MARTINS FERRY — Martins Ferry City Council is discussing ways to deal with recurring property violations.
Mayor John Davies said the city has been fining the same people for the same property violations over the years.
He discussed introducing progressive fining, meaning that fines for property violations will increase with each offense.
“If we have progressive fining — say it’s a $100 fine this month, next month it’s $200, and then $500 and eventually $1,000 — eventually, one of two things is going to happen.
“They’re either going to clean it up or they’re not going to pay the fine and it becomes a tax issue,” Davies said.
Councilman Ben Neiman raised the issue by discussing a privately owned piece of land next to 420 N. Fifth St. He said the owner has been storing scrap metal and other debris on the property.
Davies said that property owner has been fined before. Davies said the owner cleans up the property about once a month but keeps bringing in more scrap metal.
Law Director Paul Stecker said the city has an ordinance stating that scrap cannot be openly stored in a residential area.
“It can’t just be sitting out,” he said.
Members of council questioned whether the property is in a residential area since it is in the same area as United Dairy.
“I think it’s commercial on one side of the street and residential on the other side,” Stecker replied.
Stecker said the city can still issue property violations regardless of whether the property is located in a residential or commercial area.
“If he doesn’t clean it up, then we can go in and clean it and charge him for it,” Stecker said. “The ordinance that we passed to allow us to go in and clean up the property means removing all rubbish and junk.”
President of Council Kristine Davis said city officials can discuss starting progressive fining at the next ordinance committee meeting.
In other news, Service Director Andy Sutak gave an update on the water plant repairs. He said all of the needed parts have been ordered and will arrive in four to 12 weeks.
“They have to build things specific to our plant. Our plant is an older plant. They don’t keep anything on a shelf,” Sutak noted.
He said that as parts come in, he will be able to better assess the progress of the $5 million upgrade.
Stecker also noted that the emergency medical service levy will need to be renewed in November. He said council can choose to place a five-year levy on the ballot or propose a continuing levy. He said a continuing levy would mean the levy would remain in place until council removes it.
“We’re probably always going to need the funds,” he said.
Stecker also noted that continuous levies are more difficult to pass.
“We initially tried that with the police levy, and it failed the first. It does make it harder to pass, and we only have one shot at it,” he said.
Sutak said he would like to put a five-year levy on the ballot for now.
“In another year or two we could replace it as a continuing,” he suggested.
Councilwoman Suzanne Armstrong made the motion to place a five-year EMS levy on the ballot for the Nov. 5 general election. All members of council voted in favor of the motion.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Spencer Echemann noted that he had attended the spaghetti dinner benefit for retired fire chief Thomas Kelly, who has cancer, on Saturday.
“There was a great crowd for that and a lot of good fun and fun interactions and meeting new people,” Echemann said.