Residents react

HOUGHTON – Residents voiced concerns at Wednesday’s Houghton City Council meeting about letters informing them they were in violation of the city’s property maintenance code.

The city sent out letters to more than 100 residents Friday notifying them their property was in conflict with the International Property Maintenance Code, which the city had adopted in December. The letter cites section 304.2 of the code, which says exterior wood surfaces should be protected by paint or other protective coverings. Peeling, flaking or chipping paint should be eliminated and the surfaces should be repainted.

“The City is giving you until September 1, 2014, to correct this violation,” the letter said in part. “If for some reason you are not able to complete the work by September 1, 2014, please submit a plan as to when the work will be done. It is important to get this work done before you end up with a more serious and costly problem to fix.”

Residents were given 30 days to respond to the letter.

It drew a negative response from residents Wednesday on tone and substance.

Buck Foltz, who received one of the letters about siding on his house, called it “the most callous, elitist, piece of garbage I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“A conversation starts between two reasonable people, not with this kind of thing,” he said. “I expected better. I’m tempted to put a sign in my yard and find someplace that’s not dividing the community, but rather pulling it together.”

Resident John Reynolds said he had acquired his home from his elderly parents, who couldn’t afford to fix it. He said he would need to sell the house in order to repair it.

City Manager Eric Waara said staff was hoping to start working with residents who had questions about the letter.

“The letter was put together and sent out, and we’re hoping that it can incite some discussion, because the list was so long,” he said. “I would say call in and talk to the code people to go through this.”

Waara said it had been decided that talking to residents on an individual basis would have put the city too far into the year to allow for work to be done.

Reynolds said many of the residents, especially those who couldn’t afford to pay, were worred because the consequences of a violation are not being spelled out.

Waara said the open-ended nature of the letter was intentional.

“The hope is that people will call and we can incite a discussion on how we can move forward and come up with a plan, whether it’s doing something right away, or doing something next year, but at least get the ball rolling forward,” he said.

In other action, the council:

heard public comments and letters from business owners concerned about a Michigan Technological University food truck that had been parked outside the Lakeshore Center Wednesday. Business owners said the university was unnecessarily competing with local businesses.

heard from 5th & Elm owner Frank Fiala about his desire for greater snow removal in front of businesses during the winter.

scheduled public hearings for the 2014-15 budget and capital improvement plan for June 11.

heard a report from Department of Public Works Supervisor Mark Zenner. As winter parking hours are over, people should be parking on the streets rather than sidewalks. Crews fixed water leaks by St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church and behind Copper Country Mental Health. Crews are also out sweeping again.

heard a report from Police Chief John Donnelly. Since the previous meeting, there had been four misdemeanor arrests, 13 civil infractions, two city tickets and 119 calls.

heard a downtown report from consultant Susie Landers. She said she is expecting a new business in downtown on July 1. Landers said The Yummy Bar would likely have its wine section open some time in June.

approved a service charge in lieu of taxes for the PK Forest Park Apartments Housing Development.

approved continuing group health insurance coverage, but not providing pension contribution or other benefits, during Family Medical Leave Act qualified leave.

scheduled a public hearing for June 25 on an amendment to the Development and Tax Increment Finance Authority Plan of the Downtown Development Authority. Additional improvements include a water extension to southern TIFA parcels, which will include $20,000 of work this summer; and a culvert at the intersection of Sharon Avenue and Ridge Road, a $375,000 project scheduled for 2017.

approved purchasing 36 picnic tables for the Ray Kestner Waterfront Park for $10,076. The money will be taken from the TV/Franchise Fund.

approved a rental hearing license for 608 Seventh Avenue for June 11.