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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Council member to appeal property report to peers

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/9/19

ELY – The city council here will conduct an appeal hearing later this month involving one of its own members accused of maintaining an unsafe residence in the city.

Council member Paul Kess and …

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Council member to appeal property report to peers


ELY – The city council here will conduct an appeal hearing later this month involving one of its own members accused of maintaining an unsafe residence in the city.

Council member Paul Kess and his wife, Laurie Kess, own several rental properties around town. One of the properties, at 106 E. Harvey St., was recently singled out for immediate attention by Ely building inspector Doug Whitney, based on several complaints he received this summer, and another complaint made last month, about the unsafe and hazardous condition of the abandoned structure.

Kess was sent a notice of the ordinance violation and required actions on Sept. 12 and immediately set an appeal process in motion.

According to Whitney, the property in question, located at the corner of Harvey Street and First Avenue across from the former Community Center, was inspected on July 22 and again on Sept. 4 following the most recent complaint.

“No work has been done on the dwelling in years,” Whitney wrote in the property condition violation notice. “The building and site condition are blighted and continue to pose a threat to public health and safety.”

Whitney determined that the property has been neglected and vacant for many years, and “has suffered from years of absence of any proper maintenance.” The inspection report, dated Sept 4, 2019, concluded: the dwelling suffers from dilapidation, including roofing in failed condition with holes and missing shingles, siding and soffit deterioration, and broken windows and doors. The property also has junk and debris in rear yard and property is overgrown with volunteer brush, according to Whitney.

In the violation notice, dated Sept. 12, 2019, Whitney ordered the following corrections within 30 days:

Secure dwelling by keeping it securely locked.

Remove all household goods, junk and debris from the property.

Remove all garbage, trash and debris from the property and dwelling.

Clean up all overgrowth and volunteer brush.

Whitney also ordered the following correction actions be made within 60 days:

Repair siding of dwelling.

Re-roof the dwelling.

Repair the windows as needed.

Replace side steps.

Paint or finish all exterior surfaces as needed.

On Sept 21, Kess responded to the violation notice with an appeal. He noted he did not receive the violation notice until Sept. 17, and claimed that the conditions under the 30-day notice “have been corrected,” and the notice “does not consider improvements already made” to the property.

In a hand-written narrative, Kess asserted that the property is locked. “In fact, I will change locks in the next 30 days,” he wrote.

Kess also explained his work on the property. “I have and continue to remove portions of the asphalt siding to expose and evaluate the original siding and to determine whether it can be repainted,” he wrote.

“I intend to repair the damaged roof section this fall,” he said. He added that “the back portion of the roof was replaced two years ago and the chimney was repaired within the last five years.” Whitney ordered the entire dwelling be re-roofed.

Kess wrote that he “will repair the broken windows and cover several with plywood.” He claimed that several windows were broken by vandalism in the last few years.

Kess said the side entrance steps were damaged by a large uprooted tree and he “does not intend to replace the steps in the near future as they would create an opportunity for vandalism.” He also offered to remove the storm windows on the third floor, as they are boarded up from the inside. “Other painting will be done next summer,” he wrote.

In his appeal, Kess claimed he made improvements to this property in the last 10 years. “I installed a new electrical service entrance, replaced the back roof, repaired and rebuilt the chimney, removed the smaller home at the rear of the property, and installed new water and sewer lines. I have not neglected the property, and will make the improvements specified in my narrative.”

Kess’s fellow city council members will consider the issue at a hearing scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at City Hall.

property, appeal, ely


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