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Willmar council OK's amending code for exterior of residences

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- An ordinance amendment intended to speed up the process for resolving violations of the housing maintenance and exterior storage code was approved Monday by the Willmar City Council.

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The code sets maintenance standards for foundations, exterior walls, roofs, doors and windows of structures.

Exampl-es of violations in-clude peeling paint, missing sh-ingles, broken windows and doors.

Examples of exterior storage violations are unlicensed vehicles, garbage and trash.

The amendment was approved 6-0 after the council held a hearing to take comments from the public about the amendment. No one appeared to offer comment. The amendment will reduce the penalty for first-time ordinance violators from a misdemeanor to a petty misdemeanor. The amendment is an attempt to move these minor violations through the court system more efficiently, according to Bruce Peterson, director of city planning and development services.

Persons charged with a misdemeanor have the option of requesting a jury trial and a public defender, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

The courts have requested that the city reduce first-time violations to a petty misdemeanor. Persons charged with a petty misdemeanor do not have the option of a jury trial, but they may appear before a judge.

"The reason the amendment was proposed is to move these violations through the court system more efficiently by not allowing jury trials for misdemeanors,'' said Peterson. "It's the opinion of the city attorney (Rich Ronning) and staff and judges that these violations can be resolved more quickly and at a lower cost.''

Voting to approve the amendment were Steve Ahmann, Ron Christianson, Doug Reese, Rick Fagerlie, Jim Dokken and Tim Johnson. Denis Anderson and Bruce DeBlieck were absent.

Under Minnesota law, a petty misdemeanor is not actually a crime and carries a fine of no more than $100 ($200 in a few cases). A person charged with a petty misdemeanor is not entitled to a jury trial or public defender and there is no jail time.

Before the council approved the amendment, a violator charged with a misdemeanor faced a penalty of up to $1,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail.

In other business during the one-hour-and-20-minute meeting, the council approved the preliminary budget of $4,973,109 for the proposed western interceptor sewer line. The line would serve the western area of the city including the new industrial park.

Also, the council approved a routine resolution declaring the city's intent to reimburse itself for preliminary costs associated with the project. The council has in the past approved similar resolutions of intent to reimburse the city for preliminary expenses in the bonding portion of projects.

The sewer line is proposed to be financed by local option sales tax funds and a loan from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority. City Administrator Michael Schmit said the ratio of sales tax funds to loan funds has not been determined.

The council also:

- Received a report from Cathy Johnson, chair of the Willmar Community and Activity Center Council. Johnson and LeAnne Freeman, center recreation supervisor, were present at the request of Dokken to promote and market the center, formerly known as the Senior Center. They distributed brightly-colored postcards that summarized social, educational and recreational services and programs to enhance the quality of life for the community, with special focus on residents 50 years and over.

- Received the 2010 annual report of the Public Works Department from Holly Wilson, public works director.

- Set the assessment hearing for the 2011 street improvement program for 7:02 p.m. on May 16.

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