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Rental housing ordinance among agenda items for Monday's city council meeting

Among the agenda items on the Worthington City Council meeting scheduled for Monday is a contract services agreement pertaining to revision of the city’s rental housing ordinance.

City staff is recommending retaining Ken Bickner on an hourly contract basis to assist in developing a rental housing ordinance, or adapting the existing ordinance, so that it is effective in maintaining the safety and general quality of housing in the community, and easily and effectively enforced and integrated with other city programs or departments. Efforts would also include developing a robust and reliable recordkeeping/database and reporting methods, as well as a realistic and workable plan for regularly scheduled and complaint-based inspection of all rental housing in Worthington.

Since its inception in 2006, the city’s rental housing registration and inspection program has struggled to achieve its stated purpose. A memorandum from City Administrator Steve Robinson to council members explains that it has lacked sufficient enforcement mechanisms to gain entry to rental units which could take months and required significant legal costs. The ordinance also has failed to provide sufficient penalties for property owners who routinely failed to pass inspections and refused to bring their properties into compliance with its minimum standards. The program also treated all properties equally regardless of history of compliance.

Bickner has a civil/environmental engineering degree from the University of Iowa. His experience includes several years with Linn County, Iowa as a specialist in its Healthy Homes program. There, he assisted in developing a rental home inspection program, inspected rental housing and pursued enforcement as necessary.

Bickner would perform his work at City Hall and has requested a fee of $40 per hour. It is anticipated that this endeavor will take several months to completion.

Other action items on Monday night’s agenda include consideration of the proposed 2022 sewer service charges, a professional services agreement regarding operation and management of the industrial waste water treatment facility, consideration of a new city administrator employment agreement and appointment of an interim designated building official.

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