Just as couples often fight about money when it’s tight, so sometimes do city governments, a fact illustrated last week when the mayor of Minburn and two city council members abruptly resigned their elected offices at the Monday, May 8 meeting, apparently prompted by a dispute over financing for the Minburn depot.
In the midst of proceedings that reportedly grew heated, Mayor Jordan Lint and Minburn City Council members Daryl Finestead and GayLynn Stajcar tendered their resignations.
“There was argument among them,” said Minburn City Clerk Kris Fitch, “and they just had enough.”
Fitch said “depot funding” was the matter in dispute, but she could not say more precisely what the differences were among the city leaders.
“I’m not exactly sure what exactly they were arguing about,” she said. “I don’t know if they were talking about a specific thing. I mean, one person was just kind of going off about something, and the other one got tired of it.”
Restoration of the Minburn Depot was a $1.2 million project, largely financed by federal and state historic restoration tax credits. The Minburn Community Betterment Group formed in 2007 and started the campaign to move and restore the depot, built in 1914 and now located at 210 Fourth St.
Architectural historian Sheriffa Jones, owner of Spencer-based Preservation Works, guided Minburn’s application for tax credits through the qualifying process, with Minburn City Attorney Beverly Wild advising the city.
The depot is currently occupied by the Nineteen14 tavern. Owner and operator Jeremy Mahler of Des Moines pays $750 a month to rent the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fitch said recent changes in the rules and policies of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) have meant a reduction in the number of credits used to finance the depot’s debt.
“We had historical tax credits,” she said, “and about the time we turned ours in was about the time the state legislature changed their guidelines and rules, so we are not getting as many back as we thought we were. We are discussing it with SHPO. I haven’t been in that discussion, but the lawyer’s been in discussion with them on trying to get that resolved.”
None of the city leaders was willing to comment on the reasons for their rash resignations.
Lint said only that he “felt like it was time to let some others go about giving their vision to what the town should be doing,” and he declined to say anything more definite about what prompted the sudden rupture at the May 8 meeting. He later sent a letter of resignation to the council members and Fitch dated May 8.
Council member Finestead did not return repeated calls for comment, and Stajcar referred all questions about depot financing to Fitch, “and on any other matter,” she said, “including the resignations, I just don’t have a comment at this time.”
Council member Don Peel said he was not present for the fireworks at the May 8 meeting, but he was willing to share his second-hand impressions of the events.
“I wasn’t at the meeting,” he said. “They got in an argument over the railroad station, the mayor and this one council member, and the mayor resigned, and he resigned, and the mayor pro tem, she’s going to resign, too.”
Peel said he originally opposed the depot project when it was proposed 10 years ago.
“When they first started that railroad station, I was on the council,” he said, “and me and another guy, Dave Baccus, we was against it. And all of a sudden they come up with a plan that they said wasn’t going to cost the residents of Minburn anything, so we voted for it. Now it’s going to cost us. I think they must have been lying to us. I don’t know. They told us the tax credit would take care of it, and we wouldn’t have to pay anything.”
Fitch said the resignations of Lint and Finestead were effective immediately, while Stajcar agreed to continue in office until June 30. Lint has served as mayor for two years and for eight years prior was as a member of the city council, while Stajcar and Finestead were in their first terms on the council.
Peel and fellow Minburn City Council members Ronnie Allen and Phyllis Moss now form a rump council that will have to make appointments or hold a special election in order to refill their ranks.
Peel said he is considering also resigning from the city government.
“I’ve been thinking about it myself because I don’t really want to vote for something that’s going to cost residents of Minburn more money,” he said.