The Marshalltown City Council voted Monday night to lease the Iowa River Railroad Project back to the Iowa River Railroad until the spring when the cleanup of the trail is complete.

The reason is because the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the city can't put up signs along the trail to let people know the trail is not ready for use.

"Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation doesn't want to be responsible for anyone that might get hurt when they don't even have the power to remove anything," said Joel Greer, 2nd Ward council member. "Both Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the city want to avoid that kind of exposure to lawsuits and that's why Iowa Natural Heritage wants to lease it back to the railroad until they get the cleanup done."

Curt Ward, city attorney, said the proposal arose a couple of weeks ago.

"It now looks inviting as a place to go recreating," Ward said. "It's not because it's dangerous."

Ward said the railroad is also going to insure the property and include the city as an additional party insured.

"I asked for some advice from some attorneys who do personal injury work whether the language in this short term lease was adequate to cover us, I've been told it's as adequate as it could be," Ward said. "At least we'll have insurance and we'll be second behind the railroad in terms of any potential liability for it."

The railroad cleanup will begin in the spring.

"It's like buying a house and then having the owner say he isn't ready to move out of it yet so you're not going to get it but he still wants to have the closing on the same day so he can get all of his money," Ward said. "Well, that's what it sounds like to me too, but, this is a fair way to handle it."

Ward said the city was not part of the lease.

"We will be asked to become a party to this lease when we step in the shoes of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation which is going to be the landlord after they purchase it," Ward said. "Then we're asked to buy their interest and step into their shoes and that will include stepping into this lease. That's why we're talking about it tonight. We're not a named party of it yet."

Council voted unanimously, with the exception of Greer who abstained, to approve the lease.

The Iowa River Rail Trail is 37 miles long trail and will extend north from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock in Hardin County.

The Hardin County Board of Supervisors have agreed to assume ownership of the Hardin County portion of the trail.





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