No decision made for city sandbag distribution

City council has tabled a discussion of whether or not the city should distribute sandbags in times of flooding.

“We proposed that the city no longer be a middle man in selling the sandbags to the general public,” said Terry Gray, Parks and Recreation director and member of the city’s operation and flood management team. “It isn’t a common practice for cities to be in the business of selling sandbags.”

Gray said last spring 90 percent of the city’s sandbags were distributed to people outside of Marshalltown.

“I’m not saying we can’t provide services to people outside of the city to Marshalltown,” Gray said. “Once again, it’s not that I don’t want to be a good neighbor or help with the people in need, that’s for you to decide.”

Randy Wetmore, city administrator, asked Gray how much money was lost by providing the sandbags.

Gray said she wasn’t sure because she didn’t know where the sandbags came from to start with or when they were purchased.

“It’s just the idea that we have to have a way to distribute them, manage them, get money for them and that kind of thing,” Gray said. “If that’s what you want us to do, we can do it. I just felt as a manager we have a better place to put our resources, time and energy, especially in a flood situation.”

Leon Lamer, at large council member, said he went through the floods of 1993 with the Des Moines Water Works. He said it isn’t about whether someone could buy a sandbag, it’s about how the city can be there for the homeowner in an emergency situation.

“As a city we need to be here to help our citizens,” Lamer said. “I don’t think for a few thousand bucks we ought to be messing around about where the sandbags come from or how much they cost. I think we ought to be here to help our citizens out.”

Lamer said the sandbags on Highway 30 helped the people of Marshalltown.

“If we hadn’t given the bags for Highway 30 it wouldn’t have been open and we couldn’t have got to Marshalltown,” Lamer said. “We’re helping everybody out. We’re only talking about a few thousand dollars.”

Wetmore said the few thousand dollars mattered.

“Two thousand bucks may not seem like a lot now, but as we go forward two thousand bucks will all of a sudden become an issue we need to discuss,” Wetmore said.

He said Marshalltown should not provide sandbags to the state.

“They have what, a $900 million or billion in reserves and we’re supplying sandbags to them,” Wetmore said. “The state hasn’t done us any favors lately.”

“Maybe we ought to ask them for some,” Lamer said.

“We have,” Wetmore said.

Lamer agreed Gray was right to decide a policy is needed on whether or not to give the sandbags out.

First Ward council member Bob Schubert suggested to table the sandbag topic until there was more information.

The council voted 5-2 in favor if that motion.