January 8, 2009

City looks at housing and more bar issues

Mel Zent, representing Dakota West Inspection Services in Dickinson, appeared before the Center City Council Monday night to ask what they want to do next concerning condemning vacant houses. The Center Housing Authority hired him last spring to inspect structures that were in disrepair.

"We put a lot of work into this project up to now. Our ducks are all in a row," Zent said. He checked 13 properties using the International Property Maintenance Code of 2006 which the council adopted last month as his guide. One of the buildings has been torn down, two have been worked on, and one is under new ownership.

Zent explained that property owners have 20 days to file an appeal on a condemnation. They can fix up the structure to get it up to code, but if they don’t appeal or make repairs they have 90 days to tear it down. Council member Dan Hagemeister commented that this is a bad time of year to finalize condemning property and said that this should be addressed again in the spring.

Council member Sandy Olin, who serves on the housing authority, said that although she would like to move forward, she feels that possibly another round of inspections should be done. Olin said that grant money may be available to help with removing condemned structures. She proposed to wait until she meets with the housing authority next Monday to decide this issue. However, the council agreed that another inspection should be done in April.

An issue the council decided needs quick action is fighting that has been taking place in the city’s bars. Mike Liffrig, Oliver County States Attorney, sent city attorney John Mahoney a letter stating his concern that fighting at the bars in town is becoming a serious problem.

In the letter Liffrig wrote, "This is a problem caused by the failure of the ‘bar owners’ to control their establishments and patrons. Not all bar owners are dropping the ball – some of them are handling the situation well. But some are just plain negligent."

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