Council to consider raising rental license fee

EAST LIVERPOOL – While so-called “better landlord” legislation is still being tweaked, City Council will consider Monday upping the rental license fee for landlords to help pay for a second part-time housing inspector.

During a meeting Tuesday of council’s economic development committee, Chairman Ryan Stovall presented an ordinance that would increase the current annual rental license fee by $20, also increasing the number of units covered by each fee level.

The proposal would change the current $40 for 1-25 units to $60 for 1-50 units and the current $30 for 26 or more units to $50 for 51 or more units.

According to Stovall, the current licensing fees bring in $58,000 annually, of which $28,000 goes to the Planning Department for the cost of the existing part-time housing inspector, who works 20 hours a week at $12.95 per hour.

The other $28,000 goes into the general fund.

With his proposal, the increase would generate a total of $84,000 annually, of which $42,000 would be used for the existing inspector and hiring a second part-time inspector who would work 24 hours per week at the same salary.

Stovall said this would allow coordination of inspections and should bring the city into substantial compliance with its own legislation which requires inspection of homes at least every five years.

The general fund would still receive $28,000 with the remaining $14,000 earmarked for the Planning Department for legal fees.

Committeeman Sherrie Curtis said although there had been some talk of hiring one full-time inspector, she likes the idea of two part-timers, instead, since it will mean each will have a backup.

Planning Director Bill Cowan agreed, saying he welcomed the recommendation, saying it is “certainly needed” and that there once were two inspectors who worked alternate days but now with the department down to just one part-time inspector, “It’s tough.”

The committee agreed to forward the legislation for council’s consideration on Monday.

After complaints from landlords, council tabled legislation prepared by Stovall’s committee which would implement a variety of regulations for rental properties, including such things as background checks for tenants.

Among other issues, landlords had insisted the city needs to enforce existing regulations pertaining to rental properties, including conducting regular inspections, and Stovall said after Tuesday’s meeting that this latest proposal will help do that by providing funding to hire an additional inspector.

In other matters, the committee also forwarded to council an ordinance authorizing the city’s board of control to enter into a contract with Tucker Ellis LLP as bond counsel in regard to the on-going New Castle School of Trade project.

Stovall explained that, in order to facilitate securing New Market tax credits, the bonding agent must be in place, emphasizing the $40,000 cost will be paid with Tax Increment Financing funding and bonds, not general fund money from city coffers.