SALINEVILLE-Discussion of revising several village ordinances regarding rental and nuisance properties became heated at Monday's council meeting and segued into a broader debate over the effectiveness of village ordinances and the police department's ability to enforce them.
The subject of ordinances arose when council president and head of the ordinance committee Sally Keating asked Village Solicitor Andy Beech to revise or redraft two village ordinances. The first ordinance was one regarding tall grass in resident's yards becoming a nuisance. The second ordinance was in regard to rental properties.
This ordinance has been discussed by council at length during previous meetings, sparking debate among council members over the the privacy of renters and the rights of landlords. Keating asked Beech to revise the ordinance so as to lower the amount of money the village is able to fine residents for being in violation of the ordinance. This request quickly became overshadowed by an ongoing debate over the ordinance itself.
The ordinance has been on the books since 2008, however, for the last year the village has not been enforcing it or collecting fees associated with it. Among other requirements, the ordinance requires that landlords report to the village who they are renting to for income tax and security purposes.
On Monday this aspect of the ordinance once again became a sticking point. Councilman Rick Beadle, himself a landlord with property in the village, has been adamant from the beginning of the debate that landlords should not have to furnish the names of their renters to the village. He suggested the village send police officers to confirm who is living in rental property instead of asking landlords.
At this point in the discussion, Mayor Mary Smith intervened chastising council for not being able to reach a consensus on ordinances and in turn limiting the village police department's ability to do their jobs.
"This originated because council keeps saying the police department is not writing tickets and not enforcing ordinances. So we started going through (the ordinances) and officers are coming to me saying 'how does council want me to address this when there are conflicting ordinances, and it says in here (the ordinance) to fine them (landlords) up to $100 but doesn't give specifics,' we just need clarification of what you want these officers to do. They're trying to do their job, it still comes back to council figuring out what they're doing with these ordinance and how they want them to do this," said Smith.
This comment appeared to chafe Councilman Tom Hays who contended that citing landlords who violate the ordinance was pointless because the village had not yet established a mayor's court. "It doesn't do no good to cite these people when we can't take them into magistrate court." said Hays
"I can't have these officers enforcing ordinances when there are discrepancies in the ordinances - we've gone over this for a year and a half," countered Smith. "Why have a magistrate's court and pay $150 for a magistrate to come in here when we don't have the ordinances?"
Hays then suggested the village police department could cite offenders under Ohio Revised Code to which Smith stated if the department were to do so all cases would be handled by the county municipal court and no revenue would be collected by the village.
"We've cars going 90 miles per hour through town and they (village police) stop them and say 'Don't do it again,' and they turn right around and drive 90 miles per hour back through town," said Hays
"That is being addressed," said Smith adding "Council fixes the ordinances and we'll start magistrate court."
There will be a special meeting of the ordinance and buildings and health committee Monday, Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. to further discuss the issue.