BAXTER -- Concerns with the Baxter building department again were brought up by a city council member.
At Thursday's Baxter City Council meeting, council member Mary Marana said there are structural issues with several buildings in the city that weren't being taken care of through inspections by building officials.
Marana first brought up her concerns about what she believed were inspection inconsistencies by the building department at a city council workshop Oct. 30 to discuss certificates of occupancy. At that meeting 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.
At the workshop Marana said she would give those names to Baxter Mayor Gary Muehlhausen so the city could follow up on the six people's issues. Thursday, Muehlhausen said there must have been a miscommunication on his part because he thought Marana would call him with the names. Marana said she thought Muehlhausen would call her to get the names. Muehlhausen suggested he and Marana meet after Thursday's meeting to discuss the issue.
Marana also said Thursday she had the impression some other council members and staffers felt she wasn't speaking the truth about the six people and she would like these residents still to be able to address the city council and staffers with their concerns.
"I would like to assure those people that there won't be any retaliation" if they approach the city, said Marana.
Darrel Olson, who at the workshop suggested a third party verify Marana's statement, said Thursday he tried to make it clear at the workshop that he wasn't making an accusation, but he wanted to make sure potential problems among the six residents and the city were followed up.
Also speaking Thursday about problems with the city's building department was developer Craig MacDonald, who suggested a workshop to further study hindrances city codes have put on developers.
"The pendulum has swung too far," said MacDonald. "It's hard to get any business done in town. ... It's hurting everybody's business."
MacDonald said a lot of developers are afraid to approach the city to contest the many fees the city of Baxter charges. He also suggested that the certificates of occupancy the city issues after inspections are completed hurt his business because prospective buyers can't go into a home until it's been issued a certificate.
Controversy surrounding certificates of occupancy arose in October after it was learned Marana was issued a temporary certificate of occupancy in June 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 hookups, gas line work and plumbing -- before the home can be occupied.
In the memo Holman wrote in June, 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. The city council formed an investigative committee to look into the issue. The committee's legal counsel recommended treating the incident as an educational opportunity regarding COs and no other action was taken.
It was during a discussion of the requirements of certificates of occupancy at the Oct. 30 workshop that Marana said she felt there were too many inconsistencies within the building department.
Chuck Davis, a contractor who's working in Baxter, said at the meeting Thursday that inspections are necessary but from what he has seen there are several houses that aren't up to code. No action was taken Thursday.
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