City councilmen have change of heart

Officials have change of heart about scrapping ordinance

January 11, 2013

Washington City Council members who were adamant about “scrapping” the city’s rental registration ordinance have seemingly had a change of heart.

“There was a misunderstanding. I’m not in favor of getting rid of the ordinance,” said Councilman Joe Manning at council’s Thursday meeting. Instead, Manning said he would be interested in eliminating the $12 per unit fee for rental property owners and streamlining the administration of the program.

Councilmen Ken Westcott and Matt Staniszewski agreed.

At Monday’s agenda meeting, both men said they were not in favor of the program and believed it should be eliminated. Manning called the program “unwieldy” and went so far as to say that it should be ended.

“I want to get rid of it. I didn’t like it from the beginning,” said Westcott, who was not on council at the time of its passage.

The program was set up not to be a revenue source for the city but to operate self-sufficiently through the $12 fee per rental unit. However, according to Manning, the program is a burden to the city clerk, code enforcement officer and police department with paperwork and enforcement.

Mayor Brenda Davis responded to the councilman’s comments on Thursday by stating, “By no means do I want to get rid of this rental registration ordinance. We’re not going backward.”

According to Davis, the ordinance registration requirements have benefitted city residents by ensuring property owners maintain their units and face the consequences of troublesome tenants.

“It’s working. When I took it over, it wasn’t,” she said. “It’s efficiently and effectively working.”

Davis added, “There are tools inside the ordinance that helps every single one of us in this city.”

She agreed that billing property owners and organizing records has been difficult. But, she said that could eased by eliminating the $12 fee and implementing more stringent fines against delinquent property owners to fund the administration of the program.

“I’d be all in favor of eliminating the $12 fee,” she said. “But my colleagues have refused to hear my ideas.”

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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