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What you need to know: New city ordinances

City ordinance amendments on e-cigs, social hosts, off-road utility vehicles, solid waste, city elections

If you have any concerns about e-cigarettes, being a social host around underage drinking or off-road utility vehicles, you might want to pay attention to the ordinances Osceola City Council recently passed.

During a Sept. 16 city council meeting, the council held public hearings and approved five new ordinances that would get the city ordinances aligned with the recent changes the legislature made to the Iowa Code.

Here are the five new amended ordinances:

Vapor/alternative nicotine products

1) Ordinance amending provisions pertaining to vapor products and alternative nicotine products.

“Basically, we are adding to our tobacco ordinances sections and definitions language to include alternative nicotine products, mainly e-cigarettes,” said Ty Wheeler, Osceola city administrator/clerk. “But, there are no changes to the current way in which tobacco is enforced, we’re just adding to it.”

Social hosts, underage drinking

2) Ordinance amending provisions pertaining to persons under legal age/social hosts.

Basically, this ordinance states a person cannot knowingly serve alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age of 21.

Councilman Dr. George Fotiadis asked about whether this ordinance would affect religious services where wine is part of a sacrament.

“That’s a good question,” Wheeler said. “The last line of the amendment states that provisions of this subsection do not apply to a landlord or manager of the property, or to a person under legal age who consumes or possesses any alcoholic liquor, wine or beer in connection with a religious observance, ceremony or right. And the landlord language proceeding that, that’s in event the landlord is not in control of the property.”

Osceola Police Chief Marty Duffus said, in the example of a keg at a high school graduation, it makes the host responsible.

Solid waste

3) Ordinance amending provisions pertaining to solid waste.

Wheeler said the ordinance doesn’t change Osceola’s current definition of solid waste, it adds exclusions, including hazardous waste, nuclear byproduct material, petroleum contaminated soils and steel slag.

Off-road utility vehicles

4) Ordinance amending provisions pertaining to off-road utility vehicles.

“It doesn’t change the definition of off-road utility vehicles and the description of number of wheels and controls and seating for the operator,” Wheeler said. “But, it does create three different types of off-road utility vehicles based on size.”

Fotiadis said he’s seeing more and more off-road utility vehicles on county gravel.

“There’s not been any significant change,” Duffus said. “They’re supposed to be flagged, but not all of them are out on the gravels. The big factor on the gravels are that it’s supposed to be driven for farm use, from farm to farm. It really doesn’t make a big difference to us (city police) except we have to recognize the three weight classes.”

It doesn’t legalize a golf cart either, Duffus added. As far as lawn tractors, Duffus reminded people if they’re driving a lawn tractor drunk, then it’s considered a motor vehicle.

City elections

5) Ordinance amending provisions pertaining to vacancies in an elected office and city elections.

“This is probably of these amendments the one that hits home most for us because we’ve had to deal with vacancies in the recent history. But, what this does is clean up what was a vague provision within the Iowa Code,” Wheeler said.

According to Wheeler, when filling a council vacancy by appointment, the appointee would serve until the next election. However, the term election was too vague.

“So, what was happening in some cities is special elections and things would get called for, and then these appointees would have to suddenly sit on the ballot, whereas that wasn’t the original intent of the appointment,” he said. “It was understood they were going to be able to serve for, you know, two years or four years, whatever the duration of the term was.”

The amendment now states an appointee shall until the next regular city election or intervening special election for the city. For example, if a county or school district calls for a bond referendum or other special election, the appointee isn’t subject to that ballot.

“It would still be essentially the way we did it, is that correct?” Fotiadis asked. “I mean, I think we’ve done it both ways.”

“Correct,” Wheeler answered.

“But it sounds like we’ve actually done it OK so far both times that we’ve done it since I’ve been on the council,” Fotiadis said.

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