Harrington council debates committee suggestions

HARRINGTON — As the city of Harrington continues to explore ways to spruce up the town and gain more interest in residents and businesses, Mayor Anthony Moyer said he thinks some may be going in the wrong direction.

Councilmember Amy Minner brought suggestions from the newly established Builders and Developers Committee to the council during its workshop Aug. 1 to include recommendations regarding driveway appearances and surface material.

She said the change has been requested to aid in the appearance of the city of Harrington and help maintain its equipment as driveways, such as those made with gravel, can often cause the street cleaners and other equipment to pick up stones and other damaging debris.

The proposed ordinance brought up for discussion states, “Any new or existing residential rental unit shall provide an adequate, improved parking area of asphalt, concrete, or pavers as required by this article within one year of the date the rental license is issued or within one year of the effective date of this ordinance, whichever is later.”

Mayor Moyer said this ordinance had several flaws including the time frame and those targeted by the requirements.

“I want to see it out to two years. That gives active leases time to expire and property owners time to budget this in,” he said. “If somebody has a home with an active lease on it, it’s too much of a financial burden.”

But, he said, that’s not the only problem. He would like the ordinance to include all single family dwellings, not only those used as rentals.

“Why are you not going after the homeowners? There are as many homeowners in this town that are, how shall we call it, pigs….,” he explained. “ You’re segregating out 50 percent of the populous of this city.”

Councilmember Eric Marquis suggested that homeowners “tend to take better care of their homes,” added that the majority of issues stem from rental units.

“Some people just look at it as a cash box,” he said.

Other councilmembers began to suggest keeping up with already existing maintenance codes through code enforcement, however the city is currently still looking to fill this vacant position.

A landlord himself, Mayor Moyer agreed that staying on top of code enforcement would help multiple problems around town, but asked for compassion for fellow landlords.

“All it takes is for that thing to go vacant for three months and it’s a bust that year. And then the city is wondering why they’re not getting their tax money,” he said. “ You cannot continue to break people. This is not going to clean it up. Ultimately it will, but if you break the bank to clean it up, it won’t work.”

He said senior members of the community are also at risk by this proposed ordinance whether they rent their homes out for additional income or rent a home themselves and can’t afford to have their rents raised should the landlord be asked to pay out additional money.

To help with the costs associated with such a requirement, Mayor Moyer suggested the city explore offering interest-free loans for those who can prove financial hardship.

“We have money in the bank. We can make very calculated risks,” he said. “You can’t keep hitting people and not offer them a solution.”

He also wondered if there was a way of shortening the length of the construction so homeowners do not need to alter the entire driveway.

For the mayor, however, the conversation continued to come back to one concept.

“Why do you guys always have to separate the homeowners from the renters? They’re the same people. You’re segregating because of someone’s ability to not own a home or choose not to own a home. I don’t think that’s right,” he said during the meeting.

Editor’s Note: This proposed ordinance could not be voted on as no voting takes place during workshop meetings. However, the proposed ordinance has since been taken back to the Builders and Developers Committee.

Council member pay

Council members also expressed concern over the way they are paid for their contributions to the city.

“The last paycheck we got I felt was shameful. One night, one meeting… max,” Mayor Moyer said.

The current policy states that each council member gets paid $50 per meeting, regardless of how many meetings are held in any given night.

Vice Mayor Duane E. Bivans said when he joined the council, he was told it was $50 per night regardless of the number of meetings. However, he acknowledged that’s not how the policy reads.

Mayor Moyer suggested a stipend of $1,200 per year per council member which would account for $50 twice a month, a nod to their current bi-weekly meeting schedule.

Speaking on the way they are currently paid, Councilmember Amy Minner said, “Who gets paid that much in this city? No one. It’s just not right.”

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