By Robert Williams
The Frazee City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday, July 6, in regards to criminal penalties handed out to four separate residences at Rivercrest Apartments and other charges dating back a year. The meeting was held to enact the first usage of the city code to deal with the landowner in such instances.
“Each one of these four have been cited for one thing or another, disorderly conduct or noise violation, so that’s on top of it,” said police chief Tyler Trieglaff at the June 20 city council meeting.
The landowner, Brikker Ware, was not in attendance at that meeting when the issue was first discussed.
The city code enforcement in such matters is to direct the landowner to take steps to prevent further violations and a $200 fine for each violation. A notice is sent with a 15-day written appeal process. The violations in question date back to the first one in April with a notice delivered to Ware on April 27.
At the June meeting, mayor Ken Miosek noted that Ware was in violation and needed to come up with a plan that the city council would approve and pay the fine of $800 to avoid the city enacting more disciplinary measures.
“As a landlord you are a business owner and you are required to keep your premises orderly,” said vice mayor Mike Sharp. “It is not the responsibility of the city of Frazee or [sic] Tyler to make sure you’re maintaining an orderly premises.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Sharp explained the totality of the ordinance including that Ware could lose his license to rent in the city for five years should the problems escalate and fines not be paid.
Ware asked for the explanation. Sharp noted nobody wanted the issue to get that far.
The mayor was emphatic that this issue needed to be addressed.
City attorney Thomas Winters directed the council to be careful of setting a precedent that every time someone violates the ordinance a sit-down meeting is in order.
Given the violation is a first under the ordinance, the council and Winters agreed that the process is still being created.
“This is really the first real issue we’ve had with this ordinance and dealt with,” said city administrator Jordin Roberts.
“The ordinance spells it out pretty clear,” said Miosek. “That’s why we put this in place. I can’t make you read it. We can’t do anything more than that.”
The fines related to the code are intended for the landlord and allows for the landlord to pass that on to the tenants in violation should they choose.
Ware had not submitted a written appeal to any of the four notices sent by the city, along with the levied fines not having been paid.
“We implemented this ordinance several years ago,” said Trieglaff. “We deal with people. Things get taken care of. People move out or get evicted before we have ever really gotten to this point to send these letters and now all of a sudden it’s snowballed. I’m not trying to pick on one person; that’s just the way it is.”
The fines are supposed to be paid within 15 days of receipt of the city letter.
“I do my darndest to have good renters, what I believe, moving in,” Ware said. “These people have been there for quite a while.”
Ware addressed all four separate instances, noting one apartment was being vacated this week after the holiday and another, a family of six, had given a mandated two-month notice to leave.
“I don’t want to be the guy that kicks out a family of four kids and has them sleep in their vehicle over the Fourth of July,” said Ware.
Ware stated he did not read the entirety of any of the notices, but noted that was not intentional. He stated he was taking steps to take care of the issues but did not inform the city.
“I think overall I do my best to keep good renters in there,” he said. “I’ve got these renters who have been a pain in the…have been having lots of visits and getting rid of those.”
Ware also noted that two of the tenants in question already owe him money and attempting to pass on the city-levied fine to them is difficult.
“It feels like instead of helping me it feels like you’re hindering me,” he said. “I try to work with you guys.”
Miosek reiterated the fines were levied against Ware and how he chooses to be reimbursed for them is not the city’s issue.
With two of the four problem apartments set to be vacated and the other two tenants having discussed the problems with Ware, he feels the issues are handled for the foreseeable future.
Councilman Mark Kemper and Sharp noted they were pleased that Ware was taking action.
The mayor pushed the council to take action on the fines. Winters noted the council had the ability to reduce the total fines.
“I’d feel a lot better reducing the amount if this would have happened during the appeal process, which should have been the proper steps,” said councilman Mark Flemmer.
Kemper made a motion to reduce the fine to $400 total, $100 for each separate violation rather than $800.
“The ordinances are there to help you too,” said Kemper.
The motion was passed 3-1 with Flemmer voting in opposition. Councilwoman Nicole Strand was absent.
Ware stated he will pay the fines and is now aware of the process.
“It won’t happen again,” he said.
The full ordinance, Conduct on Registered Premises, can be viewed at: codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/frazeemn/latest/frazee_mn/0-0-0-2250#JD_9-2-15