Council stiffens nuisance penalties

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By Nancy D. Borst
TSnews

HAYSVILLE – The Haysville city council voted Monday night – after some extended discussion – to add possible jail time to the penalties for violating the city’s nuisance code.
Mayor Bruce Armstrong said the municipal court judge asked for the option of jail time because of frustration with cases in which a fine is not getting the desired result. Armstrong noted one long-standing case in which the property owner paid the fine but has done nothing to clean up his property.
“We have had real problems,” Armstrong said. “The judge said he needed more (options).”
The addition of up to 30 days in jail for violating the nuisance code prompted concern from some council members that the city was criminalizing the code. Dan Benner said he had a problem with that, noting, “I don’t think that is criminal behavior.” Danny Walters agreed, saying the city instead should increase fines and assess abatement costs to the property owner.
But Armstrong countered that stronger penalties were better than the city spending its time and resources to abate problem properties. The mayor said his thought was that if a property owner knows he can go to jail, he will clean up the problem.
The city wants to move forward with cleaning up the Broadway corridor and Armstrong said stiffer penalties might be needed there as well. It was noted that the situation with one problem property owner has become contentious and police have had to respond. There is concern about putting city employees in potentially hazardous situations.
City attorney Josh Pollak prepared the ordinance and noted other cities in the area have an option of jail time. “It is easier for the court to manage the process. We would like for the court to deal with this and get it fixed,” he said.
Council members Janet Parton and Russ Kessler said they thought imposing a jail sentence would be rare in nuisance cases. And Steve Crum said he trusted the judge’s discretion. “This gives the judge something else in his toolbelt,” Crum said.
He added that the city appoints the judge each year, so if the new penalties are abused, the city has a remedy.
In the end, the majority agreed with the stiffer penalties, voting 7-1 to approve them. Benner cast the lone dissenting vote.
Armstrong noted that construction on the Main Street project will begin March 15. Residents can expect one lane of traffic each direction during construction, which will lead to slow downs and delays.
In other business, the council:
• Approved two contracts with Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita. One is for the design of the Wire water line, at a cost of $41,100. The other is for the wastewater master plan, at a cost of $17,500. Both expenses are budgeted.
• Received a copy of a letter from Wichita Transit awarding the city $48,522 for continued operation of the Haysville Hustle public transportation service. The city will be required to match that amount. The award is to be finalized by July 1.