12,950 bid from Brown Tree Service, Fairfield, to remove around 35 dead or dying trees on city property.