Oskaloosa City Council still confused about how to approach property issues
by Dennis Sharkey
After more than a year of effort the Oskaloosa City Council and Health Board still don’t know how they will move forward with resolving issues.
The main issue is having private citizens sign complaints against their neighbors. Councilman John Norman asked City Attorney Mike Hayes why Health Board members cannot sign complaints.
“If it needs to be documented and we need to go to court the people on the health board including my self and Kathy (Griffin) are more than happy to sign it,” Norman said.
Hayes would not comment specifically about the issue claiming that each case is different and the facts of each case need to be determined before a solution can be developed.
The current ordinance has a sequence of steps that must be taken in order for the process to be fair and legal according to Hayes.
The first step in the process is having two private citizens signing a complaint that is presented to the Health Board. However, Hayes said the complaint cannot come from the Health Board.
“Why can’t it be?” Norman asked. “We’re citizens.”
Hayes said any defense attorney would argue there is bias if the complaints were signed by the same board that is tasked with investigating the issue.
“There has to be a basis to begin the investigation,” Hayes said.
Once a complaint is made the City Health Officer Kelly Rockhold along with the Health Board investigates the complaint which includes documenting and photographing the situation.
The matter is then presented to the city council and they have the option of issuing a letter of compliance.
The entire issue has been a frustrating one for Norman. He indicated that maybe he and Griffin needed to be taken off the Health Board so they can sign complaints.
“I don’t know why two citizens who serve on the health board can’t be the ones who bring the complaint,” Norman said. “What does it matter?
“This pitting neighbor against neighbor isn’t working,” he added.
Norman also indicated that maybe the ordinance, which was rewritten in April, should be rewritten again.
“If the health board isn’t the complaining party then we need to change the ordinance,” Norman said.
Currently the Health Board is reviewing 13 properties in the city that either had yard and weed issues or other issues such as broken down vehicles. Many of the properties being investigated were also problems properties last year.
“We need to make a decision,” Norman said. “People are complaining and they want to know what is going on.”
One step the city will make is to send a city police officer over to the properties before a letter is sent.
Norman said steps have been taken this year to make sure that letters being sent are going to the property owners.
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