130 Cedar Rapids properties still storing sandbags from the flood

Jan. 30 is deadline to remove them

B.A. Morelli/The Gazette This property in southwest Cedar Rapids is among 130 that still have sandbags left out from the 2016 flood. The city is notifying homeowners they have until Jan. 30 to remove the sandbags from sight or move them to the curb for collection. Failure to do so could result in a fine. The city is asking community organizations for volunteers to move the sandbags for those unable to do so.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Approximately 130 properties around Cedar Rapids — primarily in the northwest and southwest residential neighborhoods evacuated during the September 2016 flood — still have sandbags sitting out from the flood.

City officials plan to mail a second notice this week to property owners, giving them a Jan. 30 deadline to remove the sandbags from sight or move them to the curb for collection, said Sara Baughman, a spokeswoman for Cedar Rapids utilities.

The sandbags are lined up along foundations or elsewhere in visible parts of the property, she said.

“Sandbags have a shelf life, so after a few months they start to disintegrate,” Baughman said. “Some citizens have said they were going to keep them around, and they can, as long as they are out of sight and out of direct sunlight.”

The sandbags could be stored in basements or garages.

Failure to remove the sandbags by Jan. 30 could result in a penalty or charge, she said.

“We would remove those from the property, but it would be at an expense to the property owner,” she said.

Collection of sandbags will occur in February and could stretch into March, Baughman said.

The exact charge for those in violation is not yet known because no dumping fee exists for the sand, but there would still be manpower and equipment costs, Baughman said.

The sandbags sitting in public view violate the city’s nuisance ordinance, Baughman said. The ordinance also regulates unkempt properties, such as with overgrown lawns or junk in the yard.

After urging sandbag collection in October, the city sent out notices to approximately 140 residents in November to remove the sandbags, but only about 10 complied, Baughman said.

She said some responding that they wanted to save the sandbags for a garden or to serve foundations for fence posts. Others wanted to keep the sand around in case of another flooding episode. Others didn’t have the physical ability to haul away the bags, which can weigh 50 pounds or more.

The city is reaching out to community organization for volunteers to help those who are unable to move the bags, Baughman said.

‘It seems reasonable’

Sandbags line the bottom of a slope by the sidewalk in front of the home of Audrey Wilcox, 78, who lives in the southwest quadrant a few blocks from the Cedar River. The sandbags were used to help stop erosion of the hill, which washes out when it rains, she said.

She planned to use a wheelbarrow to move them to the back of her house, but it had gotten cold and her family is dealing with a tragedy, she said.

After learning of the deadline, she said she will just move the sandbags to the curb.

“It seems reasonable,” she said. “If they want to come and get them, it’s one less thing for us to do.”