August 8, 2012
City to vote on rental permit law soon
After recent public hearings, a few changes and years of debate, the city’s revised rental permit program could come up for a vote by next month, Mayor Brian Tobin said Tuesday.
“After three public hearings, we should have a law that is in the best interest of the community,” Tobin said.
The city Common Council held a public hearing last Wednesday on the permit program, but only two people attended. Tobin said the city could vote on the permit program at its Aug. 21 or Sept. 4 meetings.
The city has been working over the last few months to create a revised rental permit law requiring landlords to register all rental properties with the city and give code enforcement officers authority to inspect properties every three years.
A group of landlords sued the city two years ago, saying the law was unconstitutional because it infringed on Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Earlier this year, the city tweaked the law to remove portions that might have allowed code officers to conduct a warrantless search.
Officials also added new sections giving the city the right to revoke a landlord’s permit for unpaid taxes, water and sewer bills or code complaints, but those changes were deleted after landlords complained at a public hearing last month.
Landlord Steve Muka said at Tuesday’s public hearing that he did not see a problem with registering properties but worried about giving code officers too much authority.
He said the law could deter potential investors from buying properties in Cortland.
Another landlord, Jim Reeners, suggested a few minor changes to the law but said the city needs to move forward.
“The most important thing is to get it passed,” Reeners said.
Tobin said recent police raids of alleged methamphetamine labs on Lincoln and Maple avenues highlighted the need to have a rental permit program to keep tabs on rental houses in the city.
“It’s going to prevent some of the incidents we’ve seen,” Tobin said. “Having the units inspected on a regular basis will have an effect.”
He said registering properties and consistent inspections will also ensure the houses are not falling into disrepair.
Tobin hopes the recent changes will end the legal issues that have plagued the permit program.
In other business, Tobin and a few other aldermen said they would support adding security cameras on Main Street in light of a recent downtown assault that landed one man in critical condition at University Hospital in Syracuse.
Robert Miller, 25, was assaulted outside the Blue Frog Cafe on the corner of Main and Court streets on July 28.
Two city residents, Marcus Delige and Kaywon Pittman, have been arrested and charged in the case, and police have issued a warrant for another suspect, Antoine T. Brown.
Tobin said the city would likely need its taxpayers to fund the cameras through a fee, but did not know how much it would cost to buy and maintain the cameras.
Alderman Carlos Ferrer (D-6th Ward) said he would also look into adding cameras on Main Street.
“I really believe it could be a crime deterrent,” Tobin said.
Tobin said the council would discuss the plan with the City Police Department, which has been researching the idea for a few months.
Also Tuesday, city officials discussed the need for work at the city wastewater treatment plant. The plant needs new high-efficiency turbo blowers, air distribution valve actuators and system control package, said Chief Operator Bruce Adams.
Upgrading the wastewater equipment will save about $71,885 per year, Adams said, but will cost $480,000.
Adams said the project would be paid for with an unused 2006 wastewater bond.
He said the new equipment would essentially pay for itself through energy savings and will help the plant as it makes changes for Chesapeake Bay pollution control requirements.
State and federal officials have placed new regulations on wastewater treatment plants to reduce pollution and contamination into the Chesapeake Bay.
Adams will return to the council’s Aug. 21 meeting with a resolution to purchase the equipment.
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