WATERVILLE — City councilors Tuesday night weren’t ready to approve a proposed ordinance dealing with vacant buildings and instead voted 7-0 to delay a decision until their next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 4.

The proposal, which Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, and others have worked on since last spring, is designed to help identify, manage and respond to problems associated with vacant buildings, address health and safety concerns, hold building owners accountable for ensuring they are kept clean and safe and provide people with prompt contact with police, fire and code enforcement officials if problems arise.

The proposal requires building owners to get vacant building registration permits for the time the buildings are vacant.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said the proposed ordinance would supplement Maine law regarding vacant buildings, and the main reason for having it is to reduce blight. He said he has had many discussions with constituents about dangerous properties, foreclosed buildings and commercial buildings that pose a danger to children. People also are concerned that the properties devalue neighboring ones.

“This ordinance would help protect that and have teeth to it,” Mayhew said.

Other area cities and towns are passing such ordinances, which also provide revenue, according to Mayhew.

“I definitely support a vacant-building ordinance,” he said.

He added that the city probably would need more people to enforce it. Stubbert, meanwhile, said he had spoken with City Solicitor William Lee, who recommended some changes to the proposal. Delaying a vote would allow the council more time to review the proposal, come up with questions and make suggestions for modifications, Stubbert said.

“Probably what we ought to do is table it and then debate it at the first meeting in November,” he said.

Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, said she supports adopting such an ordinance. She cited a blighted apartment building on Gold Street that kept changing hands while the city struggled to get the owners to deal with the problems, then finally tore it down. An ordinance would help the city enforce rules about vacant buildings, she said.

“This is a long time coming, and the council should absolutely support this 100 percent,” she said.

Stubbert said he and others do not think Code Enforcement Officer Garth Collins would have time to enforce the proposed ordinance, and building owners would be volunteering to comply in the beginning. When budget time rolls around, the council should consider budgeting for a second code enforcement officer, he said. A second code enforcement officer position was in the budget this year, but it was cut. Stubbert reiterated that the ordinance proposal would require building owners to pay permit fees.

But Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, advised caution before approving an ordinance and asked whether Collins had had a chance to give input on the proposal.

“Who in their right minds is going to voluntarily pay $250 for a vacant property?” Bushee asked.

She said Collins is overtaxed, and it would be beneficial for the ordinance to be done correctly.

In other matters Tuesday, the council and Mayor Nick Isgro recognized Connie and Ray Winship and Sue Morrill for their work with the Universalist Unitarian Church’s Evening Sandwich Program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Isgro read aloud a mayoral proclamation about the program, and the trio received a standing ovation.

The council also voted to appoint Cynthia Pearl as the new civil constable with a term to expire Oct. 20, 2016, and approved up to $20,000 to prepare design and engineering specifications for the eventual construction of a river walk at Head of Falls.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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