Council Passes Vacant Building Ordinance

Managing Editor

After having a third reading, St. Marys Councilors passed ordinance that will address the vacant buildings in St. Marys.

Councilors passed Ordinance 2019-27, enacting Chapter 1343 of the codified ordinances providing registration of vacant buildings.

The ordinance establishes a program to identify, register and inspect vacant buildings within the city of St. Marys that may present a fire hazard, temporary occupancy for transients, detract from private or public efforts to rehabilitate or maintain surrounding buildings and provide a hazard to the health, safety and welfare of the public.

What is deemed as a vacant building is no evidence of occupation by an owner, lessees or other person in lawful possession for more than 90 days.

Evidence of a vacant building would be no utility usage, delinquent real estate taxes, overgrown or dead vegetation, accumulation of trash, junk or debris, evidence of infestation of rodents, broken or boarded up windows and outdated signage, among others. 

For commercial/industrial buildings deemed vacant, the owner shall acquire or maintain general liability insurance of not fewer than $1 million and $250,000 for a vacant residential building. Only commercial building owners have to submit a rehabilitation plan to the city in the case their building is left vacant for some time in order to avoid fees. All vacant buildings within the city have to be designated by the safety service director. 

The annual registration fee for a vacant residential building is $250 and $400 for commercial/industrial for the first year. For every consecutive year a commercial/industrial building remains vacant, the annual registration fee will be assessed at double the previous year’s fee amount for a maximum of $6,400, which will be the fee for the fifth and all consecutive, subsequent years of vacancy. If a registration form is filled late, there will be a $1,000 fee.

After registering, the owner must have a vacant building plan that is approved by the fire chief and shall be selected from at least one of the three categories: Demolition that cannot exceeded one year, secured structure that has a regular maintenance plan of all structural openings, such as windows, doors and areaways and rehabilitation within one year. Violation of any of the provisions is a first-degree misdemeanor.

The legislation mirrors a similar one the city of Sandusky used to address its vacant buildings issue in 2012.

Also on Monday, councilors passed a tentative agreement with the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association regarding St. Marys Police Department dispatcher contracts. The tentative agreement is a three-year contract for the four dispatchers at SMPD. Dispatcher will receive a 3% wage increase in 2020, a 2.75% raise in 2021 and a 2.5% raise in 2022 and each raise would go into effect in the first pay period of each new year.

The contract will also give dispatchers four short sleeved, four long sleeved and undergarment as part of their uniforms and a modification to their compensatory cap from 32 hours a week to 36 hours to help accommodate the dispatcher's schedule of working three six-hour days and two 12-hour days. 

The tentative agreement also includes dispatchers contributing 15% to their Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) health insurance, down from 20% previously and dispatchers would pay 12% of their Health Savings Account (HSA) plan in 2020, up from 10%, and their share will increase to 15% after that.