BAXTER -- The requirements of issuing a certificate of occupancy were reviewed by the Baxter City Council at its workshop Wednesday.
The investigation was completed at the Baxter City Council's last council meeting, said Baxter Mayor Gary Muehlhausen. The review is part of an outcome of an investigation into accusations of preferential treatment for a city council member, coercion of a city staffer and division between department heads in Baxter.
"We were advised by our legal counsel that we should approach it as an educational issue," said Muehlhausen, and that's why the council was given the rules for issuing a certificate of occupancy and the flow chart of the building department.
On Wednesday Baxter City Council member Mary Marana put the blame on the building department, saying there were still inconsistencies concerning inspections within the department. She said she has talked to six people who've requested a final inspection upon their decks but had yet to hear from the building department.
Council member Mark Cross was upset with what he saw as Marana's attempt to shift the focus from her temporary certificate of occupancy, which he said she shouldn't have been issued, to supposed problems within the building department.
"I'm disheartened that when indiscretions are uncovered and brought up in front of the council, that fingers are pointed at the departments and used as smoke screens to cover up indiscretions of a particular council person."
Council member Darrel Olson suggested a third party verify Marana's claim of uninspected decks.
"It's not that I don't believe you, " Olson said to Marana, "but they said they have called the city, and now the problem is in our court."
Cross said, because Marana is a city council member, once she became aware of the uninspected decks the city did. Marana did not give names of deck owners at the meeting. Muehlhausen volunteered to get in touch with those six people if Marana wanted to give him the names.
Controversy surrounding certificates of occupancy arose earlier this month after it was learned Marana was issued a temporary certificate of occupancy in June in order to hold a party in her unfinished home despite objections from Baxter City Planner Todd Holman.
Often called a CO, the certificate of occupancy, is given after a building official inspects new construction -- inspecting such items as electrical work, smoke detectors, sewer hook-ups, gas line work and plumbing -- before the home can be occupied.
In the memo written in June by Holman, he stated City Administrator Larry Kruse undermined the Building Department in orchestrating a temporary certificate of occupancy for Marana. Marana denied she had done anything wrong.
Marana and council member Barb Wells suggested building inspectors from Blaine come to Baxter to help educate the city's inspectors.
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