Code enforcement task force starts in Elkhart

Two task forces have been created to remedy concerns over the city of Elkhart's code enforcement on rental properties.

Wednesday, City Council President Ron Troyer, announced the creation of two task forces: one focusing on city code enforcement and a second that will concentrate on rental registration.

Troyer said he has received 86 phone calls complaining about how Elkhart administers its code enforcement policies. Landlords, he said, allege that some property owners are penalized more harshly than others.

"We as individual city council people can report to the administration individual concerns. But when a group of task force people create a recommendation, it has a little more significance," said Troyer.

The task forces are designed for individuals to share their concerns, what "bugs them," and have that relayed to the city council and eventually the mayor's office.

Some fear that without direct involvement of Mayor Dick Moore's administration, any resolutions and suggestions will fall of deaf ears.

Seven individuals were named to the code enforcement task force, most of them landlords within city limits including: Chris Misener, Conrad Hochestetler, Jim Gouker, Kristen Senne, Dan Brouillette, Jason Dean and Michele Korach.

Six people were named to the rental task force, including Cory White, Willy Bontrager, George Spry, Lou Ann Stoner, Bave Blessing and Carl Pletcher.

Dan Brouillette--chosen for the code enforcement committee-- inquired during Wednesday's announcement as to why there weren't any tenants or regular citizens participating in the group, to which Troyer replied that he didn't have anyone fitting either description willing to be named to the unit.

Brouillette operates Blue Dot LLC, and owns roughly 120 properties throughout the city.

Although he entered the rental business 11 years ago to turn a profit, he said problems with tenants and the cost of maintaining some of these homes has been a headache.

"I found that this business really isn't about money, it's about people and learning what makes people do the things they do is probably the biggest issue we have in maintaining our portfolio," Brouillette explained.

He wants more tenants and citizens involved in the task force in order for it to be taken more seriously by the administration.

"If I were the mayor of the city and I saw that we had six or seven people with the same viewpoint I think he's going to understand what our recommendations are before we even make them" said Brouillette.

Rental property owners already have a list of items ready to discuss. Among that list is the uneven enforcement of city ordinances. Brouillette said some officers will issue a warning, while others will immediately write a citation.

"We have some ordinances that are just ridiculous," Brouillette cited ordinances about sanitary trash cans, removing dog feces and parking cars on unpaved surfaces.

The point of the task force, Brouillete believes, should be on distinguishing between tenant and landlord responsibilities and improving the line of communication between all the parties involved.

Pursuant to Ordinance No. 4963 and 5117, any and all rental housing must be registered with the building department each year. Landlords are asked to complete a form with a $5 pee per street address of each rental property.

The registration was introduced several years ago to give police, fire and EMT a reference as to whom was the point of contact for any emergency at an address.

However, some landlords said it's more of a revenue source for the city than anything truly beneficial.

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