SIKESTON - City Council members agreed to "fine tune" a proposed amendment to property maintenance codes after hearing concerns from citizens.
Concerns voiced by citizens attending Monday morning's City Council meeting were mainly focused on the change which would make it unlawful to have unregistered vehicles on property outside of garages, although a few residents took issue with sentencing code violators to weekend jail time.
One citizen said he agrees the city needs to be cleaned up, "but I don't think anyone has to go to jail."
"We're not against the city in their cleanup effort," was a comment made by several citizens and many seemed to agree with one person's statement that the amendments are "a little heavy handed," suggesting public meetings be held before either a first or second reading.
Doug Friend, city manager, said the amendment is a response to concerns expressed in town hall meetings and is part of the city's "effort to create 'zero tolerance' on property maintenance," particularly targeting tall weeds, junk and trash, and abandoned vehicles.
Friend said the amendment removes the requirement for a warning letter or personal contact before citations. Both the renter and owner will receive a summons and may be subject to fines, jail time or both, he said.
"They both have to appear," Friend said, explaining this should prevent a lot of the "finger pointing."
Friend said staff is also looking into adding an additional court day just to address property maintenance violations.
Sue Rogers, Council member, asked about providing for landlords who are trying to get something done, but are unable to make headway with or evict in a timely matter a problem renter.
Most of the discussion, however, was on the part of the amendment related to unlicensed vehicles outside of garages. Presently residents are allowed to have one unregistered vehicle.
Citizens seemed to agree that while they want junk cars removed, they are "totally against" the ban on unregistered cars.
Under the amended ordinance, any unregistered vehicle outside a garage is in violation, and once a car is posted with a warning, "if it's not removed in seven days, it's towed," Friend said.
Friend said while some junk vehicles may have sat for years without action from the city, "it's a new day now and we're going to clean the town up."
Councilman Michael Harris asked if the city has tried to enforce current codes. "It hasn't been enough," Friend said.
Harris said that not everybody has garage, and the amendment would make it so that only those with garages will be privileged to own unlicensed vehicles.
"Not everybody can afford to license a vehicle they aren't using," said one resident.
One resident said he believes the present code, if enforced, would take care of the junk cars. He also suggested scenarios in which a resident may get a new car and want to sell his old one without keeping the registration current, or where a family member is going to be overseas in the military for a couple of years and would leave their unregistered vehicle in the driveway. "It's not junk, just unregistered," he said.
Another citizen said he would like to purchase a vehicle when he can afford it to give to his daughter, but doesn't see why he should have to register it until she is ready to drive it.
Still another resident said he has a 1936 classic automobile under his carport that he doesn't care to register.
Residents also asked about the definition of a garage: Does a carport with one wall suffice? Or what about a garage without a door so it is open in the front?
Trey Hardy, community redevelopment coordinator, said that many of the ideas in the proposed amendment were his and that he welcomes the feedback.
He explained the measures were suggested so the city could "start with a big stick and whittle it down from there" based on dialogue with the community.