Posted on

Greenwood Council will enforce building permit rules; denies liquor license

The city of Greenwood will begin soon to enforce its ordinance that requires residents to obtain building permits prior to starting construction/remodeling projects of greater than $1,000.

Mayor Jim Schecklman raised the issue at the City Council’s July 15 meeting, saying that it has become commonplace for residents to complete construction projects without obtaining a building permit. While the city has an ordinance in place that requires such permits, it contains no provision, he said, for penalties against those who do not comply.

“There’s really no repercussions with this,” Schecklman said. “I feel it’s ridiculous that people can’t get building permits, especially repeat offenders.”

City Attorney Bonnie Wachsmuth said the city, in fact, has a penalty provision contained in its building codes. She said a violation of the permit ordinance is subject to the city’s general penalties provision, and could net a citizen a fine of $25-$100 for a first offense, and $50-$1,000 for a second offense.

Those dollar amounts are not the full cost of a citation, however. For example, Wachsmuth said, a fine of $30 equates to $175.30 after various court costs are added.

Schecklman said the city should begin to take action against those who do not obtain a permit. The city’s building inspector is the one who issues them, and should report a situation when a resident is involved in a project without obtaining one.

“We have a problem with this,” Schecklman said. “It’s been going on since I’ve been mayor and probably long before that ... I would imagine we have several a year, honestly.”

The city’s current ordinance calls upon the building inspector to notify the City Council and the attorney of a violation, and they would then direct the police department to issue a citation. Wachsmuth will bring a proposed change to an upcoming Council meeting to amend that policy so the building inspector could go straight to the police department for a possible citation.

Schecklman said enforcement of the ordinance might make more people aware of the requirement to get a permit, but Wachsmuth said that’s already common knowledge.

“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t know you have to get a building permit to build something,” she said.

Schecklman said he expects word will travel fast when someone does get fined for violating the ordinance.

“This will be a hot topic when the first one comes through, I’m sure,” the mayor said.

In other business at its July 15 meeting -- which was held electronically via Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic -- the Council voted 3-1 against giving its last available liquor license to Chelsie’s Grill owner Louann Hanson. Hanson recently applied for the license so she could sell liquor at her place of business on Main Street.

Each city is allowed only so many such licenses, based on population, and the city has only one open that it can grant to an applying business. In the case of Chelsie’s Grill, however, it’s a business that is only open seasonally, and the Council decided it should hold on to the license in case a new full-time business would want it.

“I don’t like the idea of giving that away for (a seasonal business),” Schecklman said. “You are really limiting the potential of another business coming in ... You certainly won’t be able to attract anyone if you have no liquor license.”

Hanson already has a license to sell beer and wine, but the liquor license would also allow her to sell harder alcoholic beverages.

Wachsmuth said issuance of a license is permanent, unless a holder violates some provisions of city ordinances.

If Hanson was given the license, Wachsmuth said, “She automatically owns it as long as she renews it. You can’t just deny it the next year because you decide you want it back.”

Council member Tracy Nelson said she agreed with the mayor.

“I just think we’re tying up a license that could potentially bring a new business to town,” she said.

The Council voted 3-1 to deny the application, with Nelson, Ryan Ashbeck and Chuck Susa voting against it. Doug Schlough voted against denial.

The Council also engaged in discussion regarding how the city will handle future public health risks related to the coronavirus. The city learned recently that one of its employees may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus, and Schecklman said the “potential scare” warrants a discussion of city policies.

“We’re in the clear for now but that’s probably a good warning for us, or a learning experience,” he said.

Schecklman said the city should have a means of protecting employees from each other, as well as from the public. In the recent case, even though it turns out the employee was not exposed, had they been it could’ve been spread to everyone on the small city staff.

“We could’ve potentially wiped out the bulk of our city employees,” Schecklman said.

City Hall has been closed to the public since spring, but employees are not required to wear masks. Police Chief Bernie Bock said he will wear a mask when entering a home if asked by the homeowner, but otherwise does not.

“If we’re not wearing commercial grade masks, I don’t see that it’s doing any good,” Bock said.

Nelson said the staff should use common sense.

“If you’re coming into City Hall, you should probably wear a mask,” she said. “If you have symptoms, definitely just don’t come in.”

Bock also said city employees should protect others with common sense practices.

“Do the right thing,” he said. “If you’re feeling off, stay home.”

Susa said the staff needs to take precautions and practice safety to make sure the city can remain in operation for its residents.

“As a city, we have to make sure we have good continuity, that we can continue providing a service,” he said.

The Council also: -- Approved a $6,395 purchase of a new sewer camera for televising underground lines to inspect for problems.

-- Approved a $4,936 expense for an electrical upgrade of a sewer lift station on West Miller Street.

-- Approved an approximate expense of $2,900 to buy new LED Christmas lights for Main Street decorations.