Kulset sees new ordinance as tool to curb graffiti

WILLMAR -- Willmar Police Chief Jim Kulset says his department will use a new ordinance as a tool to curb the spread of graffiti on public and private property.

WILLMAR -- Willmar Police Chief Jim Kulset says his department will use a new ordinance as a tool to curb the spread of graffiti on public and private property.

"I think it's a positive step forward. It will be a tool that we will use good discretion in using,'' said Kulset of the graffiti ordinance enacted by the City Council Monday night.

Kulset said many metropolitan cities have graffiti ordinances. He didn't know how many rural cities have such ordinances, but he said two rural cities have asked him about Willmar's ordinance.

"I think, clearly, if they're inquiring of us, then they're seeing the problem,'' he said. "I don't think it's a phenomenon isolated just to Willmar.''

The ordinance defines graffiti as any inscription, word, figure, painting or other defacement that is written, etched, scratched, sprayed, drawn or painted on the surface of public or private property.


The ordinance defines markers, paint and other devices as graffiti implements, and prohibits the possession of spray paint, markers or both by children under age 18 without a parent or custodial guardian present or without written permission.

The ordinance holds parents criminally responsible for damages caused by their children under age 18, and violators may be subject to civil penalties as well.

Also, the ordinance requires property owners to remove graffiti as soon as practical from their property.

"At least this is a mechanism to get it off private property,'' he said "Almost always the property owner is good about getting it off private property. Sometimes we have property owners that we struggle with, usually an absentee property owner or one who doesn't (care).''

Kulset thinks the removal requirement is timely because the council has been talking about blighted property for a couple years, and the council has been discussing the increasing graffiti problem for the past few months.

The ordinance grew out of discussion of graffiti-fighting options presented by the chief to the council's Public Works/Safety Committee. The committee directed City Attorney Rich Ronning to draft an ordinance.

Kulset said council members were probably hearing from the public about the problem and the chief said he knew there were some downtown people that were interested in coming up with an ordinance that would require property owners to remove graffiti in a timely manner.

During a public hearing Monday night, Beverly Dougherty of the downtown Willmar Design Center said the center supports the ordinance. No one else spoke in favor or opposition.


During discussion, council member Ron Christianson repeated his opposition to the ordinance. He favors consequences for offenders. He said it's not right to hold the parents responsible, and he disagreed with the requirement that a person under 18 must have written permission to possess graffiti implements.

He offered a motion to remove the section making parents or guardians responsible for the acts of their children, but the motion died for lack of a second.

The ordinance was approved 6-1 with council members Cindy Swenson, Denis Anderson, Bruce DeBlieck, Rick Fagerlie, Jim Dokken and Steve Gardner voting in favor. Christianson voted against.

In other business, the council gave preliminary approval to eight proposed revisions to the findings of fact used by the Planning Commission where applicable to approve a conditional use permit.

The council directed the commission to study revising the findings of fact. The commission worked on the revisions for the past four months.

Council members asked if approval Monday night meant the revisions were adopted.

Ronning said the council's approval does not circumvent the ordinance process.

"It's simply a message to the Planning Commission that you're satisfied preliminarily with where it's at right now, so they know they should proceed to do what they do when there's going to be a change in the zoning ordinance,'' he said.


The council also:

- Adopted an ordinance authorizing the city to issue $87.2 million in general obligation bonds to finance construction of the new wastewater treatment plant and conveyance system. Construction bids will be opened July 31.

- Received a report on work being done to finalize the service territory agreement and compensation model between the Willmar Municipal Utilities and the Kandiyohi Power Cooperative. The report was presented by Bob Bonawitz, president of the Municipal Utilities Commission, and Bruce Gomm, utilities general manager.

- Approved the preliminary plat of Terraplane Estates, a planned unit development consisting of 33 lots with 24 units of four-plexes, 6 units of three-plexes, and 6 lots set aside for future development. The development, proposed by Gimse Brothers and Chad Monson of Willmar, is located east of 24th Street Southeast and west of 25th Street Southeast.

- Received updates on the activities of the Willmar Area Food Shelf and Let's Go Fishing program.

- Approved a $21,000 landscaping bid from I&M Landscaping of Willmar for the airport's static display of the F-14 jet fighter.

- Urged the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to approve permits for transmission lines to bring electricity from the proposed Big Stone II power plant in South Dakota to Willmar and other parts of Minnesota.

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