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Village scraps dilapidated property ordinance

BELMONT — Village Council decided to discard an ordinance aimed at abatement of hazardous buildings in the village, opting instead to use the Ohio Revised Code to go after property owners who allow structures to deteriorate and become unsafe.

At the request of Mayor Ron Woods and council, Village Solicitor T.J. Schultz had drafted the ordinance. He used as a guide one that has been successful in the nearby village of Barnesville to abate dangerous structures while giving the village the means of recovering money spent to do so through tax liens.

While the first two readings of the ordinance took place during the February and March council meetings, it was revealed April 1 that Fire Chief Bob Mills, who would be responsible for determining which structures met the criteria outlined in the ordinance, was uncomfortable with the legislation due to liability concerns. During that council meeting, Mayor Woods said officials had since learned there already are provisions in Ohio Revised Code that essentially allow villages to do what the proposed legislation would have, including recouping costs through tax liens.

Council President Mike Murphy said after a meeting with Mills that he no longer felt the proposed ordinance was the right way to fix the problem.

“The more that I’ve dug into it and the more I’ve read about it, I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Murphy said.

Schultz agreed, saying the village of Fairview, which he also serves as solicitor, recently used the ORC to get a structure torn down.

“It worked seamlessly,” he said.

Murphy said that as he understood it, legislation would be needed so they could “piggyback” on the ORC, which would ultimately allow the village to administer the process through its own Mayor’s Court.

Councilman Shaun Bruce said he was OK with dropping the ordinance, but was adamant that he wants Mills, who was not at Thursday’s meeting, to start taking the necessary steps to get dilapidated structures either fixed or torn down.

Woods said two property owners already had been contacted by Mills and that they were working to comply with the orders to fix their structures.

Woods also informed council that after the community cleanup day takes place on May 8, he and Police Chief Andrew Miller are going to start notifying residents who haven’t yet removed “junk” from their yards. Citations will be issued for those who fail to comply.

“We’ve given them plenty of opportunity and they’re going to get plenty of notice that they need to get that stuff cleaned up,” he said.

Concerning the eventual reopening of the Belmont Gymnasium for rental use, Woods said the village received no applications for a new Gym Attendant position, who would be responsible for opening and closing the gym as well as cleaning and sanitation between rentals.

It eventually was decided to relist the position. In the meantime, the village will start taking reservations for the gym with council members agreeing to coordinate the opening, closing and cleaning among themselves. Bruce volunteered to come in and check the schedule daily and make the needed calls to the others.

Council approved Woods’ appointment of Mitch Bartels as a cemetery trustee and discussed the need to have a policy and procedures in place to handle indigent burials in the village.

After Schultz said there had been no progress with the village of Bethesda in the renegotiation of the contract between the villages for the use of the street sweeper they purchased together, council authorized him to draft a new contract himself and then go from there.

Schultz also informed council there still is no usage agreement in place for a pavement roller purchased collectively by Belmont, Bethesda and Goshen Township. He suggested that he and Woods, along with Bethesda Mayor Samantha Burkhead, attend the next Goshen Township Board of Trustees meeting.

Department of Public Affairs President Ken Davis informed council that village wells had supplied 100 percent of the water used in the village during March and that he was looking to schedule a water tank cleaning and inspection that would require that the tank be drained.

Council also passed an ordinance establishing a records retention policy, suspending the rules that require ordinances be read three times in order to get the required ordinance on the books.

Woods also announced that former mayor Stan Sobel, who died in December after a long battle with cancer, had arranged for the purchase of prizes for the village Easter egg hunt, which was held April 3.

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