Peabody City Attorney Bob Lane reviewed city ordinances involving mowing violations and nuisance properties Monday night to give city council members some guidance on establishing community regulations and enforcing them.
Lane said the ordinance requiring residents to mow their properties has been in the city code book since 1977. The ordinance states that when a resident or property owner has been found negligent, the city can demand the lawn be mowed by a specific date. That ordinance also allows city employees to mow the property and bill the resident/property owner. In addition, if the property remains unsightly, the city may perform subsequent mowing without notifying the resident/property owner of its intent, but billing the person each time.
The issue of unsafe or unsightly properties also came up because Peabody Municipal Court Judge Brad Jantz had told Police Chief Bruce Burke that although he was able to fine a violator for allowing junk and debris to accumulate on a property, he could not enforce cleanup of the property because the ordinance had “no meat in it.” The ordinance allows for abatement of the problem, Lane said, and the city can once again send in city employees to clean up the property, haul away the accumulated debris, and bill the owner. However, the city has been reluctant to pursue this solution because of the number of hours that employees would spend doing the cleanup instead of their regular jobs.
Lane told the council the ordinances are in place to serve the good of the community, but they are not designed to be punitive. He said the council also should be aware of creating possible “ill will” with issues such as subsequent mowing based on sending one letter and then mowing multiple times and billing the owner for it.
On the other hand, he told them fining a resident for allowing junk and debris to accumulate or a residence to become dilapidated and unlivable, but not enforcing the removal of junk or the repair of the structure, is not a solution either. He suggested hiring an outside firm to abate the nuisance rather than a running battle with the same resident and repeated fines.
“Let the judge be the fact-finder of the violation,” Lane said. “But don’t give him the authority to enforce abatement with jail time or something like that. Ultimately you are the city officials. It is your call.”
City Clerk Stephanie Ax asked about getting the 1977 book of city codes put through a process called “codification” where the ordinances and changes to the codes all are researched, reviewed, and compiled to upgrade the information. Lane said there are companies that will take a city through that process and even put it all online. The council asked that Ax find some cost estimates for having the work done.
In other business:
- The council heard that repairs to the bridge on S. Locust St. were completed Sept. 14 by county employees. The city will be charged for the materials used in the repairs, but not for labor. A large section of the bridge support and road surface washed away in the heavy flooding early on Labor Day.
- Council members voted to accept a bid from Blue Valley Public Safety Co. to repair the warning siren at the fire station at a cost of $2,245 and ask that the company “piggy-back” the trip to do the work with others in the area to save on mileage and per hour travel costs for personnel.
- Peabody-Burns Recreation Commission President Beth Peter told the council the July 4th 5 kilometer run raised $405 and PBRC approved making a donation to the city to help defray the cost of the handicap accessible entrance to the swimming pool.
- Council heard the fire department will be ordering two new 50 ft. sections of fire hose for the city fire truck from the 2014 budget. Each section costs $300. Two additional sections will be purchased in 2015.
- Interim Public Works director Ronnie Harms told the council he climbed the water tower to inspect it and found some areas in need of minor repairs. Harms contacted Cunningham, Inc. and they will be here Oct. 14 to make the repairs.
- Harms also reported some problems with a grinder pump on the east lift station. He received a CD and an instruction booklet from the manufacturer and will try to make repairs before sending it in to be worked on.
- Council members asked Harms to look into the purchase of a guard rail for the culvert on Elm Street and come back with costs.