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Hancock to refund money for fines paid by rental property owners

They say you can't fight city hall but, every once in awhile, it does work.

Dale Ritter came to the Hancock City Council meeting last week to protest a fine the city was asking him to pay. The result of his conversation with the council was removal of the fine, not only for him, but for three other property owners in the city.

Ritter was one of four rental property owners who received a letter with a fine for not paying the required $10 Rental Agreement fee. The fee was due on Jan. 1 and Ritter told council he had sent the $10 on Jan. 11. However, since the fee did not arrive in time, a $300 fine was imposed and billed to him along with three others who had not paid the fine.

Ritter admitted that his payment was late and apologized for that. However, he told council that he felt the fine was excessive. He also asked council to point out in the Rental Agreement, where the fine was listed.

Council members told Ritter that the fee (and fine) was set with the fee schedule approved each year in January. He then asked to see the fee schedule which, it turned out, did not include the Rental Agreement fine.

The council then had no choice but to rescind the fine for late payment of the Rental Agreement fee, not only to Ritter, but to the other parties who had already paid it.

Ritter suggested that the city council clarify the late payment fine in the Rental Application so it does not come as a surprise to the landlords.

Roger Blair and Rob Nohl were present at the meeting to talk about the shared responsibility of Moore Township and the city on 285th Street from the city limits to County Road 2. The tarred road is starting to break up in certain areas and they were wondering whether it should be repaired or simply dug up and left as gravel.

The agreement between the city and Moore Township was reviewed which stated that the city would be responsible for 100 percent of the repairs up to 590' from County Road 2. The damaged area would fall within this range.

However, the township will share the cost with the city and estimates will be obtained to repair the area and then sealcoat over it. Both parties would like to save the tarred road for as long as possible.

Ron Coates was also present at the meeting to fight a city ruling. His concern was with a charge for basic water and sewer to uninhabited properties. He owns a property that is currently empty and has the water shut-off and meter disconnected. He did not feel he should have to pay $50 each month for the basic water/sewer charge.

The council members explained that the charge was for the access made available to the property. The only way to avoid this charge would be to dig up the line by the curb stop and disconnect it.

"I have to stand up for what I believe," said Coates. "I don't think we should have to pay for water and sewer if we are not using it. Gas and electric companies do not charge when you disconnect their services and the meter is locked."

City Attorney Neil Simonson stated that as long as there is a rational basis for imposing the fees, which would be to provide a service to the community, it is not illegal for the city to do so.

"Then I will dig up the line and cap it," Coates stated. "It is what I will have to do because I don't feel obligated to pay it."

Other business

* Simonson told council that he is working on straightening out legal descriptions and ownership in the Belle Ave. and 7th Street area. Hancock Economic Development Authority is still working on a plan to build in the area and the legal description needs to be clarified first.

* Police Chief Don Heikkinen told council the the new squad car is currently in Willmar being outfitted with the new equipment obtained through a county-wide grant. The car will have nearly $10,000 in new equipment at a cost of only $2,404 to the city. This includes radio, computer, mounts and console. The city also received a grant for a $5,000 car camera at a cost of $100 to the city.

* The city council decided to gets bids to sell the road grader, orange dump truck and Ford tractor. They will then purchase a better grader with snow plow equipment.

* Council approved appling chloride to the new 7th Street extension in order to control dust.

A special meeting of the city council will be held on August 24 at 7 p.m. to work on the 2012 budget.