City Council holds firm on contractSecond housing lein brought to council inside about a month
The Washington City Council received another request to release a lien on a house at its meeting Tuesday night. The lien is for the home of Jeremy and Joanna Moser at 1103 E. Main St. The council voted to release the lien provided the homeowners pay the city $6,360.
The Mosers purchased the home with the help of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) loan of $12,720. The loan would be forgiven if they stayed in the home for 10 years. However, if they left the home or sold it to somebody else before those 10 years passed, they would owe $1,272 for every year they did not occupy it.
In the Mosers’ case, they bought the home in 2004 and began renting it out in 2009, occupying it for only five of the required 10 years.
When the councilors came to this agenda item, some of them were perplexed because they had just forgiven a CDBG loan to another homeowner at the Oct. 17 meeting. Councilor Merle Hagie wondered how many more CDBG loan recipients would come to the city asking for forgiveness.
The CDBG loan the city forgave in October belonged to Charles Perrin, formerly of 302 W. Jefferson St. Perrin lived in the home for seven years before moving into a nursing home and was faced with paying the city $5,000 on the remaining years of the contract.
Realtor Tim Zear, who was attempting to sell the house, said Perrin did not have the money to pay the city since his medical bills ate up all of his fixed income. He said he could not sell the house if the potential buyer had to cover the $5,000 lien.
Hagie said that Perrin’s loan was forgiven because of extenuating circumstances surrounding Perrin’s inability to pay and the fact that the lien was preventing the sale of the home. Hagie said Perrin’s case involved extenuating circumstances which allowed the city to forgive his loan, but he did not want to give loan recipients the idea the city would forgive every loan.
City Clerk Illa Earnest said the Mosers were not asking the city to forgive the lien, merely release it.
City Administrator Brent Hinson said that the practice of partially forgiving the loan 10 percent for each year the home is occupied is not explicitly spelled out in the contract, but it is standard practice.
Councilor Bob Shellmyer said the issue was “black and white.” He said the city simply had to look at when the Mosers moved out and charge them for the five remaining years on the contract.
“A handshake or a contract or whatever it is means something,” he said. “If we keep saying, ‘No, it didn’t,’ they’re going to have fun with us at the next meeting.”
The council also agreed to a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) development agreement with Insurance on the Avenue, managed by Ann Williams, who was in attendance at the meeting. The business is a block north of the square on North Iowa Avenue.
The TIF agreement calls for rebating the taxes Williams would pay on the improved portion of the property. One hundred percent of the taxes on the improved portion will be rebated for the first five years of the agreement, then 75 percent of the taxes on the next five years, then 60 percent on the final 10 years.
The council passed a resolution 4-1 approving the development agreement. Shellmyer voted against it and Russ Zieglowsky was absent. Hinson said there were three minor changes he and Williams would like to see in the agreement. He said he would consult with the bond attorney about changing them. The agreement was approved pending the three changes Hinson sought. Shellmyer didn’t like the idea of changing the agreement after the council approved it.
In other news, the council discussed buying a recycling trailer to put behind the library. Robert Luke of Luke’s Waste Management said the city could buy the trailer for $5,500, or Luke could buy it and then charge the city to use it. The council agreed that it should purchase the trailer.
Hagie said he wants the city to own the trailer so that it can maintain access to it even if the city changes trash pickup companies.
The council had earlier talked about moving the recycling trailer throughout the downtown from one alley to another. Shepherd said he’d prefer it to stay behind the library so that its location is predictable to the people who will use it.
Shepherd said the expense for the trailer is not so much an expense as it is an investment. He said the city has to reduce its tippage at the landfill, and encouraging people to recycle was one way to do that. He said he was “more than eager” to get the program under way.
Maintenance and Construction supervisor J.J. Bell addressed the council about what his department has done in the past year and what it hopes to do next year.
He said that the leaf vac has already gone around town three times this year, and that it will go around once more next week. He said the city will also pickup yard waste bags for the last time next week.
Bell hoped the council would consider purchasing a new street sweeper. The current one is 14 years old and Bell said it needs to be replaced. A new street sweeper costs about $175,000.
Hinson said that capital projects are the hardest thing to budget for since they are so large and since they vary from year to year. He said he will soon bring the council a schedule of capital expenses for the next five years.
Councilor Bob Shellmyer said he had heard rumors there were problems with the sewer camera. Bell said that they were true. He said the software the camera runs on is outdated and that the M&C workers have found problems with the tractor the camera sits on.
Hinson said the city may eventually have to return the camera to the seller and ask for a new one or something of equal value.
Shepherd said the true cost of the sewer camera is not just the $100,000 for the equipment and trailer but also the man-hours put into fixing it after it was purchased. Shellmyer agreed. He suggested the city could show its dissatisfaction with the camera by sending the seller a bill for all the time city employees have put into fixing it.