Elkton officials, landlords discuss issues in town
Mayor envisions new partnership with property owners
— Mayor Rob Alt and Town Commissioner Mary Jo Jablonski along with town officials met with local landlords Wednesday afternoon to discuss how to strengthen their relationship and work together to fix current issues.
Among the topics discussed was the town’s property nuisance ordinance and gripes the landlords wanted to have addressed.
Alt advised the landlords to notify tenants through leases that Elkton has a nuisance abatement ordinance, which could lead to eviction for problem households. Search warrants regarding drugs on the property or drug-related offense arrests on the property, as well as adverse impacts resulting from incidents, could be grounds for eviction under the town law.
Alt said that tenants who continue to break the law and move from one property to the next are not doing any good for the town.
“I believe everyone should have the opportunity to fair housing, but they’re the ones controlling their own destiny, not us,” he added.
One landlord asked how is a tenant charged with being a nuisance and how other landlords would find out about it.
Elkton Police Chief Matt Donnelly explained that so far, no one has been charged under the town’s nuisance ordinance, but many tenants have been charged with other offenses that would cover its provisions. He cautioned, however, that even if a person is charged under the ordinance, it would not immediately allow removal of the tenant from the property. The landlord would still have to go through the eviction process in district court, he said.
Many in the audience Wednesday said they wanted the town to develop a system or mechanism that would notify a property owner if an arrest was made at a rental property. Another landlord asked if neighbors could be notified of such incidents because they have a vested interest, too. Donnelly advised that may violate privacy laws, but noted that the public can access at the Maryland Judiciary’s Court Search site and review charges by a defendant’s name.
Another landlord suggested creating a list of repeat nuisance offenders, to which Alt suggested that landlords should come together and make their own list.
Among the other issues discussed during the informative meeting included the 911 call center and water bill issues.
Many said they wanted to be able to reach the police department about illegal activity, such as prostitution, without having to go through the 911 call center, which can lead to some delays as dispatchers patch through to the appropriate agency and officer. Alt noted that the county and the town partnered together years ago on a dispatch system, and if the town were to break away, it would need to hire four to five dispatchers and train them.
“I believe we would resolve a lot of our issues if we could dispatch from here in our own home base,” the mayor said.
On the issue of water service, Alt said the errors that prompted the mailing of incorrect water bills last winter have been addressed. He advised the landlords that his administration is also moving toward smart water meters, which could be better monitored and easily turned on and off by town hall without the need of on-property work. He also advised the landlords to take a look at their water meters to make sure they have not been tampered with.
After the meeting, the mayor and landlords thought the meeting was productive and was a good first step in working together.
“I think it was a very positive meeting,” Alt said. “I think that when you can meet with people who have a tremendous financial and personal interest in our town, it’s a step in a positive direction.”
He said he heard it “loud and clear” that the landlords want monthly water bills and not quarterly bills, as well.
“We felt that monthly billings would be great because you could find out if there’s issues a lot quicker than if you want three months to bill them,” Alt said.
Alt also said if there is a way to give information to landlords about arrests on their property, in partnership with the police department, that should happen.
The mayor plans to follow
up with the group in September or October about the topics discussed, and make the meetings a quarterly occurrence. He hopes the meetings grow to the point where they have to meet in the banquet hall in the upper level of the town hall.
“I want the communication to flow,” he said.
Meanwhile, the landlords who attended Wednesday’s meeting said they also felt they walked away with a fresh start with the town administration.
“I wanted to try to coordinate the town and the landlords to work together to improve the town, our properties and tenant base,” said Candy Bathon, an Elkton landlord.
She said she has encountered nuisance issues such as drugs, loitering and blight, explaining there are unkempt properties in the town.
“I think we made a first great start at being able to come together,” she said. “I think we can get a lot more accomplished if we all work
A story on A1 of the Wednesday, July 13, edition titled “Chicken fight” incorrectly stated the proposed chicken farm was located on Ebenezer Church Road. It is actually located on England Creamery Road. A cap- together than if we try to work independently.”
Lisa Quinn, also a landlord, said she wants to see the water bills become monthly as opposed to quarterly to make it easier for her tenants to budget for the bills and have better communication with the billing department. During the meeting, she said she may end up losing a few tenants due to a water leak that caused a high water bill.
Quinn said she has reached out to several people about the issue and did not receive responses. She said the bill spilled into their next bill and the tenant tried to have their bill adjusted. The tenants went to town hall and was told their bill was not adjusted, and have received another large bill. The couple paid $400 of the $1,500 bill, she said.
“My issue today was mostly the water issue and a lack of communication,” Quinn said.
Quinn said she thought her issues were addressed well and thought the meeting was a “positive move forward.” tion in the same story may have incorrectly insinuated that Perdue owned an Earleville chicken farm. That farm is owned by the Meck family, but operated in affiliation with Perdue. We regret the errors.
More than a dozen town landlords came to discuss the nuisance abatement ordinance and other topics with Mayor Rob Alt, town commissioner Mary Jo Jablonksi and other local officials Tuesday afternoon.