Proposal targets vacant buildings

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(Posted Oct. 30, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Vacant buildings are the target of a proposed change to London’s building and housing code.

City council member Henry Comer introduced the legislation at council’s Oct. 18 meeting. The idea is to institute a program to identify, register and inspect vacant commercial and industrial buildings. The program would not apply to residential buildings.

“I hope it will clean up the city a little bit,” Comer said. “It’s a safety concern, too.”

The focus would be on vacant buildings that could present fire hazards, become eyesores, detract from efforts to rehabilitate or maintain surrounding buildings, or present other health, safety or welfare hazards.

The program would require the buildings to be secure from trespassers and provide safe entry for police and fire fighters in the event of emergencies.

Once a building is identified as vacant, the city would charge the property owner an initial registration fee of $400. Renewal costs would be $800 for the first year, $1,600 for the second year, $3,200 for the third year, and $6,400 for the fourth year and each subsequent year.

Some fee waivers and reductions would be possible. The initial registration fee could be waived for up to a year while a property is being actively marketed for sale or lease. The registration fee or renewal fee could be refunded if a building comes into compliance with building code standards and is reoccupied within one year of payment. The renewal fee could be cut in half if, at the time of renewal, the building has no outstanding notices regarding violations of maintenance, building or fire codes.

Comer said the program’s implementation would go through the city’s contracted code enforcement officer.

Council President Joe Russell recommended that the proposal go to council’s safety committee for additional input.

City building up for sale

Council gave the administration permission to advertise for bids for the sale of the city-owned building at 6 E. Second St.

“We’ll be moving out of here in the not too distant future,” said Joe Mosier, safety-services director.

The building houses city council chambers, the mayor’s office, and Mosier’s office, all of which are moving soon to the new city hall building at 20 S. Walnut St. Renovations at the new site are nearly finished.

BPU appointments

The city’s Board of Public Utilities has two new members: Marcus Vest, who will serve through 2021 and Steve Scaggs, who will serve through 2023. They fill two vacancies on the three-member board. The other member is Stan Kavy.

Mayor Patrick Closser made the appointments. Council approved them after making changes to the board eligibility requirements. Previously, anyone who held an elective office or another appointed office with the city had to wait a year after their elected or appointed term expired to serve on BPU. Also, they had to be London residents. Neither is the case now. There is no wait and eligibility is open to anyone who owns property in the city or pays taxes to the city.

Other city business

The street department recently moved to the former Ohio Department of Transportation garage at 1416 U.S. Rte. 42. The fire department plans to use part of the facility for training. Council member Rex Castle introduced legislation requesting a transfer of $100,000 from one fire fund to another to prep the space for training purposes.

Castle’s request to suspend council’s three-reading rule failed. Suspension requires six votes. Five council members voted for the suspension, Henry Comer voted against it, and Brenda Russell was absent. The legislation will be back on council’s agenda on Nov. 1. Had the suspension passed, council could have voted on the legislation without taking it through three readings at three separate council meetings.

In a committee report earlier in the meeting, council member Anthony Smith said the fire department is on pace to have its emergency medical services (EMS) operational by Jan. 1. The city seceded from the Madison County Emergency Medical District (EMD) in September. The city has a 2-mill levy on the Nov. 6 election ballot to fund its own EMS.

Castle also introduced the city’s budget ordinance for 2019. He said it is based on a 4.5 percent spending increase across all departments.

“The administration has shown they are very cautious in how they spend the money,” he said. The budget will be up for a second reading on Nov. 1.

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