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CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Bishop Garrigan' Cade Winkel and Forest City junior Micah Lambert reach for a loose ball in January in Forest City.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette  

Southbridge Mall in Mason City. 

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Insufficient funds: Mason City mall owner's tax checks bounce

MASON CITY | Several checks written by Southbridge Mall Realty Holding, LLC to pay taxes to the county have bounced, officials said.

Three of four checks on Oct. 3 were returned due to non-sufficient funds, Cerro Gordo County Treasurer Pat Wright said in a news release Monday afternoon. 

The payment would have satisfied delinquent real estate taxes and interest for Southbridge Mall. The amount totaled $177,324 in October. 

Kohan also owes an additional $77,772 for taxes due in September 2018, Wright told the Globe Gazette Monday afternoon. 

Kohan told the Globe Gazette via phone Monday afternoon the payments are currently being processed and the balance “should be rectified by the end of the month.”

“We want to rectify this,” he said. “It’s going to be paid.”

He noted that losing Younkers and other tenants in the mall this year has slashed the mall’s income in half, leading to the account delinquency and bounced checks.

When asked if the county and Mason City residents should be concerned about outstanding taxes and bounced checks, Kohan said, “I don’t think they should be worried.”

“We are trying to get together financing,” he said.

The mall's property taxes are important because they are involved in the $39 million River City Renaissance Project, which includes an ice arena/multipurpose venue at the mall and a downtown hotel. 

Two options to fill the gap could impact citizens. The city could choose to raise property taxes or implement a local option sales tax for goods and services citywide. 

Kohan said his tax payments were processed later than anticipated.

He also said that the treasurer's office had given a grand total of payments they were working towards and seemed unaware that taxes were due in September. 

The treasurer's office sued the LLC and Kohan for the delinquent taxes in September.

Prior to the lawsuit being filed in September, Wright said her office worked diligently to collect the real estate taxes on the mall.

The lawsuit was dropped in October after the taxes were supposedly paid. 

The civil suit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be brought back to court. As of Monday afternoon, no new litigation had been filed in Cerro Gordo County District Court. 

Wright noted in a statement the lawsuit was dismissed in that manner "in anticipation of this possibility" of Kohan's checks bouncing. Wright said she could not comment further on the lawsuit. 

Kohan bought Southbridge Mall for $1.5 million in September 2016.

The Mason City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on approving an architectural contract for the multipurpose arena at the mall. 

The Mason City Youth Hockey Association told city officials arena construction needs to begin soon or they will "face difficult decisions on investment" because of the age of their ice system at the North Iowa Events Center, according to a memo from city administrator Aaron Burnett to the mayor and council members. 

At the Southbridge Mall multipurpose arena, the association has committed to pay for everything related to ice operations, plus $500,000 in cash, not to exceed $2 million. It would lease the arena and manage it during the hockey season.

Burnett said in his memo the two projects -- the hotel and ice arena -- need to run concurrently. 

The long, winding road of Mason City's downtown project

The long, winding road of Mason City's downtown project

Mason City Council restricts sale of fireworks, moves forward with other changes

MASON CITY | Fireworks tents will no longer be allowed along the Highway 122 corridor in Mason City.

That comes after the Mason City Council unanimously approved the third — and final — reading of an ordinance amendment that restricts the sale of consumer fireworks.

Sales will be restricted to permanent buildings within structures for commercial or retail use in the Z4 Multi-Use District, which includes commercial areas like the South Federal Avenue and Highway 122 corridors.

Temporary sales, like those from tent retailers, are restricted to land zoned Z6 Industrial near the cement plant, Smithfield and the older industrial park along 15th Street Southwest.

“I just want to say I’m in favor of this change because I was always a little bit nervous about seeing the tents in all the parking lots around the city that a lot of people were there,” Fourth Ward Councilman John Jaszewski said. “Fireworks being what they are there’s a certain amount of danger involved in handling them and I just felt that having them close to all these gathering points for people was not a safe way to go about it.”

The vote came after Carl Perry of Mason City spoke about his concerns related to the proposed fireworks ordinance amendments, especially the sales-related one, during the public forum segment of the city council’s meeting Tuesday evening.

