FAIRMONT - On Monday, concerned citizens approached Fairmont City Council about the state of rental properties in the city. Together, the groups decided it is time to look at a rental ordinance.
Darci Bentz and Steve Hawkins, representing Focus on Fairmont, spoke at the council meeting in front of a full house.
The group has met with a variety of people, including state officials, to get ideas. What they learned is that rental properties and who lives in them can change an entire neighborhood, influencing community culture and pride, Bentz said.
Recently, the council has heard from tenants who reported problems their landlords don't fix, and neighbors have submitted letters describing dangerous situations when renters with criminal records move into nearby houses.
Hawkins said Focus on Fairmont has researched cities similar to Fairmont in size and found most had rental ordinances, and also required licenses, inspections and a process to correct violations.
An ordinance would clarify expectations and offer protection to landlords, as well, Hawkins said. Tenants would get an improved quality of living and a process by which to register complaints.
A rental registry could increase communication between the police and landlord, he added. Property inspections would make the residences safer and the ordinance should meet the minimum federal standards for health and safety.
"It'd make Fairmont a better place," said Councilman Andy Lucas. "That's a benefit to everyone."
"If we put an ordinance in place, it has to be enforceable and has to be enforced," said Councilman Joe Kallemeyn. "Someplace tenants can go, landlords can go and neighbors can go."
"It's something the council has discussed for quite some time," said Councilman Wes Clerc. "It's extremely important and we need to move on it right away."
The council directed staff to work with Focus on Fairmont to come up with a rental ordinance for the city.
In other business, Troy Nemmers, director of public works, explained the assessments for the overlay done to Woodland Avenue and sealcoating in various locations.
City Attorney Elizabeth Bloomquist requested the assessments be waived for 320 N. Dewey Street because it was a blighted property.
"We'll demolish it and the county will pay delinquent taxes," she said.
The council approved the assessments, excluding the waiver for the house on Dewey Street.
In other action, the council approved:
o Open porch setbacks. The porch may extend eight feet, but can be no closer than 15 feet to the front property lines, and can not be enclosed, said City Administrator Mike Humpal.
o Electronic messaging signs on major roads, but the ordinance includes rules about the times the signs can be used and the movement of the message.
o An extension of the Shared Fiber Optic Network agreement between the city, the local school district and Bevcomm from 2017 to 2027.