Frustration was evident on many sides Tuesday night as a homeowner's concerns met with Brainerd City Council limitations.
Southeast Brainerd homeowner Sherrie Mauk attended the council meeting seeking relief for a problem she has been dealing with for months. Mold visible along the walls in her home reflects the water that came into the home while a reroofing project was in progress.
"It's been four months and this house is literally killing me," Mauk said. "How long am I going to have to live in this house. ..? Every time I ask a question I get referred to someone else. I don't know what to do anymore or where to go."
But the majority of the council members were reluctant to make a motion directing the city's legal representation to take a more directed role to assist. Council member Bob Olson was the minority in favor of the motion.
At issue is a roofing permit to a state-licensed area contractor and damage to the home from a rain storm before the roof was completed. A state building inspector toured the home on Feb. 6 after health concerns were raised from Mauk's medically confirmed lung infections and mold growing in the home.
Several city council members were sympathetic to Mauk's position but said they struggled with the fact that the matter is not one of city jurisdiction. A majority of members were reluctant to vote for a motion that would direct City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick to work with Mauk, the contractor and the state to resolve the issue.
Fitzpatrick said a formal directive from the council might put him in the role of advocate on Mauk's side.
"My concern is if I get a specific directive like that on a case, I don't know where that line ends," Fitzpatrick said, adding other cases with similar requests may follow.
Fitzpatrick estimated he has spent 15 to 20 hours working on the issue so far and would be willing to continue to assist in that regard.
Olson, who has been meeting with Mauk, said the council may not have a legal obligation to resolve the problem, but there was a moral one.
"Personally I don't think I've done enough and I don't think that we have done enough," Olson said of the council.
Council President Lucy Nesheim, who toured Mauk's home along with city staffers and Olson during the state building inspector's visit, said the inspector reiterated the issue is legally between the homeowner, contractor and the state.
The city verifies a valid license for contractors applying for city building permits. The state oversees residential contractors. Mauk has filed a complaint with the state. Mauk also has an area attorney who is acting as her legal representation at no charge.
During the Public and Safety Committee meeting where the request originated, council member Jim Dehen said the council had no other authority than to withhold a certificate of occupancy for the home.
At the general meeting, council member Mark O'Day said it sounded like the motion was directing Fitzpatrick to do something he was already involved with, supplying information and consulting with the state and city staffers.
Fitzpatrick said while Mauk has stated the matter was not about a financial remedy, she would need money for an alternative place to live and to fix her home.
At the committee meeting before the general council met, Mauk said "I haven't even thought about it and I don't care. All I'm interested in is someplace to live that is safe."
Asked if she wanted to address the entire council during the discussion, Mauk said: "I don't think it's going to do any good."
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