Council wants fee schedule
When the Washington City Council was discussing the proposed rental inspection ordinance during a special meeting Tuesday evening, it became obvious that a sticking point was that no proposed fee schedule had been seen.
Over 17 people spoke for over 90 minutes during the public comment time offered at the beginning of the session. Most of the speakers were in favor of the ordinance and some believed that the ordinance needed to make more requirements of landlords. During the meeting, several of the speakers, mostly landlords, wanted to know how much the fees for the proposed rental registry and rental inspections would be.
“I would like to have it based on what the program actually costs to implement,” City administrator Brent Hinson said. “I’d like to have the fees based on something.”
He said that Washington would probably charge a similar amount to what other cities Washington’s size are charging.
The council felt it wasn’t ready for a first reading of the ordinance to be during the Sept. 2 meeting. Hinson said that he would not be able to get cost estimates before next week’s meeting. City council member Bob Shepherd said that the cost of the program could be a “deal-breaker.” Hinson said that if the cost estimates were gathered, the Sept. 16 meeting would be the next time the issue could be discussed, making the first reading during the Oct. 7 meeting, at the soonest.
Hinson said that he has examples of fee schedules from other communities that he would provide the council. Shepherd said that a “ball-park” figure could help the council decide if it should move ahead with the ordinance.
Shepherd and council member Bob Shellmyer both said they wanted a companion ordinance listing the fee costs to be examined at the same time as the first reading of the rental ordinance.
“I think that we owe the landlords a fee chart,” Shellmyer said.
During discussion, Hinson said that much of the proposed ordinance was taken from Creston’s rental inspection ordinance. Creston Fire Chief Todd Jackson said today that Creston doesn’t charge anything for standard inspections. He said that if the fire department, which conducts the rental inspections, has to go back or has to do a special inspection, there is a $25 fee.
Mayor Sandra Johnson said that the substance of the ordinance is the provisions and not the fee schedule.
Council member Kathryn Salazar, who had chaired the subcommittee that drafted the proposed ordinance, said that she wanted to know if the council could approve the ordinance as it is or with a small amount of revision, or if she should call additional meetings of the subcommittee to continue working on it. A consensus of the council said that the ordinance is acceptable, but the fee schedule was needed.
The council also discussed the possibility of having the first reading of the proposed property maintenance ordinance during the Sept. 2 meeting. Johnson said the maintenance code was the basis for the rental inspection code.
“I think that would get us moving down the road,” Salazar said.
Both ordinances were based on a presentation given July 2013 by the former housing task force, which was tasked to determine problems with housing in the city.