A couple from LaPorte City brought some concerns over a local house they are rehabilitating to the City Council during Monday night’s proceedings.
Michael and Laura Bagenstos purchased a house at 322 Third Ave. N.W. two years ago, with the idea of renovating it and offering it for resale. They have paid the taxes on it during that time.
Mr. Bagenstos told the Council he has successfully renovated some homes in LaPorte City and saw the opportunity in Oelwein, so he wants to be part of creating better housing.
He told Mayor Brett DeVore and the Council that he has tried to comply with the numerous issues he has faced from the city’s housing development office. Among them was registering the house with the city or landlord association, and then a letter he received that proceedings had been started on the house as a vacant property in February 2019, even though he has been paying the taxes.
Bagenstos said a city tree removal operation ended up cracking the basement foundation. He produced paperwork that repair work has begun on that issue, but will take longer than the 60-day limit imposed by the city’s housing inspection code. Because of this, he said Jay Schekleton deemed the house a dangerous structure. But Bagenstos brought in a housing inspector from Cedar Rapids who confirmed that the house is not a dangerous structure and has signed paperwork for that issue as well.
“It’s unfair to treat people like this that have been paying taxes on property for two years and never lived in it,” Bagenstos told the Council. While he initially saw lots of possibilities to fix up and flip homes in Oelwein, he said his dealings so far with the housing development office have caused him and his wife to reconsider.
“What do I need to do? I won’t buy another house in town if this is the way I’ll be treated. I don’t need that aggravation,” he said.
The mayor took his phone number and said he would be calling him after he speaks with city staff.
Local landlords Ron Winter and Lee Buhr both had comments for the Council. Winter asked when City Hall is going to be open again. He said the city imposes timelines on getting projects done and he wants to give updates on what he is doing, but has trouble reaching people.
The mayor said City Hall is still closed to the public, but City Administrator Dylan Mulfinger offered that Winter can always email or call him and he will see that information gets to the right place.
Buhr told the Council he had visited with at least one Waterloo landlord and learned that Waterloo initiated a similar rental inspection program to Oelwein’s, but gave landlords a whole year to fix up problems. Buhr said they found they had more livable property for people than empty lots, perhaps suggesting that Oelwein’s inspection rules could be revised.
Later in the meeting, during the mayor’s report, DeVore addressed issues surrounding the city’s rental inspection department saying, “City employees need to stay focused on what their job is and not asking extraneous questions not related to their job duties. I think we need to be staying on task of the home inspections, while leaving more of what to look at. We’re coming into budget time in a couple of months. It may be time to take another look at this.”
In other action, the Council
Approved suspending the city’s noise ordinance for the Oelwein Homecoming Dance, which will be held outdoors on Friday, Sept. 25, 9:30-11:30 p.m.
Approved purchase of a 2007 International boom truck from Steffen Truck and Equipment, Inc., for $27,000
Approved the first pay request to Lodge Construction, Inc., for $76,966.48 for work completed on the Wings East pavement improvements project
Approved two funding recommendations from the Planning, Finance, Enterprise and Economic Development Committee for a house demolition and for the Oelwein Soccer Club
Tabled a task order with Fox Engineers for flood plain mapping services, saying they wish to see how many are interested in this service and then divvy up the cost
Approved the Mayor’s appointment of Lynda Payne to the Library Board and the Public Safety Committee; and appointment of Peggy Sherrets to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The city administrator reminded the Council that a goal-setting session will be held next week, prior to adjourning.