by Logan Gruber
At the July 27 Sauk Rapids City Council meeting, the council voted to set the fees for the property-maintenance ordinance that has been discussed recently. Fees will be set at $100 for the first violation, $300 for the second violation and $600 for the third violation. Repeat offenders within two years will receive a $600 fine. The fee to appeal the citations is set at $100.
Fees would only be applied after two letters have been sent. The first letter would arrive, and a resident would have 30 days to contact staff to clean up the property. If that resident hasn’t contacted staff within 30 days, a second letter would be sent. The resident would have two weeks to respond to the second letter. If the resident still hasn’t responded, then he or she would receive a citation and be assessed their first fine. A citation would arrive every two weeks if the city isn’t contacted by the homeowner, up to a total of three citations. After that point, the city would then take the resident to court. During the May 26 city council meeting, Sauk Rapids Police Chief Perry Beise said only twice in seven years has the city taken someone to court over an issue like this.
According to Sauk Rapids Community Development Director Todd Schultz there are currently seven property owners who have received letters. All seven are working on their issues with the city. Schultz said most properties were identified by resident complaints submitted to the city.
“It’s never been that staff have been going out and identifying properties,” Schultz said.
The council has clarified in the past that the ordinance is not just about grass; it’s about problem properties, with many issues such as junk vehicles and other items in the yards. Schultz said the properties with problems currently are mostly those with vehicles in inappropriate locations or with issues with the structures on the property.
A public hearing was held during this council meeting, but no residents wished to address the council on the fee issue.
Regular city council meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of the month in the council chambers at the Sauk Rapids Government Center, 250 Summit Ave. N., except for the Aug. 10 meeting, which has been cancelled. These meetings are open to the public, and a public hearing for any topic a citizen might want to speak about before the council is held near the beginning of every meeting. The meetings are also broadcast live on the city’s cable access channel, Charter Channel 181. Agendas and meeting minutes may be viewed at the Government Center or online at ci.sauk-rapids.mn.us.