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Lisbon council approves revised vacant building ordinance

LISBON – The revised village vacant building ordinance was approved on third and final reading at this week’s village council meeting.

First passed in 2018, the law requires property owners in the downtown business district to keep their buildings in good shape, and those with vacant storefronts must make some effort to either find a tenant or sell the building.

“The old ordinance wasn’t working and was flawed. This new ordinance should do the trick …,” said Mayor Peter Wilson.

The revised version eliminates the self-reporting requirement and instead requires the village to enforce the law. It also has a stiffer “monitoring fee” and penalties for non-compliance, which can be waived once the property owner complies.

The amended version imposes a $250 annual “monitoring fee” for any property owner in violation, with the fee increasing to $500 the second year the owner remains in violation and $1,000 every year after that.

Zoning/Building Inspector Zach Barkley would determine which properties are in violation and advise the property owner they are required to pay the monitoring fee, which could be waive if the property owner complies by keeping the building facade clean, in compliance with the building code and posts a sign stating the building is for lease or sale.

Wilson, the driving force behind the original law when he was on council, thanked council for approving the changes, and Barkley and village solicitor Alec Beech for their help in making the changes.

“Having a working vacant building ordinance is essential for renovating the downtown. We still have more than a dozen storefronts which lie empty even though we have businessmen seeking downtown space,” he said.

In other action at the meeting, council agreed to raise the pay for the bard of public affairs’ clerk to $17 an hour, which was done at the request of BPA Chairman Bill Hoover.

The current clerk, Hazel White, is retiring in early 2021 and the BPA intends to hire a replacement soon so the person can spend several months working with White.

The village wage ordinance sets starting pay for a clerk 1 at $12.61 an hour, “and we don’t feel that is enough” given the position’s responsibilities, he said.

The BPA proposed raising the pay to $17, and whoever is hired would start at 90 percent of that, or $15.64. Hoover said the money for the clerk comes from the village water and sewer departments, not the general fund.

When asked if the BPA could afford the increase, Hoover said, “It’s going to make things tight for a while” but it is important to get a qualified candidate to fill the position.

Debbie Richards from the Downtown Beautification Committee reported they are getting ready to plant flowers and that they would also like to decorate the gazebo for Halloween and will ask council for permission.

Mayor Wilson urged the parks committee to come up with a plan to repair the community swimming pool or they may not be able to open the pool in 2021 if the decision is delayed much longer.

The pool was closed for 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and officials are using the time to find the source of a major leak and repair it. A recent camera examination of the lines failed to locate the problem.

Finally, council accepted the resignation of police officer Brian Dobbins.

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