“I guess that’s my main concern, if we’re going to allow them, why do we want to make it extremely difficult to sell them?” Perry said.

According to the Iowa State Fire Marshal Division, there were 15 licensed consumer fireworks retail sites, including 10 temporary tents and five permanent stores, in Mason City this summer.

Of the temporary tent sites, six were on Fourth Street Southwest, while others were on North Delaware Avenue, South Illinois Avenue, South Monroe Avenue and Indianhead Drive — all of which are not areas allowed under the new ordinance.

First Ward Councilman John Lee said the council’s action is in response to residents’ phone calls it received the past two seasons in which home fireworks displays were legal during certain dates in Iowa after state legislators lifted a longstanding ban.

“We have not zoned this out like some towns have really come close,” he said. “We have plenty of property for people to sell.”

At-Large Councilman Paul Adams said he didn’t feel the ordinance amendment would deter residents from purchasing fireworks.

“Because we’re not completely able to ban them from being sold inside city limits based on state policy, this, in my opinion, is the next best option,” he said.

The city doesn’t have the authority to ban the sale of fireworks and must “provide some avenue for (fireworks retailers) to engage in their business,” which was affirmed by a federal court ruling.

City Administrator Aaron Burnett said he received one inquiry but no additional questions or concerns related to the change.

The ordinance amendment was one of three discussed Tuesday related to the sale, discharge and enforcement of consumer fireworks.

The second of the three proposed ordinance amendments unanimously approved allows law enforcement to issue municipal infractions to people who discharge fireworks or allow others to discharge fireworks on their property outside of the city’s designated time frame. Violators would be fined up to $250.

The third ordinance amendment, which was approved in a 4-2 vote with At-Large Councilmen Tom Thoma and Adams opposed, allows the discharge of fireworks within Mason City from 6 to 11 p.m. July 3 and July 4. Thoma and Adams voiced support for a complete ban at the council’s Nov. 6 meeting.

Currently, the city permits fireworks from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 3 and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 4, as well as New Year’s Eve.

The council will discuss the second and third ordinance amendments for the third — and final — time at its Dec. 4 meeting.

Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

Lindsay Kearns works at the Bellino Fireworks tent in the Fareway parking lot in Mason City in 2017. Fireworks sales via temporary structures, like tents, are now restricted to certain locations in Mason City. 

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Man arrested for Mason City shooting injured trooper, spit on officer, documents say

MASON CITY | An 18-year-old man arrested for felony terrorism after shooting at an occupied car Saturday morning in Mason City is accused of injuring an officer and spitting on another during his arrest, court documents say. 

Manuel Alexander Zamorano, 18, is accused of assaulting a state trooper while being arrested, court documents say. The trooper sustained a cut to his right pinky finger, according to court documents. 

Court documents say Zamorano spit "bloody bodily fluids" on a Mason City police office during arrest. 

• 95 odd North Iowa crime stories from 2018: Pasta salad evidence, cigarette robbery, stolen pigs (with mugshots)

After searching Zamorano, police found marijuana in his front left jean pocket, court documents said. 

In addition to felony terrorism, Zamorano is charged with misdemeanor assault on persons in certain occupations causing bodily injury, assault on persons in certain occupations, interference with official acts and possession of a controlled substance, marijuana - first offense.

He is accused of firing four shots at a car with three people inside it or possibly at a nearby person in the 900 block of Eighth Street Southeast, near South Kentucky Avenue, Saturday morning, police said in a news release. 

• Burglary, neglect, attempted murder: North Iowa crime and courts news for November (with mugshots)

Neither the car nor the people inside it were struck by bullets, according to police. 

Witnesses directed officers to Zamorano, the person they said shot the gun, police said.

Police recovered a 9 mm handgun believed to be used in the shooting from a nearby flowerbed. 

Zamorano is being held in the Cerro Gordo County Jail on a $10,000 cash-only bond, according to jail records. No court date has been set.  

Photos: North Iowa's mugshots of 2018

North Iowa's mugshots of 2018


Arian Schuessler / WORTHINGTON GLOBE