Monday night's Granite Falls City Council meeting saw the continuation of discussions regarding the seemingly imminent new rental and housing ordinance.
The council is still at least two meetings away from approving the ordinance, which would give the city new legal powers to address blighted properties within the community. The council must hold two readings of the document before accepting it into the city charter but has continued to hold off as they tweak the final language.
Roughly a half-dozen rental and mobile home property owners were in attendance to ask questions and state concerns. At the heart of their positions was the feeling that the ordinance changes should not negatively impact responsible property owners of the community––a notion that was shared by the council.
"We want to do it right and not penalize the people that are doing a good job," said councilman Steve Nordaune.
Over the past few months it has been City Attorney Greg Holmstrom who has compiled the document based on ordinance language contained in sample documents from the League of Minnesota Cities as well as ordinances in-use by other Minnesota cities.
Holmstrom took the time to address thirteen questions that ranged from questions about fees to whether every single home in Granite Falls would be inspected as a result of the new document. He emphasized that any fees would be set by the city in a motion separate from the ordinance approval.
"This was never intended as something where we'd go check every house in town, knocking on doors...," explained Holstrom. "When we do receive complaints the building inspector can go in there and say 'here's a problem, address it please. And if they do not he has the tools to address them.'
As to the exact process of remediation, things appeared a little vague. Holmstrom suggested that the city might only charge inspection fees to property owners who received complaints––though this would only come by council resolution––and also said that just because a citation brought an individual before a judge did not mean that they would automatically be fined.
"If somebody is cited, [judges] are often willing to give people a chance to address things so it doesn't necessarily mean that its going to go to fines or anything like that."
By the end of the discussion the property owners in attendance seemed to be at peace with city's effort. Said rental owner Ron Thull, "We all agree there is some problem properties in town, so we're not against an ordinance. We just dont want to be penalized."
In other news:
•Council members called for bids to demolish the home of Steve and Jodi Steffen in association with city's flood mitigation plan. The property is located at 103. E. Highway 212 near the Highway 212 bridge.
Page 2 of 2 - The structure's garage will be offered for public purchase. Council passed a resolution authorizing the sale with proposals for the garage due at city hall by Thursday, June 13 at 2:00 p.m.
•Council members approved the sale of a Granite Falls Hospital lot located at 677 Center Street next to Hungry Hollow Creek.
A warehouse formerly standing at the site used for storage by the hospital collapsed this winter precipitating the hospital board's recommendation to sell the land.
Proposals for the purchase of the property were due by May 20. A sale to Gib Christianson, who owns an adjacent property, was approved for $500.
•After calling for quotes to replace the radiant heating system in the City Garage area, council members elected to follow the recommendation of the Public Works Director Paul Krogstad and hire local outfit Ryer Plumbing and Heating to complete the work at a price of $7,228.
The quote was actually $26 over the price provided Chappel Central, of Willmar, but because of the ease of contact and response provided by the local company Ryer was awarded the project. Had the council called for bids and not just quotes, they would have been obligated to allot the project to the lowest bidder.
•The timeline to replace the Minnesota Avenue lift station has been delayed after an archaeological inspection of the site turned up a bone fragment. According to council members, the source of the bone is not presently known and tests are being run to determine its origin.
•Council member Sarina Otaibi expressed a resident's concerns about mosquito spraying. As a result, council members indicated that mosquito spraying would not begin until 9:00 p.m. (as opposed to 8:30 p.m.). In addition, it was said that material safety data sheets detailing the makeup of the spray are available at city hall.
•City Manager Bill Lavin noted that there were concerns involving the water plant automated operating system as well as general contract work. Lavin said that the automated system was installed by a highly reputable company, Automated Systems, but that nevertheless kinks were still being worked out. As for the general contract work it was noted that Rice Construction, of Deerwood, had not been present at the site in recent weeks and was likely to ask for a two to three week extension beyond the extension they received to push back the projects finalization date from the end of 2012 to June 1 of this year.