By DAVID GREEN
Morenci has had a rental inspection plan in force for several years, but discussion by city officials Monday suggested that inspections should be included whenever any residential property changes hands.
If council moved in that direction, Morenci would join many other communities in requiring an inspection of owner-occupied homes before a new owner moves in. Currently, only rental inspections are required every five years.
Fire chief Chad Schisler said there are times when the department responds to a fire and notices unsafe conditions. An inspection could help prevent fires, he said.
Building inspector Kevin Arquette agreed, noting that serious house fires have occurred in owner-occupied homes. Sometimes the installation of smoke detectors would make the difference.
The topic arose through council’s continuing discussion about landlords that offer homes for sale or for rent. When sold on a land contract, there’s no rental inspection.
A proposed ordinance discussed last month would call for the inspection of homes bought through a land contract when the transaction was not recorded in the county deeds office.
When recorded, said city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder, the property can be claimed for homestead credit. People tend to take more stake in ownership when the deed is recorded, she said, and there are fewer problems with unpaid water bills.
City treasurer Crystal White noted that new land contracts are sometimes written several times in a year for the same property.
Mayor Keith Pennington suggested creating a form that would require signatures from both parties stating who is responsible for paying taxes and the water bill, but White noted that renters typically change without city hall knowing of the situation.
Arquette said when there’s a compliance issue relating to a land contract sale, the resident sometimes backs away from the contract issue. When that person learns he or she will be responsible for a repair, for example, Arquette has been told that it’s not really a land contract or that the person doesn’t really intend to buy the house.
Arquette said he was called to a home Monday about a complaint that involved an eviction.
“He gave me right of entry and within half an hour this house was condemned,” Arquette said.
A basement wall was held in place by the furnace and utilities were located along the wall that was caving in. A portion of the roof was supported by posts.
Without the occupancy transfer, the problems would have been missed, he said, and the potential for injury was great.
“We don’t know how many more of those there are that we haven’t been in,” Arquette said.
Council voted to table the issue pending further discussion.
PLANNERS—Several vacancies exist on Morenci’s planning commission. Anyone interested in serving should contact Schroeder at city hall. The group is scheduled to meet once a month.
BEER TENT—Council voted 6-1 to approve an alcohol permit for the Morenci Eagles regarding sales at the Town and Country Festival.
Chief Weeks said there were no significant problems from last year’s event and he had no reason to turn down the application.
Sales will start at noon this year rather than at 5 p.m. This could help funnel softball players into one location at the back of the park where the tent is located, Weeks said, and help prevent drinking in other areas of the park.
Mayor Pennington opposed the application.
POLL BOOK—Council approved the use of an electronic poll book that will be used for the first time in August. A laptop computer will be provided by the state and the city must agree to an annual $87 service agreement. At least four people will be trained in the use of the book.
LICENSE—Council voted 5-2 to approve a transfer of the Morenci Deli’s SDM liquor sales license to an individual from Plattsburg, N.Y. Chief Weeks reviewed the request and recommended approval, pending fingerprinting and background check.
Pennington and council member Robert Jennings voted against the transfer.
CAMERA—Council approved the purchase of a sewer camera at a cost of $10,125, however, a $4,500 grant helped cover the price.
LOAN—Mayor Pennington told councilors that the county revolving loan fund is now available for commercial enterprises. The program could help a business that is expanding its facility or purchasing equipment that will lead to an increase in employment.