The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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May 14, 2013

Conneaut council gets housing ordinance

CONNEAUT — As promised, legislation that would create Conneaut's first housing inspection program made its debut at Monday's City Council meeting — and was promptly pushed to a second reading.

The measure, literally years in the making, will receive a full three readings, meaning it shouldn't surface for a vote until June.

The housing program that obliges property-owners to obtain a municipal permit before a house or apartment is occupied. The permit includes an inspection meant to verify the dwelling contains basic health and safety amenities (including running water, heat and adequate wiring).

Owners only have to obtain one permit a year, regardless of how many times people come and go during those 12 months. If the inspector finds the property to be in excellent shape, a two-year permit period is granted as a reward.

City administrators and council have stressed inspectors will not do an exhaustive examination before the dwelling is occupied. Officials want to keep it simple so not to overburden the inspector or work an undue hardship on owners. Much of the information regarding the pending occupancy permit program will  be posted soon on the city's website, said City Manager Tim Eggleston.

Little was said at Monday night's meeting regarding the legislation. Council did not debate the issue and no one in the audience spoke publicly on the matter.

Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch has spearheaded the program before he was appointed to council, serving on a citizens' ad hoc committee investigating Conneaut's poor housing stock. He was pleased the program finally reached council floor.

"Not only will it improve the overall appearance (of the city), but the safety, health and quality of life for the citizens," LaRusch said. "I'm proud to sponsor this ordinance."

In other business, several councilmen who recently visited the Lake Erie Correctional Institution said improvements have been made to reduce cases of contraband tossed over security fence to inmates on the other side. "Now it's virtually impossible," said Ward 4 Councilman Thomas Kozesky, chairman of council's public safety committee.

The prison, built by the state in 2000, was purchased by Corrections Corporation of American in January 2012.

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