More criticism of property code

Marietta City Council on Thursday heard more criticism of the city’s property maintenance code that was adopted by council last fall. Included in that ordinance was the 2012 version of the International Property Maintenance Code.

Council also narrowly adopted legislation to set penalties and provide for enforcement of the property code on Feb. 20, but that measure was vetoed by Mayor Joe Matthews and has so far not been overridden by a required two-thirds majority vote of council.

“Our existing maintenance code works. If someone sees a violation they can file a complaint with the city health department,” Brian Waller of Bramblewood Heights told the council members Thursday.

“The majority of Marietta’s homeowners would love to fix up their properties, but money is tight,” he added. “The best thing to improve this town would be to bring in new businesses and jobs.”

Fort Street resident Tom Fenton had heard that a council member was issuing tickets and placing notes on some vehicles saying they were in violation of the city maintenance code.

Referring to Section 731.05 of the Ohio Revised Code, Fenton noted that city council members are not authorized to issue citations or to file complaints about another person’s property.

But Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, said he has never written tickets nor placed notes on vehicles.

“I have filed nuisance complaints on behalf of people who have called me because they’re intimidated and do not want to file a complaint themselves (against neighboring properties),” he said.

Other council members agreed.

“I’ve regularly filed complaints when asked by constituents,” said Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward. “And those folks often ask me not to reveal their names, so I sign the complaints. It’s become part of a council member’s job.”

Councilman Michael Mullen, I-at large, said most council members have filed property complaints for citizens at one time or another and that the ability to do so is part of the city’s codified ordinances.

Officials with the city health department recommend that residents who do not want their names listed on a complaint form ask a council member to submit a property complaint for them.

In other business Thursday, no action was taken on the second reading of an ordinance that would allow the safety-service director to advertise for the lease of city property to oil and gas interests. The third reading and final vote on that measure is expected during the next regular council session on April 3.

Also on Thursday, council approved the final resolution authorizing the city to contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation for the traffic safety and pedestrian upgrade project at the intersection of Seventh, Pike and Greene streets.

The $2 million-plus project is scheduled to start in April and will include pavement widening and surfacing, installation of curbs, gutters, sidewalks, curb ramps, drainage and signal lights.

Council also approved the expenditure of $97,734 for a Voice Over Internet Protocol system to upgrade the city’s telephone system by using the Internet for phone communications. The equipment will be installed as part of the ongoing city hall renovation project.

At the end of Thursday’s session, Mayor Matthews announced he has scheduled a meeting with city, county, township and state officials to discuss development of a road use maintenance agreement (RUMA) to keep city streets maintained if damaged by increase oil and gas industry traffic. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. March 27 in the community building at Lookout Park.