Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 22, 2014

Council discusses nuisance ordinance

By David Hotle | Aug 06, 2014

The manner in which nuisance complaints are given to the city was discussed Tuesday evening during the regular Washington City Council meeting. The council determined the best way people can report nuisance violations is to call city hall at 653-6584.
During the meeting, building and zoning administrator Steve Donnolly discussed a list of complaints he had received over the last month. He said that he receives about 50 nuisance complaints each month. He said that he tries to take care of the problems in the best manner possible.
“I think we are moving in the right direction,” he said. “When they come in we do the best we can with what we have. I know sometimes people don’t think we are moving as fast as we can, but in July we had 49 complaints.”
The Council will hold a work session on Tuesday to begin examining proposed changes to the nuisance codes. During the meeting city administrator Brent Hinson said that the proposed code is not up on the city’s Web site yet. He said that the city hopes to have the code up for public examination before the end of the week. The council also approved hiring a 20-hour per week worker to focus on nuisance codes.
Council member Bob Shellmyer said that he had been giving a sheet to people who had made nuisance complaints to him. The sheet contains the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of the council members, mayor and Donnolly. Shellmyer said that three of the council members’ phone numbers aren’t listed on the city’s Web site.  The sheet also requests people with complaints register them with the building and zoning department. If, after a reasonable amount of time, the citizen is not satisfied with the results, the citizen is advised to contact the ward’s council member and the two at-large council members. The sheet also recommends the citizen ask that the concern be discussed at the next council meeting and asks the citizen or a representative to be present.
“Are you really suggesting that with our review committee we can’t move fast enough that you want to take six councilors and talk about every grass complaint?” Mayor Sandra Johnson asked.
“I guess I am suggesting that,” Shellmyer said. “Over the last 10 years the situation has gone downhill pretty rapidly.”
Council member Bob Shepherd said that he had received many calls that involve “misinterpretation” of the codes. He said that the city needed to be cautious about handling complaints.
“We are addressing problems and making progress,” he said.
Hinson said that some of the issues aren’t “black and white.” He said that sometimes it takes time to work through them. He also said that sometimes people can be contacted once and the situation is corrected.
He said that one possibility the city is considering is to create an area to store junk vehicles near the wastewater treatment plant.
The council asked Donnolly to bring a report of nuisance complaints once per month.
In other business, the council:
• endorsed allowing the Washington Chamber of Commerce to register to possibly be one of the stops on RAAGBRAI next year;
• approved an engineering services agreement for Highland storm sewer phase 3;
• approved the purchase of a used dump truck for $20,000;
• held a public hearing on loan and disbursement for $73,000 for water tower planning and design;
• endorsed an application for grant funds for the historic preservation commission;
• approved closing the payment process for the 2014 seal coat project;
• approved the third reading of an ordinance amending the ATV codes; and
• approved the third reading of an adult entertainment regulation.

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