Possible need for zoning compliance officer is debated

    Does the City of Decatur need a hired hand to enforce its zoning laws? That question came up at this week's city council meeting and became the subject of a discussion.
    Councilman Matt Dyer sparked the question when said the plan commission had talked earlier in the day about getting the city cleaned up for the 175th anniversary celebration in August. The question also was raised, Dyer said, about who would do the enforcing: the plan commission or the city.
    Mayor John Schultz said Zoning and Building Director Roger Gage currently handles such matters, "but he has a lot of his plate. So should we hire someone? Maybe someone part-time?"
    City Attorney Tim Baker said, "What it boils down to is urging the public to do so (sprucing up properties)."
    "Ninety percent of them do now," Schultz added. "But you always have a few. We probably should take a look at it (enforcement procedures) in the future."
    Councilman Charlie Cook pointed out that current enforcement can be unfair. "Basically, what we have now is we don't enforce until we get a complaint." But two situations can be identical and only one property owner is forced to comply with city ordinance because a complaint was lodged only against his/her property, Cook pointed out.
    No decisions were made and more discussion seems likely in the future.
    Also at the meeting:    
    • Two annual donations were approved: $500 to Adams County Veterans Officer Vince Quinones and $150 to the Chamber of Commerce for its upcoming dinner meeting.
    • A Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement submitted by Assistant Fire Chief Jim Hitchcock was approved. Hitchcock has a concrete business which has done some work for the city and the disclosure statement is required by law since he is a city employee.
    • A notice by North Adams Schools that it has plans to put a tax referendum on an upcoming ballot was made a matter of record. State law requires the mayor and city council to be notified, Schultz said. While the city has no say in the matter, county council must give its    approval for the referendum to go on the ballot.
    • Earlier in the day, the plan commission had given final site approval to Prime, Inc. for its new operation to be built in Industrial Park III., and the sale of land to Prime was completed.
    • Councilman Bill Crone said he had received some complaints about Parking Meter Officer Beth Heimann giving out tickets after a recent snowstorm. "But she was just doing her job," he added.