Williamstown council talks vehicle ordinance

WILLIAMSTOWN — Williamstown City Council approved having ordinances drawn up dealing with time limits for vehicles parked on city streets, water fees and another dealing with abandoned properties.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to have City Attorney C. Blaine Myers draw up the ordinances for council to be able to take action on at a later date.

An older code limited parking vehicles on city streets for 168 continuous hours or seven straight days, but there was a question if it was adopted into the new code the city had adopted. It was not believed it was adopted into the newer code.

Councilman Marty Seufer said they could adopt a new code dealing with the issue. ”We have got to do something,” he said.

Seufer wasn’t sure what the classification was for an abandoned vehicle but there is one in the city with a flat tire and feral cats are using it as a liter box.

”It has been parked on the street for six continuous months,” he said. ”We have to do something.”

Myers said issues arise when a vehicle is lawfully registered and the owner may only move it periodically.

”I think you probably know where the major violators are,” he said.

Myers suggested a police officer would have to check it for seven continuous days.

Still an owner can claim they moved it between the checks.

”It is a factual determination if someone disputed a citation if they left it there continuously,” Myers said.

Councilman Jim Stage said he knows of a few that have not been moved in months.

”If someone went over seven days, I don’t think anyone would say anything,” he said.

Councilwoman Barbara Lewis said in Marietta police put a chalk mark on the wheel to determine if the vehicle had been moved.

”That is a way to check it,” she said.

Seufer moved to set the time limit at 30 days.

”I know that is extreme, but the vehicles we are talking about are not the ones that are moved once a week or once every two weeks,” he said. ”They are not moved.”

Stage requested council consider raising water bills for the city 3 percent and its sewer bills by 4 percent.

The city has not addressed its water bills in three years and its sewer in six years.

”We have the lowest water bills in the state,” Stage said, adding because of that they can’t qualify for any grants for improvements.

”I don’t know how those got away from us,” Mayor Jean Ford said, adding they used to address it every two years or so.

The city wanted to better control costs so residents did not see significant raises from time to time.

Stage also suggested the city needed to raise its water service connection fees from 75 cents per 1,000 gallons to $3 per 1,000 gallons. Tap fees, including meters and more, are at $706.70.

Council agreed to have Myers draw up an ordinance on the proposed increases.

Council will have two hearings on this, including a public hearing to go over the figures, rates and what will be included in any increases.

”Hate to do it, but costs are going up,” Stage said. ”I want to give everyone the chance to look at it.”

Seufer suggested the city needed to adopt something, like other cities have, in dealing with instituting a fee for abandoned properties.

”We need to consider that if we have an abandoned house in town to start instituting a monthly fee on that,” he said. ”There are houses that have been sitting for years.”

Myers said he was retained by another city to do an ordinance on that and can use it in crafting one for Williamstown. In it, the more time that passes without the owner taking action the higher the fee goes.

The idea is for people to take care of their property, either clean it up or tear down the structure, Seufer said.

Council members said they needed to start enforcing code of where if the city has to do yard work or more, a lien is placed on the property.

Council unanimously approved two ordinances, on second reading, regarding sewer use and pay raises for city employees.

The sewer ordinance says people have to dump the water from any swimming pools into the city sewer system, Ford said, adding they just can’t dump the water into the street.

Under the pay raise ordinance, a base salary of $25,000 was established for city employees. Anyone making under that will be raised to $25,000. It will be retroactively activated as of July 1, 2018.

Both ordinances were approved and finalized with the second readings.