A Washington city councilman has requested the city change the way occupancy inspection fees are collected and increase fines for property maintenance code violations.
Jeff Mohesky, Ward 2 councilman, raised the issue at Monday night’s administration/operations committee meeting.
Currently, a city building inspector will set up an inspection appointment and the property owner or landlord pays the fee after the inspection is complete.
Mohesky suggested that the property owner pay before the inspection takes place.
“They won’t get an inspection unless it’s been prepaid,” he said.
Mohesky said city staff is spending a lot of time colecting payments for inspections.
City Administrator Jim Briggs agreed, saying, “It has been a problem to chase down some of these people.”
Briggs said the property owner could pay ahead of time or at the time of the inspection, but noted that many property owners have other jobs and may not be home at the time of the inspection.
He also noted that as of now, the city does not accept credit card payments for inspection fees.
Mohesky admitted that he has sometimes procrastinated on paying inspection fees himself, but said, “It’s not fair for the city to put up with that.
“A lot of people forget to pay the fees, but you also have people who just don’t want to pay at all,” Mohesky added.
The councilman said the city is losing out on revenue by not collecting the fees.
Mohesky also called for “stiffer” fines on properties that he feels are not meeting the city’s property maintenance codes.
“I’m not just talking about extra long grass,” Mohesky said.
Councilman Tim Brinker said the council should work with City Counselor Mark Piontek on “making the codes more stringent to deter this from happening.”
Councilwoman Connie Groff asked if the property owners in violation were ever made aware that there was an issue.
“Some people may not be aware that someone else was complaining,” Groff said.
Briggs said usually property owners are given a letter followed by a summons.
He said that many of the complaints are anonymous.
In addition, sometimes these cases are slow to move through the court process, Briggs explained.
The council agreed to hold a workshop to review the inspection program and proposed changes at next month’s administration/operations committee meeting.
It was suggested that Piontek and building department representatives, including the city inspectors, attend.
Councilman Mark Hidritch also asked to discuss derelict vehicles at the workshop, noting that there are “a lot of vehicles sitting out there unlicensed.”