Some Oskaloosa councilmen concerned about weed ordinance
by Dennis Sharkey
Just weeks after approving a new ordinance for maintaining lawns some on the Oskaloosa City Council are still concerned.
Councilman John Norman made cleaning up the city a priority when he joined the council last year and pushed for the new ordinance. However, Norman still sees issues with the law.
Norman’s concerns center around the complaint driven process of the ordinance. Essentially the ordinance is not enforced unless a neighbor complains.Instead of waiting for a resident to complain Norman wants to see an officer of the city file the complaint. Norman said when neighbors complain against one another it can strain relationships.
“I really want to try to get away from neighbor complaining against neighbor,” Norman said at the council’s meeting on May 3. “It just creates bad relations and people live with that for years.”
City Attorney Mike Hayes told Norman that won’t happen.
“Anything with a criminal code the person who is the accuser has a constitutional right to confront their accuser,” Hayes said.
Norman appeared to be puzzled by Hayes’ assertion. Norman asked why the Health Board or Police Chief Rick Jones could not file the report.
“Even though (Jones) is the enforcer he’s not going to enforce the code unless somebody has a complaint?” Norman questioned.
Mayor Mike Paavola said anyone can make a complaint. Councilwoman Emily Malsbury followed by including Jones in the category of anybody.
Norman said the city needs a code enforcer.
“And that’s (Jones),” Malsbury said again.
Hayes told the council that a group cannot be a witness and then lectured the council on the duties of the police chief.
“That person then becomes a witness,” Hayes said. “(Jones) verifies what the complaining witness says.”
Paavola asked Hayes what happens if the council directs Jones over to the property. Hayes said he would put the complaining council members on the stand.
After the lecture Hayes went down a different path and began lecturing the council on the process of the weed ordinance. Hayes’ explanation of the ordinance seemed to contradict the process that he had already spent several minutes explaining.
Hayes explained that a complaint is first filed and then Jones investigates the complaint.
Another step that was not explained by Hayes is that pictures are then taken of the property by Jones or the city officer for proof of the alleged violation.
Hayes then explained that a letter is sent to the property owner. The owner has 10 days to abate the issue. At that point the city can abate the issue and add the costs to the property’s tax bill.
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