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City of Ely

Hefty fines imposed on blighted property owners

City council hopes to boost pace of improvements at W. Shagawa Road residence

Keith Vandervort
Posted 7/19/19

ELY – City council members here appear fed up with the slow pace of progress on a laundry list of blight conditions at 21 W. Shagawa Road. They voted Tuesday night to fine the property owners, …

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City of Ely

Hefty fines imposed on blighted property owners

City council hopes to boost pace of improvements at W. Shagawa Road residence

Posted

ELY – City council members here appear fed up with the slow pace of progress on a laundry list of blight conditions at 21 W. Shagawa Road. They voted Tuesday night to fine the property owners, Brian and Michele Sherwood, $100 per week for each of four exterior improvement items ordered by the city. The fine will be imposed until the work is completed to the satisfaction of the city’s building inspector.
The clock starts ticking this week on what could amount to a $400 weekly fine. According to the city’s building official, Doug Whitney, the original deadline given to the Sherwoods was Dec. 1, 2016.
“As you can see from my report, some items have been worked on by Mr. Sherwood, but many items are still not done,” Whitney said. He noted that the front porch has not been removed or repaired to ensure access to the dwelling is code compliant.
“The flooring on the porch is rotted and kind of perched up with some cinder blocks,” he said. “Also there are patches of siding still missing.” He also said the side porch was removed and replaced with a deck, but a railing is still not in place.
In addition, the Sherwoods did install a new roof on their garage and paint the structure as well, although not without incurring additional infractions. “There was no building permit obtained for that work, despite our agreement to waive the fee for Mr. Sherwood,” said Whitney.
The entire roofing structure, according to the report, must be completely code compliant, including the soffits and fascia.
“This has been going on for over two years now,” Whitney said. In his summary, dated July 11, 2019, Whitney wrote, “The blight or blighting factors create an unreasonable danger to public health, safety and welfare. Portions of the building remain unfit to the neighborhood. The property is occupied but the owner has not completed the repairs to be made.”
The Sherwoods did not attend the meeting.
Mayor Chuck Novak asked Whitney for a recommendation. “We never imposed any fines on this property. That would probably be the proper thing to do.”
Novak then asked for the council to weigh in on the matter. Heidi Omerza made a motion to initiate fines on the property until the blight condition is remedied. Paul Kess supported the motion.
City attorney Kelly Klun told the council, “I believe, statutorily, the fine is $100 per day.”
Kess said, “That would certainly get his attention.”
Novak noted that this particular blight issue has used more of the council’s time than any other issue. “Look at the cost to the city, including staff time, building official’s time and everything else,” he said. “Somewhere along the line, something has to be done, especially for the citizens that live in that neighborhood.”
Omerza pointed out that Sherwood did not obtain building permits despite the fact that the city waived the fees. “That is a little frustrating to me,” she said. She compared the issue to when her own kids refuse to clean their rooms. “Until you do something extreme and get their attention, nothing will happen. We need to do something that hurts.”
She added that she has heard from several residents about the ongoing blight condition in their neighborhood.
The council voted 6-0 (with one council member absent) to impose a fine of $100 per week until each of the four items on Whitney’s report are completed.
Other business
In other business, the council:

  • Received a 2018 audit report, as presented by Greg Knutson of Walker, Giroux & Hahne, who gave high marks to the city for its financial condition.
  • Approved a Memorandum of Understanding concerning electrical outages and transmission line switching duties with AFSCME.
  • Approved a note and mortgage with James and Ronda Reed at 1350 N 18th Ave E for $10,000 for a residential rehab loan.
  • Scheduled a public hearing for 5:15 p.m. on Aug. 20 for the vacation of Power Street.
  • Approved the appointment of Rita Koch to the Ely Tree Board.
  • Approved residential rehab loans for Danette Carlson, 132 E Boundary St., and Derek Jensen, 11 E James St., pending loan processing.

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