Knoxville City Council members denied a property owner’s request to have the city’s fire department burn down a vacant home on Monday evening.

The council’s decision was based on Fire Chief Cal Wyman’s assessment of the home based on Iowa Code and the Department of Natural Resources’ rules and regulations. Wyman concluded that the home does not meet requirements for a training burn as originally requested four years ago.

Structurally, Wyman stated the home does not provide any training value for the department. Because of this, Wyman stated the department would only be able to perform a demolition burn if approved by council members.

“As a city, if we decide to do this, we are accepting full risk, full responsibility for everything,” said Wyman.

The department is only allowed two burns a year. Wyman stated the department would be using a significant amount of resources to conduct the demolition burn, and the city would be assuming responsibility and liability. Based on risk, he advised against a demolition burn.

Property owner Doug Wilson stated he was promised a training burn by former Fire Chief Jim Mitchell four years ago after he performed an inspection of the home. However, Mitchell continued to postpone the burn and eventually retired his position as fire chief. Wyman stated the home may have met requirements in the past, but it has deteriorated over time.

Wilson pleaded with council members to approve his request for a demolition burn, stating that he believes the structure hasn’t changed much since Mitchell inspected it. Wilson also listed alternatives to the demolition burn, which included tearing and burning the home down himself, tearing the home down piece by piece and hauling it away, or hiring a contractor that would charge him $15,000.

“I would like the city to give me more ideas on what we can do,” said Wilson. “I’m asking you to help me.”

Wilson stated he is planning to build a duplex in its place. Mayor Brian Hatch recommended Wilson reach out to council members and the city to try to find an alternative and assured they would be more than happy to help.

Additionally, council members approved the motion to begin engineering and survey work for improving the intersection on Iowa Highway 14 and Weiler Drive for the summer of 2020. They also approved the work order agreement for the Iowa Highway 14 overlay and traffic signalization project.

In other news:

- Hatch signed a proclamation declaring May as Mental Health Month

- Hatch signed a proclamation declaring the week of May 12 – 18 as National Police Week. May 15 was also declared as Peace Officer’s Memorial Day.

- A public hearing has been set for May 20 to discuss the proposition of extending the Senior Center lease to more than three years.

- Council members left a proposition to declare the alley north of the library as a one-way on the table in order to have a discussion with business owners who would be affected.