Royalton seeking to improve rental properties

By Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer

Prior to June, Royalton Police Chief Adam Gunderson handled rental inspections for the city. But when several issues with neglected rentals popped up, Gunderson didn’t have time to investigate.

“Those issues spurred the city to hire Nancy Scott as the rental inspector,” said Deputy Clerk Michelle Stevens.

Scott had already been the city’s building inspector for several years, as well as doing inspections for a number of cities including Rice, Foley, Clear Lake, St. Joseph, Rockville and Watab Township.

Scott added rental inspections to her slate of duties for the city in June, at the same time that the city increased rental inspections fees.

The fee schedule for rental property inspections is now $50 per unit for apartments and multi-family dwellings and $100 for single family residential dwellings.

The result of having a regular rental inspector has been increased focus on problem areas around Royalton.

In July and August, the City Council followed up on a property at 109 N. Cedar St. with issues that nearly led to its being condemned and demolished. The owner, Carly Winscher, has until Jan. 31, 2014 for the property to be brought up to code.

The non-repair of two  other properties owned by the same person came before the City Council, Tuesday.

Council members learned, through a report prepared by Stevens using information from Scott, that houses at 509 E. Centre St. and 635 N. Birch St. were found to have deficiencies in electrical wiring, plumbing, roof, windows and other safety items.

Letters listing the problem areas at the rental units were sent to Winscher June 27, but the city had not received a response. A second letter was sent to Winscher in August giving a deadline of Aug. 30 for reinspection of the dwellings. As of the Sept. 3 council meeting, no reinspection had been scheduled.

“The properties have been sold under contract for deed,” Winscher said. “My attorney, Peter Vogel, says that the contracts stand without being registered at the county.”

“A contract for deed is valid whether or not it has been recorded,” Vogel said.

Winscher said he was not notified that inspections of the properties were being made.

“According to the city, those are rental properties and that’s why they are being inspected,” Stevens said.

The condition of the rental units will be discussed and acted on at the next council meeting, Oct. 8.

Possible action includes revoking or suspending Winscher’s rental permits or the city having the work done and either billing Winscher or assessing the cost to his property taxes.

“We want to stay on top of things that are happening in our city,” said Mayor Andrea Lauer.

Royalton City Council Briefs:

Other business that came before the Royalton City Council Tuesday included:

• Approving a bid from Froggy’s Signs and Graphix, Little Falls, for lettering and striping of the new brush tanker not to exceed $1,800;

• Approving the attendance of two experienced firefighters at state fire school continuing education at a cost of $350 for both;

• Approving the extension of the garage door opener antennas on the fire hall’s four doors, enabling them to be used from inside the fire trucks. The cost will be $60 each for $240;

• Approving a fire truck pump repair at a cost of $1,000 for parts and labor;

• Approving an animal permit for up to four hens to Bruce and Cheryl Kloss, rather than the three hens and one rooster that were requested, due to past noise complaints regarding roostsers in the city;

• Approving a resolution establishing the 2013 proposed levy (payable 2014) at $220,634, down from $220,836 last year;

• Approving the proposed 2014 budget at $1.037 million for revenue and $1.012 million for expenses;

• Accepting a bid from Kramer Leas DeLeo (KLD) of St. Cloud to prepare legal descriptions and drawings of the Smieja land on North Birch Street for $500. KLD’s bid to establish block corners on North Driftwood Street between East Centre Street and North First Street was accepted for $850;

• Approving the designation of City Engineer Les Mateffy as client representative to KLD;

• Approving the final payment estimate of $16,048.05 to Burski Excavating for work on lift station upgrades, contingent upon receiving IC-134 forms from them;

• Approving the payment of the second half of a fee of $25,000 to SheerWind for research and proposal for use of wind turbines in Royalton. “If the proposal does not pay off, $25,000 will be refunded,” said Board Member Al Libke. A letter of continuing interest and support will also be sent to SheerWind;

• Approving three extra dogs for a total of five dogs for Missy Erickson, contingent on all dogs being licensed with the city, expiring on April 30, 2014; and

• Tabling the right of way ordinance for further revisions.

Public input on the city’s  noise ordinance will be taken at 7:15 p.m., Oct. 8.

Public input on the city’s fence ordinance will be taken at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8.

The next Royalton City Council meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m.