The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 26, 2013

Conneaut will publicize new inspection program

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — City administrators plan to start spreading the word soon about the new housing inspection program approved by City Council this week.

Information about the program will be included in municipal water bills and it will be touted on the community website and in other media, City Manager Tim Eggleston said Tuesday.

Enforcement won’t begin immediately, Eggleston said. “It won’t start until we get our first call,” he said.

By a 6-1 vote, council approved an occupancy permit program that includes mandatory inspections of houses and apartments before they are sold or rented. A property-owner must obtain a $60 permit, good for one year (two years if the property is in excellent shape) before the dwelling can be occupied. The permit covers an unlimited number of occupant comings and goings during its one- or two-year lifespan.

Inspections, conducted by Planning/Zoning Admin-istrator Deanna Gates, won’t be probing, but just enough to ensure the dwelling meets basic health and safety codes.

In brief, owners are obliged to contact the city about an application within 30 days prior to the transfer of title or possession, according to the law. If the property meets approval, the city can issue a temporary permit on the spot to speed up its sale or rental. If repairs are mandated, owners may also expedite the permit process by putting into an escrow account a sum equal to 1 1/2 times the estimated cost of the work.

The city plans to enforce the law in part by regularly checking water bills for new names, officials have said. People who ignore the new law can be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of a $250 fine and 30 days in jail, according to the ordinance.

Proponents believe the inspections will improve the housing stock in Conneaut, a top priority pinpointed at community “town hall” meetings over the years.

Meanwhile, council temporarily shelved another initiative aimed at cleaning up the city. An ordinance that would have allowed Eggleston to seek proposals for trash-hauling service was tabled at Monday’s meeting.

Some residents opposed the measure, believing it would result in a one-hauler plan for the city, eliminating competition and costing jobs. Ward 1 Councilman Doug Hedrick, assigned to introduce the measure, said he tabled it to give haulers a chance to talk with council on the proposal’s goals. Hedrick also said the ordinance won’t remain tabled forever.

“We need to stay on top of it,” Hedrick said.

Eggleston said he was “surprised” the measure was tabled, but believes Hedrick wanted to give haulers every opportunity to have a say in the process. Eggleston said he hoped haulers take this opportunity to “read the ordinance and contact council.”

“It’s their time to be part of the process,” he said.

Eggleston was also optimist the ordinance would be put back into play soon. “Hopefully it won’t be something that’s not sitting out there months on end,” he said.