Elk­ton of­fi­cials, land­lords dis­cuss is­sues in town

Mayor en­vi­sions new part­ner­ship with prop­erty own­ers

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

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

Cor­rec­tion

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY BRI­ANNA SHEA

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.

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