CITY NAMES HOUSING INSPECTOR
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
Randy Koerner, who has owned Koerner Construction since he founded the Freeman-based business in 1979, is the new housing inspector for the city of Freeman. Koerner, appointed by Mayor Michael Walter, was approved for the position by the Freeman City Council at its first meeting of the month Monday night, Aug. 10.
Walter lobbied for the position as a way to help determine what structures in Freeman are safe and, more importantly, what structures need to be removed for safety reasons. As housing inspector, Koerner will work with city attorney Mike Fink to spearhead a course of action that will enable the city to deal with nuisance properties.
Koerner was approved for the position on a 5-1 vote; Charles Gering cast the “no” vote because he felt it was an unnecessary expense and that the city can go about dealing with nuisance properties in other ways.
“How much is the city willing to pay to tear down a junk hole house?” asked Gering, who was firm in his disagreement with the mayor’s recommendation, in part because legal fees to go through the proper channels could add up. “It’s going to cost the city a lot of money to go through this process. Imagine spending $100,000 on a junk hole house. Where do we stop?”
But Walter said the city has had little to no success dealing with unsightly properties and, at the advice of the city attorney, suggested a housing inspector could get the city moving in the right direction.
“I’m offering a solution,” said Walter, who noted that naming a housing inspector is the first step of a longer process that will include Fink. “This is the only way you’re going to get them down. We look like fools who can’t take care of the problem.”
Plus, Walter said, the city ordinance pertaining to nuisance properties asks if it meets the requirement of the housing administrator, which the city has not had.
“I don’t know what the problem is, here,” Walter said when challenged by Gering. “I really don’t.”
The majority of the council agreed with Walter.
Council Lonnie Tjaden said, with Koerner’s experience in construction, he is a credible source who could inspect a property and then explain to a court why it needs to be dealt with.
“Mike’s talking about adding another tool to the tool chest,” he said, noting that Koerner’s experience in construction would benefit the city of Freeman as it works through the process of cleaning up unsightly properties, which could include working through the court system.
“We’re talking about getting rid of the crap, and to get rid of the crap, we need an expert,” Tjaden said. “I feel a lot more comfortable with an expert; this is why people hire expert witnesses. This is basically our expert witness on retainer.”
“I’ve been in favor of this for a long time,” councilor Terry Jacobsen said. “They’re going to come in here, tell us what it’s going to cost (to go through the process) and then we can make a decision based on that.”
LORI’S PET GROOMING
Based on a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the city council unanimously approved a conditional use permit that will allow Lori Gehr, owner of Lori’s Pet Grooming, to board dogs. The property is located at 204 E. Second Street and owned by Ray Wipf, who used to have a carpet business there.
The conditional use permit was approved on the conditions that animals would only be allowed outside between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., products used for cleaning would be environmentally safe, the kennels be cleaned regularly, the area be fenced and that barking dogs be returned to the boarding area or fitted with a bark collar.
Officials said neighbors to the property were OK with the permit if the conditions were followed.
Also at the Aug. 10 meeting the city council:
Gave its blessing to Jeff Buechler, president of the Freeman Community Development Corporation, to continue renting the former Schamber Building lot at the corner of Main and Third streets for special events. Buechler noted that the city of Freeman gifted that property to the FCDC for development and he wanted to be sure officials were OK with the development corporation renting the property in the absence of a buyer. “I believe you can do what you want with that property,” said Tjaden, suggesting that if a potential buyer should come along the FCDC would take appropriate action;
Took a serious look at a major upgrade to how the city reads water meters, which is currently done by hand by water superintendent Duane Walters. Representatives from Core & Main were on hand to explain how a new system would, not only eliminate the handheld reading process, but allow the city to track water usage at properties across the city on a daily basis through an antenna placed on the water tower. A bid proposal from Core & Main shows the upgrade would cost the city just under $200,000. City officials expressed interest but want firmer numbers and would like to see the system in action through a demonstration. Core & Main is expected back to a city council meeting in September;
Agreed to open the Freeman Swimming Pool, which closed for the season on Aug. 9, so it could be used for the Firehouse Rib Cook-Off hosted by the Freeman Volunteer Fire Department last Saturday. Firefighters Chad Soulek and Erin Lachman appeared before the council to make the request and answer any other questions about the event. The city signed off on the pool opening because pool manager Taylor Hermsen was able to find three lifeguards and somebody to staff the bathhouse;
Signed off on a grant application from city librarian LeAnn Kaufman that would allow for purchase of a 48-hub module switch and four new computers. If approved, the grant would be between $4,500 and $5,000;
Approved the golf course committee and the staggered terms assigned terms of each member. The committee includes: Todd Graber, one year; Chad Rembold, three years; Ty Soulek, one year; Doug Weber, three years; Kevin Stahl, two years; and JR VanZyle, two years. The terms will all eventually become three years. Also serving on the committee is the mayor and councilor Blaine Saarie;
Approved the installation of sprinkler system along the boulevard of the Freeman Area Veteran’s Memorial on Sixth Street, which was not outfitted with a system when the rest of the memorial was. Lawns Unlimited will do the work for around $1,900;
Approved the traditional donation to the Freeman Athletic Association that will cover the cost of insurance, plus an additional $1,000;
Heard a report from city councilor Doug Uecker on the Waltner Addition property near Dollar General that currently sits in a flood plain. Based on a study from FEMA, much of that property is unsuitable for development because of its elevation; Uecker said only between 14 and 18 lots would be suitable for building. The Freeman Community Development Corporations has been eager to see the city provide utility hookups in that area. More on what all this means in the weeks to come.